Christians marginally outnumber Muslims in the contemporary multi-ethnic, multi-religious Ivorian society. Ivory Coast is a secular state, and the country’s constitution provides for the freedom of religion. Religious identity in Ivory Coast transcends to political and ethnic contexts. While tensions and clashes have occurred between different religious groups, they are mainly fueled by the pursuit of political domination. Throughout history, Christians, and Muslims, the dominant religions have lived peacefully, and this harmony was threatened by the civil war.
Religious Beliefs In Ivory Coast
Islam boasts 40.2% of Ivory Coast’s population. Islam’s arrival in Ivory Coast was through the Jula traders with links to the Malinke of the Mali Empire and who established Islamic centers in the northern region of the country. Islam in modern day Ivory Coast is firmly established in the north, a situation further facilitated by the hordes of Muslim immigrants from neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso. Most Muslims in the country are Sunni and adhere to the Maliki school of thought. Sufism is also popular, and it is integrated with traditional native practices. A small population subscribes to the Ahmadiyya.
Islam in Ivory Coast is characterized by the belief of the marabout, who is regarded to be a miracle worker and who possesses both moral and magic authority. The National Islamic Council, the supreme Muslim organization in the country, exerts a significant level of influence over the country’s politics.
Protestantism And Other Forms Of Non-Catholic Christianity
26.3% of Ivorians are Protestants or non-Catholic Christians. Protestantism in Ivory Coast gained ground in 1924 championed by the British Methodists. Before the arrival of the British, William Wade Harris, a Liberian Preacher had established the Harris Church in 1914. The religion, termed as Harrism, denounced wealth in place of an austere life. Harrism is relatively popular in modern day Ivory Coast, and other churches have integrated the religion with traditional beliefs. Other Protestant Churches include the Assemblies of God, Mission Biblique, Latter-day Saints, and Baptists.
Roman Catholic Christianity
Roman Catholic has a following by19.9% of the country’s population. Christianity in Ivory Coast made headway in the 20th century through French missionaries. Ivory Coast is home to the Yamoussoukro Basilica, a replica of the Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The church is the largest in the world, and it was built by the former President Felix Houphouet-Boigny in his birthplace of Yamoussoukro. In some villages, patron saints have been adopted and honored on secular and religious holidays. Historically, the Roman Catholic Church has had significant influence in the country’s political affairs. The religion’s dominance is, however, being threatened by a growing Muslim population and other religious sects.
Traditional African Religions, Folk Beliefs, And Animism
8% of the population observes traditional religions, folk beliefs, and Animism. Traditional beliefs differ from one ethnicity to another but often hinged on a supreme being, ancestral spirits, and the ability to speak to them through religious figures. Veneration of ancestors is popular and shrines are built and dedicated to spirits. The belief in good and evil spirits is also notable, and rituals are undertaken to evoke the will of the good spirits. Animism, fetishism, and witchcraft especially prevail in rural Ivory Coast.
Other Religions In Ivory Coast
2% of Ivory Coast’s population does not subscribe to any established religion. Baha’i Faith, Sikhism, Buddhism and other beliefs have a 3.6% population share in the country. A growing trend in Ivory Coast is religious syncretism, where different religions are mixed. Most Ivorians, while they identify with either Islam or Christianity, still observe traditional religious practices.