Religious Beliefs In Zimbabwe

Worshipers attending services at a Pentecostal church in Zimbabwe.
Worshipers attending services at a Pentecostal church in Zimbabwe.

Protestant Christianity

In 1795, the London Missionary Society was founded to promote the spread of Protestantism into Africa and Asia. Missions were launched in Zimbabwe and there was the first time the country was introduced to Protestantism. There are a wide variety of Protestant Churches in Zimbabwe, including the Anglican, Methodist, Evangelical, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Reformed, Jehovah Witness and Seventh-Day Adventist churches. The Anglican, Methodist, Evangelical, Seventh-Day Adventist and Reformed churches set up their first churches and missions in Zimbabwe at some point in the 1890's, when Protestantism in Zimbabwe first really started to be established. The first Lutheran church was founded in the country in 1903 and shortly afterward the first Jehovah Witnesses began working in the country and the first Pentecostal church was set up in 1910. Various other religious branches within each of these groups have also been established in the country, with churches, organizations, and missions as well. Currently, Protestant Christianity in the most popular religion in the country, with 63% of the population adhering to it, with Pentecostals having the largest following.

Roman Catholic Christianity

Zimbabwe's first contact with Roman Catholic Christianity came in 1560 when a Jesuit priest, Goncalo de Silveria, reached Zvonggombe, the capital city of the Kingdom of Mutapa. During most of the 17th Century, Dominican preachers worked among Portuguese traders in what is now northeast Zimbabwe, but they were driven out of the country in 1693. The modern Roman Catholic church in Zimbabwe began with the Zambezi Mission in 1879, which was run by the Society of Jesus and established its first foothold in the county in Gubulawayo. However, they made little progress until returning in 1890 after a year away with British forces accompanying them. The church's work in education and nursing was the key effort to their success and allowed for new missions to be established in the country. Since then Zimbabwe has made history when Patrick Chakaipa was the first African bishop to be ordained in 1972 and has since had more than 20 bishops be served. Currently, Roman Catholic Christianity makes up 17% of the population.

Traditional African Beliefs

Traditional African beliefs are much older and have been practiced in Zimbabwe longer than any other religion in the country. There is the Shona and Ndebele religions in which God is seen as the creator of the universe and is believed to be involved in the everyday lives of people. People communicate with God (Mwari in Shona, uMlimu in Ndebele) through their deceased ancestors (Vadzium in Shona, Amadhlozi in Ndebele). These deceased ancestors are thought to make up an invisible community that around the living and their descendants, looking over them. Both religions have spirit mediums that can communicate with the deceased, though in Shona there are also evil spirits call Ngizo, whom witches can communicate with. In the Mwali religion, they are most well known for their yearly pilgrimage to the Matobo Hills, where a delegation goes to the Njelele Shrine there and ask Mwali to make rain. There is also the Unhu religion that emphasizes humanist philosophy and the religion of the San who believed that there is a spirit alongside our world. Currently, Traditional African Beliefs are practiced by 11% of Zimbabwe's population.


Atheism in Zimbabwe has grown very recently, thanks in large to the internet being introduced into the country and more and more people, especially in the cities, being able to have access to it and the varied teachings it allows to proliferate. This has enabled atheists in Zimbabwe to go online to connect with each other and build a more established line of communication. The largest share of atheists in Zimbabwe, as in most other countries, tend to be younger people. Currently, 7% of Zimbabwe population profess to be atheists.


Islam arrived in Zimbabwe at some point between 900 and 1000 A.D., when Muslims where establishing emirates (political territories) along the coast of East Africa. Shortly after setting up their emirates, Muslim slave merchants traveled from to coastline of East Africa into the interior of Africa, including Zimbabwe to capture slaves that would later be traded. However, it was only until Zimbabwe's colonial period (1888-1965) under British rule that the country gained any kind of significant Muslim population, which mostly came from people immigrating from the Indian subcontinent that was also under British rule at the time. Since then, Zimbabwe has also gained a small number of Islamic immigrants from the Yao tribe in Malawi, as well as from various other parts of North Africa and the Middle East. Zimbabwe's largest mosque was constructed in 1982 and despite only making up 1% of the population, there is currently a mosque in every major city and in some rural areas.

Baha'i, Hindu, Orthodox Christian, Latter Day Saints, and Others

The first Zimbabwean immigrants to have followed the Baha'i religion settled in Zimbabwe in 1953, but it would be two years before someone native to Zimbabwe converted to their religion. In 1970, the first national administrative body for the church was set up and there are now several Baha'i growth centers in certain cities. Zimbabwe has a small Buddhist community that has been thriving, relatively speaking, in the last two decades. Hinduism in Zimbabwe is mainly confined to the capital of Harare, though there are also branches in the cities of Bulawayo and Mutare. Judaism has been in Zimbabwe since the early 1900s when Jewish settlements were established. Currently, there are two Jewish community centers and three synagogues in the country.

There have been members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as Mormons, in Zimbabwe since 1925. The first branch of the religion was organized in 1951 and currently the church maintains a mission in the capital of Harare. The Eastern Orthodox Christian Church first came to Zimbabwe with the few immigrants that came to the country from Greece and Cyprus. In 1968, an Archdiocese of Zimbabwe was set up to govern the activities of the church in central Africa. Currently the Orthodox Church has 11 churches and 3 missions in the country. The Rastafarian movement has been in Zimbabwe within the African Independent Churches since its beginning in the 1930s. Currently, Rastafarian communities can be found in all the major urban areas across Zimbabwe. Scientology has a small presence in the country, with offices in the capital of Harare and in Bulawayo.

Religious Beliefs In Zimbabwe

RankBelief SystemShare of Contemporary Zimbabwean Population
1Protestant Christianity63%
2Roman Catholic Christianity17%
3Traditional African Beliefs11%
6Baha'i, Hindu, Orthodox Christian, Latter Day Saints, and OthersLess than 1%

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