Religious Beliefs In Malawi

Malawi is a Christian majority nation with a sizable Muslim population centered in the areas near the border with Mozambique.

Malawi, officially the Republic of Malawi, is a landlocked country in Southeastern Africa bordered by Tanzania, Zambia, and Mozambique. It is one of the smallest countries in Africa with an area of 45,460 square miles and an estimated population of 16.8 million. Lilongwe is the country’s capital and largest city. It is under the leadership of the president who is elected democratically. English is the country’s official language, but other ethnic languages are used. The people of Malawi are mainly Bantus divided into several ethnic groups with different religious beliefs.

Religious Beliefs In Malawi

Protestant Christianity

44% of the entire population in Malawi are Christian Protestants. There is a rapid growth rate in Protestants in Malawi due to the errors of the Roman Catholic Church. These high numbers have been attributed to the prayers and unity among these churches. The main aim of the churches is to bring out holistic growth in which Christians are committed to both the church and making a difference in their country and society. Though several issues regarding other denominations have been on the rise, Christianity was promoted by the first president of Malawi and flourishing of the churches was witnessed.

Sunni Islam

Sunni Islam is the second largest religion in Malawi. It was introduced in Malawi by the Arabs and the Swahili traders during the barter trade of ivory, gold, and slaves. Traders from the Kilwa Sultanate and two other Muslim teachers played a significant role in its spread before the 19th century. During the colonial era, Muslim was seen to pose a greater resistance to their rule because it could unite the Africans in hostility. Over the years, missionary work by Muslim groups has been done to promote the religion in Malawi. Mosques have been built in every town, Islamic schools and learning centers, and a Muslim broadcasting station. 19% of the country’s population adhere to this religion

Roman Catholic Christianity

The Roman Catholic Church in Malawi is part of the worldwide Catholic Church in Rome under the leadership of the pope. It was introduced in Malawi by the first Catholic missionaries in 1889. After five years upon their arrival, three mission stations were permanently set up to enhance its spread. The first Malawian priest was ordained in 1938 by the white fathers. 18% of Malawian population are Roman Catholics.

Other Christians

Apart from Protestants and the Roman Catholics, there are other small denominations like Baptists, seven-day Adventists, Jehovah’s witnesses, and Anglicans forming 13% of the population. Several missionaries like bishops encouraged the spread of other forms of Christianity and translated the Bible into the Chichewa language. Under the rule of the Malawi’s first president, Christianity was favored and several churches built.

Other Religious Beliefs Prevalent In Malawi

Despite influences from the missionaries and Arab traders, 6% of the Malawian population still hold on to the traditional African beliefs like the belief in a supreme, belief in spirits, veneration of the death, use of magic and various folk beliefs, as well as traditional witchcraft, is wide spread. These beliefs are for the sole purpose of harmonizing nature with the supernatural.

Religious Beliefs In Malawi

Rank Belief System Share of Population in Malawi
1 Protestant Christianity 44%
2 Sunni Islam 19%
3 Roman Catholic Christianity 18%
4 Other Christians 13%
Other Beliefs or Irreligion 6%


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