The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has released the results of an important survey, Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa. The executive summary notes that “sub-Saharan Africa is clearly among the most religious places in the world. In many countries across the continent, roughly nine-in-ten people or more say religion is very important in their lives. By this key measure, even the least religiously inclined nations in the region score higher than the United States, which is among the most religious of the advanced industrial countries.”
Of special interest is the finding that “Despite the dominance of Christianity and Islam, traditional African religious beliefs and practices have not disappeared. Rather, they coexist with Islam and Christianity. Whether or not this entails some theological tension, it is a reality in people's lives: Large numbers of Africans actively participate in Christianity or Islam yet also believe in witchcraft, evil spirits, sacrifices to ancestors, traditional religious healers, reincarnation and other elements of traditional African religions.”
The report also explains that “in every country surveyed that has a substantial Christian population, at least half of Christians expect that Jesus will return to earth during their lifetime. And in every country surveyed that has a substantial Muslim population, roughly 30% or more of Muslims expect to personally witness the re-establishment of the caliphate, the golden age of Islamic rule that followed the death of Muhammad.”
Significantly, “By their own reckoning, neither Christians nor Muslims in the region know very much about each other’s faith. In most countries, fewer than half of Christians say they know either some or a great deal about Islam, and fewer than half of Muslims say they know either some or a great deal about Christianity. Moreover, people in most countries surveyed, especially Christians, tend to view the two faiths as very different rather than as having a lot in common.”
Major newspapers in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and other countries provided local insights on the survey, which involved “more than 25,000 face-to-face interviews in more than 60 languages or dialects in 19 countries, representing 75% of the total population of sub-Saharan Africa.”
You can download the full report here.