Religion in Niger
Islam is the dominant religion in Niger and is practiced by 94% of the population. The vast majority of Muslims are Sunni of Maliki school of jurisprudence. Other religions practiced in Niger include Animism and Christianity.
Islam in Niger accounts for the vast majority of the nation's religious adherents. The faith is practiced by more than 94% of the population, although this figure varies by source and percentage of population who are classified as Animist. Majority of the Muslim population identifies itself as Sunni with Shia and Ahmadiyya minorities representing 7% and 6% respectively. Many of the communities who continue to practice elements of traditional religions do so within a framework of syncretic Islamic belief, making agreed statistics difficult. Islam in Niger, although dating back more than a millennium, gained dominance over traditional religions only in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and has been marked by influences from neighboring societies. Sufi brotherhoods have become the dominant Muslim organisation, like much of West Africa. Despite this, a variety of interpretations of Islam coexist—largely in peace—with one another as well as with minorities of other faiths. The government of Niger is secular in law while recognising the importance of Islam to the vast majority of its citizens.
Christianity was brought with French colonial institutions, and its adherents include local believers from the educated, the elite, and colonial families, as well as immigrants from neighboring coastal countries, particularly Benin, Togo, and Ghana. Christians, both Roman Catholics and Protestants, account for less than 1% of the population. One estimate has Christians at 0.4% and Evangelicals at 0.1%—and are mainly present in the regions of Maradi and Dogondoutchi, and in Niamey and other urban centers with expatriate populations. Current estimates place the current Christian population at about 56,000 individuals with projected growth resulting in about 84,500 Christians by the year 2025.
Foreign Christian missionary organizations are active in the country, continuing a tradition dating back to the colonial period. The first Catholic mission was founded in 1931, while the first Protestant missionaries came to Zinder in 1924 and to Tibiri a few years later. In the late 1970s there were some 12,000 Catholic and 3,000 Protestant converts in Niger, with the remaining Christian population made up of foreigners.
Bahá'í Faith in Niger
The Bahá'í Faith in Niger began during a period of wide scale growth in the religion across Sub-Saharan Africa near the end of its colonial period. The first Bahá'ís arrive in Niger in 1966 and the growth of the religion reached a point of electing its National Spiritual Assembly in 1975. Following a period of oppression, making the institutions of the religion illegal in the late 1970s and 80s, the National Assembly was re-elected starting in 1992. The Bahá'í community in Niger has grown mostly in the south-west of the country where they number about 5,600 (0.04% total population.)
African Traditional Religion
A small percentage of the population practices traditional indigenous religious beliefs. Although studies estimate that such practitioners number around 1,055,000 individuals, or about 6.6% of the total population, such numbers can be misleading as there is a high rate of syncretism within Muslim communities throughout the country.
African Traditional Religion beliefs include both festivals and traditions (such as the Bori cult) practiced by some syncretic Muslim communities (in some Hausa areas as well as among some Toubou and Wodaabe pastoralists), as opposed to several small communities who maintain their pre-Islamic religion. These include the Hausa speaking Maouri (or Arna, the Hausa word for "pagan") community in Dogondoutci in the south-southwest and the Kanuri speaking Manga near Zinder, both of whom practice variations of the pre-Islamic Hausa Maguzawa religion. There are also some tiny Boudouma and Songhay African Traditional Religion communities in the southwest.
The Constitution of Niger provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice, as long as persons respect public order, social peace, and national unity. The US government received no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice in 2007.
Niger has a history of good relations between the majority Muslim believers and the much smaller minority faiths. In 2008, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Niamey Mgr Michel Cartatéguy was quoted in the press as saying that Niger is one of the "best examples" of cohabitation and cooperation between Christians and Muslims.
In January of 2015 Muslim protestors burned churches and cars and attacked French-linked businesses across Niger on Saturday, in violent protests against the publication of a cartoon of Muhammad on the cover of Charlie Hebdo magazine.
- http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148711.htm International Religious Freedom Report 2010: Niger]. United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (November 17, 2015 )
- CIA World Factbook
- International Religious Freedom Report 2010: Niger. United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (November 17, 2010). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
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