Lesotho is a landlocked country in Southern African that is surrounded on all sides by South Africa. The country covers an area of about 30,000 km and had an estimated population of 2,203,821 in 2016.
Christianity is the dominant religion in Lesotho, and is practiced by approximately 90% of the country's population. The remaining 10% of the population includes adherents from other religions like Islam, Hinduism, and traditional African religions.
Christianity in Lesotho
Protestant Christians of Lesotho account for 45% of the population, particularly Evangelicals (26%) and other Protestant groups (19%). Roman Catholic Christians also constitute 45% of Lesotho's population. Prior to the arrival of Christianity in Lesotho during the early 19th century, most of the Sotho people followed traditional African beliefs. Christian missionaries first arrived in the country by invitation of King Moshoeshoe I in the 1830s. Strangely, the king himself did not convert to Christianity and even divorced his two wives who converted. Christian missionaries attempted to change the age-old rituals that denied basic rights to the Sotho women, such as the practice of polygyny that allowed aged men to marry young girls by paying brideprice. Initially, Sothos were not happy with the missionary activities that challenged their traditional beliefs. However, women were more receptive to Christianity than men.
Traditional Sotho Religion
Despite being affiliated with Christianity, a large section of Sothos still adhere to many of their ancient rituals and beliefs. There is also a small percentage of Sothos who strictly adhere only to their traditional religion. Like most indigenous African religions, the Sotho religion focusses on ancestral worship and belief in the Supreme Being, who is referred to by believers as Modimo. Other lesser deities are also worshipped, and ritualistic practices, like rainmaking dances, are part of the religion.
Other Religions in Lesotho
As of 2013, the Muslim population of Lesotho was approximately 3,000. Most of Lesotho’s Muslims are Sunnis, while about 350 are Ahmadiyyas. Most of these Muslims trace their origins to South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Hindus in Lesotho also arrived from South Asia as traders and businessmen.
Freedom of Religion in Lesotho
Lesotho's constitution provides for religious freedom in the country, and the government respects this provision. The country's citizens are generally tolerant towards the religions of others.