Religion in Benin
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According to the 2002 census, 27.1 percent of the population of Benin is Roman Catholic, 24.4 percent Muslim, 17.3 percent Vodun, 5 percent Celestial Christian, 3.2 percent Methodist, 7.5 percent other Christian, 6 percent other traditional local religious groups, 1.9 percent other religious groups, and 6.5 percent claim no religious affiliation.
There are Christians, Muslims, and adherents of traditional local religious groups throughout the country. However, most adherents of the traditional Yoruba religious group are in the south, while other local religious beliefs are followed in the north. Muslims are represented most heavily in the north and southeast. Christians are prevalent in the south, particularly in Cotonou, the economic capital. It is not unusual for members of the same family to practice Christianity, Islam, traditional local religious beliefs, or a combination of all of these.
Christianity first reached Benin in 1680, gaining more permanent footing in the 19th century. English Methodists arrived in 1843, operating amongst the coastal Gun people. More than half of all Christians in Benin are Catholic. The Catholic hierarchy in Benin consists of the Archdiocese of Cotonou (including the Dioceses of Abomey, Dassa-Zoumé, Lokossa, Porto Novo) and the Parakou (including the Dioceses of Djougou, Kandi, Natitingou, and N'Dali). There are 440 priests and 900 men and women in religious orders. Other Christian groups include Baptists, Methodists, Assemblies of God, Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventists, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Jehovah's Witnesses, Celestial Christians, Rosicrucians, the Unification Church. Many nominal Christians also practice traditional local religious beliefs.
Islam was brought to Benin from the north by Hausa, and Songhai-Dendi traders. Nearly all Muslims adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam. The few Shi'a Muslims are primarily Middle Eastern expatriates. There is also a relatively large presence of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, who recently inaugurated the Largest mosque in Benin, the Al Mahdi Mosque in 2006. Many nominal Muslims also practice traditional local religious beliefs.
Indigenous religions include local animistic religions in the Atakora (Atakora and Donga provinces) and Vodun and Orisha or Orisa veneration among the Yoruba and Tado peoples in the center and south of the country. The town of Ouidah on the central coast is the spiritual center of Beninese Vodun.
The Tado and the Yoruba Orisha pantheons correspond closely:
- The supreme deity Mawu (in the Fon language) or Olodumare (also known as Olorun, Eledumare, Olofin-Orun and Eledaa among other names)(in Yoruba)
- The deity of the earth and smallpox, known as Sakpana (or Sopono, Sakpata), can also be spelt as 'Shakpata, Shopono, Shakpana, and also known as Babalu Aye or Obalu Aye.
- The deity of thunder and lightning, known as Shango; can also be spelt as Sango, also known as Jakuta, Chango, Xevioso and Hevioso.
- The deity of war and iron, known as Ogun, also known as Ogoun or Gu.
Freedom of religion
The Constitution of Benin provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice. The United States government recorded no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice during 2007, and prominent societal leaders have taken positive steps to promote religious freedom.
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (August 2009)|
- International Religious Freedom Report 2007: Benin. United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (September 14, 2007). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.