This report is part of a larger effort – the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project – that aims to increase people’s knowledge of religion around the world.
The vast majority of people in many sub-Saharan African nations are deeply committed to the practices and major tenets of one or the other of the world’s two largest religions, Christianity and Islam.
The number of Christians has grown even faster, soaring almost 70-fold from about 7 million to 470 million.
Sub-Saharan Africa now is home to about one-in-five of all the Christians in the world (21%) and more than one-in-seven of the world’s Muslims (15%).
While sub-Saharan Africa has almost twice as many Christians as Muslims, on the African continent as a whole the two faiths are roughly balanced, with 400 million to 500 million followers each.
Since northern Africa is heavily Muslim and southern Africa is heavily Christian, the great meeting place is in the middle, a 4,000-mile swath from Somalia in the east to Senegal in the west.And while both Muslims and Christians recognize positive attributes in one another, tensions lie close to the surface.It is our hope that the survey will contribute to a better understanding of the role religion plays in the private and public lives of the approximately 820 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa.We tried to assess their degree of political and economic satisfaction; their concerns about crime, corruption and extremism; their positions on issues such as abortion and polygamy; and their views of democracy, religious law and the place of women in society.The resulting report offers a detailed and in some ways surprising portrait of religion and society in a wide variety of countries, some heavily Muslim, some heavily Christian and some mixed.Africans have long been seen as devout and morally conservative, and the survey largely confirms this.But insofar as the conventional wisdom has been that Africans are lacking in tolerance for people of other faiths, it may need rethinking.(View a PDF map of the 19 countries surveyed.) Our survey asked people to describe their religious beliefs and practices.We sought to gauge their knowledge of, and attitudes toward, other faiths.Christianity and Islam also coexist with each other.Many Christians and Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa describe members of the other faith as tolerant and honest.