Most citizens of the Republic of the Congo are Christian, though the majority of them still carry on indigenous religious practices to some degree. syncretized with Christianity. Many Christians practice Kimbanguism, which originated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The movement retains many Christian elements but believes in ancestral worship. Christianity accounts for almost 50% of the total population with 90% of all Christians being Roman Catholics. Muslims are less than 2% in the country with a majority of them as immigrants residing in Brazzaville and a few other urban centers. The rest of the population practice traditional African Religion or atheism.
Roman Catholic Christianity
Roman Catholicism is the most widely practiced form of Christianity with over 33% of the total population adhering to its beliefs and teachings. Around 2 million people in Congo are Catholics. The country has one archdiocese and seven dioceses. The faith has a significant impact on the economy, political and social life of the Congolese nation. The church owns most of the primary and secondary schools, hospitals, clinics, farms, ranches and artisan shops. It is the backbone of the Congolese economy. The church provides necessities to the vulnerable and displaced people. It is a beacon of peace preventing a resurgence of violence. It encourages Christians to engage in social justice and help others heal physical and psychological wounds of the prolonged war in the country.
Protestantism is the thirds largest religion in Brazzaville with a 19.9% share of the total population. Similar to the Catholic faith, Protestant churches value in the economy is huge. From medical and educational services the church forms the primary body to fight for humanitarian and the freedom of a people engulfed by a sea of corruption. History of Protestantism dates back to the last phase of the 19th Century. Despite the hostile environment the faith encountered in the Congo, the church went on to fight for the rights of a people subverted by the abuse in the rubber and ivory economy in both Congo and DRC. The movement received global recognition, and the Belgian state took control of DRC from the local monarchies. After world War II hostility reduced and the faith was allowed access to state subsidies for their schools and hospitals. The Evangelical Church, the National Church of Congo and the Christian Alliance Church In Congo are the biggest Protestants in the country.
Awakening Churches and Christian Revivalism
Revivalism, or the Christian revival, is an increased interest in the spiritual renewal of a peoples’ belief in the church that has a local, national, and global effect. In the recent years, the Congolese press and media have been involved in revivalism to restore the moral discipline of a country buried in corruption and civil war. The history of the church dates back to Daniel Ndoundou spiritual awakening leader of 1931. Later in 1947 the Swedish Evangelical church underwent spiritual dryness where they prayed to God to release an outpouring of His Spirit on the lost people. To answer their prayers John Magnusson, a Swedish pastor, received revelation. From then the spiritual revival started and spread to other churches and institutions. However, Ndoundou remained the central figure in the Christian revival as he united the Protestant churches with the new faith for a peaceful coexistence. After years of restoration, the faith is now the second largest denomination in the country with over 22.3% following.
The Kimbangu Church dates back to 1921 when Simon Kimbangu founded the church based on his own personal religious beliefs regarding Christianity. Simon was a member of the English Baptist Mission Church before he received the divine call to serve a higher purpose. The religion started in the lower Congo spreading to other territories. He evolved a strict doctrine from Protestantism and gave it to the people. Differing from many Christians, Simon banned and repudiated sorcery, magic, or any traditional believe. Simon was very convincing and within a short while, he was able to draw masses of people from the Protestant churches and strict adherence to the indigenous religions. In 1921 the government banned the movement, and Simon was incarcerated and mysteriously escaped amplifying his mystique nature. He later surrendered, and the death sentence was commuted to life incarceration and he died in 1950. The faith did not die with him. The exiled believers flourished and in 1959 it gained legal recognition. The church then spread to Brazzaville Congo and today 1.5% of the Congolese are faithful to the faith.
The ivory and slave traders from East Africa introduced Islam into the region in the 18th Century. Today the Muslim population accounts for around 1.6% of the total population in the country. Most Muslims work in the urban centers of Congo and are immigrants from the war-torn areas of West African countries of Mali, Togo, Benin, Senegal, and Mauritius, North Africa, and Sunni Muslims of Lebanon.
Religious Rights and Freedoms
Religious freedoms in Congo-Brazzaville are generally respected. The new constitution covers and protects all religious groups and any discrimination on religious affiliation is forbidden. However, a recent influx of Muslim refugees from war-torn neighboring countries has fueled resentment among locals. As a result, an uptick in the anti-Muslim discourse has emerged in the public sphere creating tension in mixed areas. Muslims Holidays are not recognized by the state neither are they nationally observed. However, they are respected. Muslims are given the right to celebrate their cultural events without fear of critic or persecution. Brazzaville has a large mosque constructed in 2005.