Religion in Kenya (2019 census)[1][2]

  Protestantism (60.8%)
  Catholicism (20.6%)
  Other Christian (4.1%)
  Islam (10.9%)
  Hinduism (0.13%)
  Others (1.87%)
  No religion (1.6%)
Holy Ghost Cathedral, Mombasa

The predominant religion in Kenya is Christianity, which is adhered to by an estimated 85.5% of the total population. Islam is the second largest religion in Kenya, practised by 10.9 percent[1] of Kenyans. Other faiths practised in Kenya are Baháʼí, Buddhism, Hinduism and traditional religions.

Kenya is a secular state and freedom of religion is enshrined in the nation's constitution. Christmas and Easter are recognised as public holidays.[3]


Census figures from 2009 and 2019:[4]

Census figures

Religions in Kenya by Census
Religion 2009 2019
Protestant unknown 33.42%
Catholicism 23.46% 20.6%
Evangelicalism 20.44%
Muslim 11.21% 10.86%
African Instituted Churches 6.97%
Other Christian 11.87% 3.67%
No Religion 2.4% 1.6%
Other Religions 1.45% 0.99%
Traditional 1.65% 0.68%
Orthodox 0.43%
Hindu 0.14% 0.13%
Buddhism 0.16% 0.16%
Total 100% 100%


Mgr. Zacchaeus Okoth

Roman Catholicism was first brought to Kenya in the fifteenth century by the Portuguese, and was spread rapidly during the 20th century by missionaries. In 2019, the Roman Catholic Church made up 20.6% of the population, about 9.7 million Kenyans.[1] In the same year, over 60% of Kenyans identified as Protestant, Evangelical, or members of African instituted churches.[1] Denominations include the Anglican Church of Kenya, Africa Inland Mission, Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK)[5] (and the smaller Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church (KELC)[6]), and the Baptist Convention of Kenya among others. An estimated 30-35% of Kenya's population are Pentecostals. In 2017, Kenya had the highest number of Quakers of any country in the world, with around 119,285 members.[7][8]

The Eastern Orthodox Church has over 200,000 members [9] making it the third largest Orthodox Church in Sub-Saharan Africa (after the Oriental Orthodox Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church).[note 1] In 2016 two new dioceses were created within the Orthodox Archdiocese of Kenya, namely the Diocese of Nyeri and Mount Kenya, as well as the Diocese of Kisumu and West Kenya, both falling under the Archdiocese of Nairobi, which is since 2001 presided by Archbishop Makarios (Tillyrides).[11]

Other statistically significant non-Catholic and non-Protestant movements include the New Apostolic Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, United Pentecostal Church International, and Branhamism. The non-Protestant and non-Catholic groups make up about 11.8% of the population.

As of the end of 2019, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claimed more than 14,000 members in 54 official congregations in Kenya.[12] There are also five Family History Centers in Kenya, along with an employment resource centre in Nairobi.[13] Joseph W. Sitati, a native of Kenya, is a general authority of the church and current president of the Africa Central Area, which oversees the church's activities in about 16 countries on the African continent. The church has announced plans to build a temple in Nairobi, with it still in the planning stages, as of early 2021. The church has two stakes in Nairobi, with other areas either having districts or branches, who are directly overseen by the missions, although the church does not yet have a presence in much of the country. The church previously had one mission based in Nairobi, although Mombasa was in the Tanzania Dar es Salaam Mission, which was organized in July 2020, while a small area along the Ugandan border was in the Uganda Kampala Mission.

Due to the proposed law of the right to worship, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of churches in the country recently.[14]

A 2015 study estimated there to be some 70,000 Christian believers from a Muslim background in the country, most of them belonging to some form of Protestantism.[15]


Main article: Islam in Kenya

Islam is the religion of 10.91 percent of the population.[1] Most Muslims in Kenya are Sunni, mostly of the Shafii rite. Approximately 8% are non-denominational Muslims,[16] 7% percent identify themselves as Shia and about 4% identify themselves as Ahmadi Muslims,[17] as well as a small proportion of Ibadism practitioners.[18] Muslims are concentrated mainly in the Coastal and North Eastern Regions. Nairobi has several mosques and a notable Muslim population. There are large and historically significant populations of Swahili Muslims on the coast (most notably in Mombasa, Lamu and Malindi), in the Western Province, and smaller numbers of Somali, Arab and South Asian Muslims.

Religious Shari'ah courts, called Kadhi courts, are given jurisdiction over certain civil matters such as divorce and inheritance under the constitution of Kenya. Muslims have complained that they are targeted and discriminated against by the government, particularly since the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Nairobi and elsewhere. The religions subsiding in Kenya do not display the distinctions between the 42 cultures. They mainly display the traditions of the larger "umbrella" cultures.

Traditional African religions

Place of worship in Kisumu County

African religions are typically based on natural phenomena and reverence to ancestors. The dead are presumed to merely transform into another state of being and capable of bringing good fortune or calamity to the living. Most religious rites are therefore centred on appeasing the dead through sacrifices and proper burial rites. The dead's wishes must also be followed to the letter.

