The Central African Republic (CAR) is a county in Central Africa which has an area of approximately 620,000 square km and an estimated population of 4.6 million people. Christianity is the predominant religion in the Central African Republic. The 2003 national census found that 80.3% of the country’s population adhere to Christianity and about 15% of the population are Muslim. However, the CIA World Factbook suggests that Christians account for 50% of the population of the CAR, Muslims account for 15% of the population, and the remaining 35% adhere to indigenous African beliefs.
The Most Popular Religion in the CAR: Christianity
According to one source, Roman Catholics and Protestants make up 51% and 29% of the CAR's Christian population, respectively. However, the CIA World Factbook, claims that the two Christian denominations have an equal percentage of adherents, each accounting for about 25% of the national population. Missionary groups of Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, and others Christian denominations are also active in the country. The Catholic Church has 9 dioceses in the CAR.
Islam in the CAR
The majority of the CAR's Muslim population are Malikite Sunnis. Islam is common primarily in northern and north-eastern parts of the country, which are in close proximity to the Islam-dominated nations of Chad and Sudan. Islam is the country’s second most followed organized religion. The origins of Islam in the CAR can be traced to the expansion of slave routes in the Sahara and Nile River regions during the 17th century.
Traditional Indigenous Beliefs
Only about 5% of the population of the CAR adhere to traditional religious beliefs. However, it is a known fact that many of Christians and Muslims in CAR incorporate their indigenous religious practices in their everyday lives. Such practices involve ancestral worship, belief in a supreme being, spirits, religious dances, and ceremonies.
Freedom of Religion in the CAR
The CAR's constitution (which has been suspended since 2003) provides for religious freedom in the country and guarantees citizens the right to practice a religion of their choice. At the same time, the constitution also prohibits any kind of religious fundamentalism. Christian holidays are celebrated as national holidays in the CAR. The Unification Church and the practice of witchcraft have been banned in the country by law.
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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