Equatorial Guinea is a country in Central Africa that encompasses an area of 28,000 square km. The country had an estimated population of 1,222,245 in 2015. Equatorial Guinea is the continent’s only independent state to have Spanish as its official language.
Christianity is the religion of the majority in Equatorial Guinea. Approximately 93% of the country’s population are Christian, 2% are Muslim, while the remaining 5% adhere to other religions like Animism or the Bahá'í Faith.
Christianity in Equatorial Guinea
The majority of Christians in Equatorial Guinea are Roman Catholic. In fact, 87% of the national population are Catholics, only 5% are Protestant Christians, and other Christian denominations have few followers. Christianity was introduced to the country prior to its independence. Portuguese and Spanish colonial rule in Equatorial Guinea supported the spread of Christianity throughout the country. The Portuguese introduced Roman Catholicism in Equatorial Guinea in the 15th century, and Protestantism began to gain popularity after Spain captured the region from the Portuguese in 1778, and missionaries from the different Protestant denominations were established. However, in 1853 Spain signed a concordat with the Vatican declaring Catholicism as Equatorial Guinea's official religion. As a result, competing religions were discouraged in Equatorial Guinea, and the work of Protestant missionaries was stopped and the Protestant churches were closed.
Religious Tolerance in Equatorial Guinea
While Roman Catholicism was dominant in Equatorial Guinea during the latter portion of Spanish colonial rule, the post-independence situation was quite different. Despite a brief period of religious tolerance immediately after independence, the presidential rule of Macías Nguema in Equatorial Guinea between 1968 and 1979 was a period when communal harmony was completely lost and violence ensued. Nguema’s rule persecuted Christians severely, and thousands fled to Cameroon and Gabon during this period. It was only after Nguema was overthrown that peace was restored in the country. The Catholic Church needed to be re-established and a Papal visit in 1982 played an important role in restoring the confidence of the country's Catholic population. Equatorial Guinea has been declared a Roman Catholic province with its own archdiocese of Malabo.