Religion in Gabon (ARDA 2020 estimate)[1]

  Catholicism (48.5%)
  Other Christian (36.2%)
  Islam (10.1%)
  Other (0.5%)
  None / No Answer (1.3%)
St. Lucy's Cathedral in Donguila

Christianity is the predominant religion in Gabon, with significant minorities of the adherents of Islam and traditional faiths.[2]

Gabon is a secular country and the constitution ensures freedom of religion. Many people practice elements of both Christianity and traditional indigenous religious beliefs.[2] Approximately 85% of the population (mainly Catholic) practice one of the denominations of Christianity; 10 percent practice Islam (mainly Sunni); the remainder practice traditional or other religions.


The church of Saint John the Apostle (Saint-Jean l'apôtre) in Mouila
Mosque in Port-Gentil Gabon

Christianity arrived in Gabon through the Portuguese traders in early 16th century.[3] The Italian Capuchin friars set up Christian missions in the 17th century. The Portuguese missionaries and Italian friars cooperation ended in the 18th century, and the Portuguese officials expelled the Capuchin friars in 1777. New missions such as the Sacred Heart and Holy Ghost, as well as Protestant missions from Europe arrived in the mid 19th century. Catholicism had established itself in Gabon with the Portuguese colonial efforts in 18th century, and grown to be the leading denomination by 1900. With the start of French colonial rule, Christian missions from Paris arrived between 1890s and 1960. More evangelical Churches have grown since the mid 20th century.[3]

The Babongo are a forest people of Gabon on the west coast of equatorial Africa. They are the originators of the Bwiti religion. Other peoples in Gabon have combined traditional Bwiti practices with animism and Christian concepts to produce a very different modern form of Bwiti. The Bwiti rituals form part of the initiation into the Babongo people. Babonga people's lives are highly ritualised through dance, music and ceremony associated with natural forces and jungle animals.

Islam has had a small presence in Gabon, with about 10% of the people following Sunni practice. The former president Omar Bongo converted to Islam in 1973 after a visit to Libya. Under Bongo's one-party rule, Gabon joined the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in 1974. Gabon reintroduced multiparty democracy in 1993, though Bongo remained president until his death in 2009, upon which his son, also a Muslim, succeeded him.[4][5]

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice.[2]

On February 3, 2016, the Gabonese Republic granted official recognition to the local Orthodox Church, including plans to erect the first Orthodox church in the capital city Libreville.[6]

Religious freedom

In 2023, the country was scored 3 out of 4 for religious freedom; it was noted that some religious groups reported difficulty in registering with the government.[7]

See also


  1. ^ The ARDA website, retrieved 2023-08-03
  2. ^ a b c US State Dept 2022 report. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ a b Erwin Fahlbusch (1999). The Encyclopedia of Christianity. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 376. ISBN 978-90-04-11695-5.
  4. ^ Ngolet, Francois (2000). "Ideological Manipulations and Political Longevity: The Power of Omar Bongo in Gabon since 1967". African Studies Review. 43 (2). Cambridge University Press: 55–71. doi:10.2307/524984. JSTOR 524984. S2CID 132957090.
  5. ^ Erwin Fahlbusch (1999). The Encyclopedia of Christianity. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 375. ISBN 978-90-04-11695-5.
  6. ^ (in Greek) Ιεράς Επισκοπής Μπραζαβίλ και Γκαμπόν. Επίσημη αναγνώριση της Ορθόδοξης Εκκλησίας από τη Δημοκρατία της Γκαμπόν. 03 Φεβ. 16 (16:25). Retrieved: 4 February 2016.
  7. ^ Freedom House website, retrieved 2023-08-01