The Republic of Burundi is one of the landlocked countries within the African Great Lakes region. The country has an estimated population of 10.1 million according to the United Nations, which is divided into three major language groups. Namely, these are the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa, the latter being a group of tribal African pygmies. The Burundian constitution provides for freedom of religion with the right to worship being respected and practiced by the majority. Religious bodies are required by law to register with the Ministry of Interior while the heads of major religions are given a diplomatic status. Burundians also observe some of the Catholic holidays including All Saints day on November 1st. The majority of the population of Burundi is Christians followed by Muslims while the remainder practices indigenous religions. The religious beliefs in Burundi are looked at below.
Roman Catholic Christianity
An estimated 75% of Burundians are Christian, with 81.5% of these Christians (61.1% of the total population) being Roman Catholic Christians. Roman Catholic forms part of the worldwide Catholic Church headed by the Pope. The four million Catholics in Burundi are spread across the seven dioceses, including the two archdioceses of Bujumbura and Gitega. The Archdiocese of Bujumbura is the Metropolitan See, and it was established in 1959 as Apostolic Vicariate and promoted as a Metropolitan Archdiocese of Bujumbura in 2006. The first Roman Catholic Missionary arrived in Burundi in 1898 after the Berlin Conference which declared the country a German Zone of influence in East Africa. The Roman Catholic Missionary work included the establishment of schools, hospitals, and churches. These activities by the missionaries saw most of the population converted to Catholicism. The archbishop of the Catholic Church has been given the diplomatic status while the priests have been pointed on several occasions to help organize the elections. The Catholic Church has also championed for human rights in Burundi and criticized some of the vices in the society including corruption in government, extrajudicial killings, and other forms of discrimination which has put the church at loggerhead with the government at times.
Protestantism and Other Forms of Christianity
Protestantism and other forms of Christianity, including Anglicans, Evangelical churches, and Seventh-Day Adventists, form the second largest block of religious beliefs in the country, with 23.9% of the Burundians associating with them. The Protestant movement started in 1916 with the arrival of missionaries from Germany. Apart from Evangelism, the missionaries were involved in the establishing of schools, hospitals, and church. They managed to convert a sizable population by convincing them to abandon their culture and embrace the ways of the Bible. The protestants anchored their teachings on three fundamental principles. These are the purity of scripture, justification through faith alone, and the universal priesthood of believers. Through evangelism, discipleship, and humanitarian work, the protestant groups are reaching out to the underprivileged in the country while transforming lives in the process.
Muslims in Burundi are estimated to comprise between 2% and 5% of the country’s population. The Muslims in Burundi are mainly Sunni with a small minority being Shia. Despite the small number of Muslims in Burundi, they have played significant roles in the country including reconciliation of Hutu and Tutsi during the civil war. Some of the prominent Muslims in the Burundi include Leontine Nzeyimana, Sheikh Mohammed Rukara, and the late Zedi Feruzi.
Other Religious Beliefs
The indigenous religious belief known as Animism are practiced by 5% of the population. Other religions include Baha’I Faith and folk religions. Around 1% of Burundians do not subscribe to any faith groups or religious belief system at all.