Cameroon is a central African country that is home to different religious groups. A large part of the population in the country is affiliated with a certain religious community. The constitution allows the freedom of conscience and religious worship making Cameroon a religion-tolerant country. However, for a religious group (apart from African traditional religions) to be legally functional, it has to be registered by the state after meeting the basic requirements such a having a considerable congregation. In Cameroon, Christianity is the most practiced religion followed by Islam.
Religious Beliefs In Cameroon
Like in many African countries, the establishment and development of Christianity were introduced to the country by the Christian missionaries. The missionaries arrived in Cameroon during the early nineteenth century during which they established missions, schools, health and other facilities to benefit local communities. About 69.5% of the population of Cameroon are Christians Protestants, Roman Catholics or a different Christian group.
1. Roman Catholic
The first Catholic priests were sent into Cameroon in 1890 and received a huge membership between then and the 1930s. Today, members of the Roman Catholic Church make up about 39.2% of the total population making it the largest Christian group in Cameroon. Masses are conducted in local languages instead of Latin, a practice which began early in the establishment of the church. During that time, priests and other church leaders were selected from the local population. The Catholic Church has established some facilities such as hospitals, churches, and schools which serve the community.
2. Protestant Christianity
Protestants make up the second largest Christian group in Cameroon with about 28.1% of the population. Protestant churches were the first to be established in Cameroon with the first missionaries arriving in the early nineteenth century. After the Baptist Mission Society had been established, other countries started sending their missionaries leading to the formation of various Protestant churches as well as the establishment of affiliated schools and health facilities. Some of these Protestant churches include the Anglican Church, Seventh-Day Adventists, Lutheran Church, and the Presbyterian. The establishment of the Christian church was important in the spread of literacy, translation of the scriptures making them available in local languages as well as in health care. Christian groups that are neither Catholics nor Protestants make up about 2.3% of the population, for example, the Jehovah Witnesses and others.
After Christianity, Islam is the second most practiced religion in Cameroon with about 19.5% of the population being Muslims. The religion was introduced by the Fulani as they migrated from Nigeria and Mali. The Fulani used force to convert the local people to Islam leading to conflicts with the local people. The Muslims organized themselves into groups called lamidats which were headed by a very powerful leader called lamido. Today Muslims belong to the Qadriya brotherhood. There are some Quranic schools established in the country.
African Folk Religion
While some the people converted to Islam and Christianity, a section of the Cameroonian people, mainly in rural areas, still retained their indigenous religious practices. These people make up about 4.3% of the population. Some of the traditional religions have adopted some practices of Muslims and Christians merging them with their own. Some of their practices include rituals, animal sacrifices, and ancestor and spirit worship.
Other Religions And Non-Believers In Cameroon
Other religious groups in the country include atheists or agnostics at 4.6%, and other religions such as Hinduism at 2.1%. All these religious groups impact on the cultural and national practices of the country. For instance, most religious holidays are made into national holidays while the practices of the religions dictate and influence cultural practices such as food, dress, and moral conduct.