Followers of the traditional Kikuyu religion believe Ngai resides on Mount Kenya and say their prayers facing the mountain. Followers of the traditional Mijikenda religion have their holy shrines in the forests where they offer sacrifices and pray.

The Maasai, Kisii, Turkana, Samburu, and Pokot tribes also have significant numbers of persons adhering exclusively to traditional African religions.


Main article: Hinduism in Kenya

Hindu temple in Nairobi.

There are ethnically Gujarati Hindus living in Kenya.[19] [20] [21] The numbers are estimated to be around 60,287 people or 0.13% of the population. They are mainly located in the capital of Kenya, Nairobi, and other urban areas such as Mombasa, Eldoret, Thika, and Kisumu.[1]

No religion

Main article: Irreligion in Kenya

In the 2019 Census, 755,750 people reported themselves as having "no religion".[1] This is 1.6% of the total, making this group larger than the groups reporting themselves as traditionalists, Hindus, or other religion. 73,253, 0.16%, reported that they did not know their religion. There is a stigma against people who are atheists in Kenya.[22][23] A Gallup poll conducted in 2012 found that 90% of Kenyans considered themselves "a religious person", 9% considered themselves "a non religious person", while 1% define themselves as "a convinced atheist", placing Kenya in the top 10 religious populations in the world.[24]


Since 1999,[25] Buddhism has grown in Kenya. There are more than 1000 Buddhists in Kenya. Buddhism is also one of the fastest[26] growing religions in Kenya.

Nairobi Buddhist Vihara/Temple is the main centre of Buddhism in Kenya. Nairobi Vihara conducts missions and meditation[27] programs to promote Buddhism in Kenya.[citation needed]

Baháʼí Faith

Main article: Baháʼí Faith in Kenya

Present in Kenya since 1945, almost 1% of the population follows this faith.[28][29][30] In the 1990s the Baháʼís in Kenya participated in a nationwide community health project including vaccinations, maintaining latrines, and developing clean water sources.[31]

Freedom of religion

Kenya has no state religion and freedom of religion is enshrined in the nation's constitution.[32]

In 2023, the country scored 2 out of 4 for religious freedom; this was mainly due to Shabaab terror threats against Christians and consequential intimidation of local Muslims.[33] Most of these incidents have taken place in the north-east of the country.[34]

See also


  1. ^ However, according to a 2011 report by Pew Research Center: Religion & Public Life, by 2010 the Eastern Orthodox Church in Kenya had over 650,000 members.[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census Volume IV: Distribution of Population by Socio-Economic Characteristics" (PDF). Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 2 May 2021.
  2. ^ "CIA - The World Factbook - Kenya". Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Population by religion, sex and urban/rural residence". UN Data. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  5. ^ "Kenya (ELCK)". International Lutheran Council. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  6. ^ "Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church". The Lutheran World Federation. 13 September 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  7. ^ Friends World Committee for Consultation website
  8. ^ "Finding Quakers around the World" (PDF). Friends World Committee for Consultation. 2017. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  9. ^ 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census Volume IV: Distribution of Population by Socio-Economic Characteristics page 422.
  10. ^ Global Christianity: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population. Pew Research Center: Religion & Public Life. 19 DECEMBER 2011. p. 82. Retrieved: 9 May 2022.
  11. ^ Enthronement of Bishops in Kenya - May 2016. (St. Barnabas Orthodox Mission Kenya). 16 May 2016.Retrieved: 7 February 2017.
  12. ^ "LDS Statistics and Church Facts | Total Church Membership".
  13. ^ LDS Meetinghouse Locator.Latter Day Saint Facilities.
  14. ^ "Church struggles in fast-changing world". Daily Nation. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  15. ^ Johnstone, Patrick; Miller, Duane (2015). "Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global Census". IJRR. 11: 14. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  16. ^ "Chapter 1: Religious Affiliation". The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity. Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project. 9 August 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  17. ^ "The World's Muslims: Unity and Diversity" (PDF). Pew Forum on Religious & Public life. 9 August 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  18. ^ Prevost, Virginie. "The Ibadis in the Region of the Indian Ocean. Section One: East Africa, («Studies on Ibadism and Oman», 1)." (2015): 169-172.
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ "The rise of atheism in modern Kenya". Daily Nation. Kenya. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  23. ^ "Why We Don't Believe in God". The Star. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  24. ^ "Global Index of Religion and Atheism" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 August 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  25. ^ "Home Page | Nairobi Buddhist Temple". Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  26. ^ "How's Buddhism spreading in Africa?". Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  27. ^ "Special Events And Spiritual Programs at the Nairobi Buddhist Temple | Nairobi Buddhist Temple". Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  28. ^ The ARDA website, retrieved 2023-08-08
  29. ^ "WCC > Member churches > Regions > Africa > Kenya". World Council of Churches. 2008. Archived from the original on 11 March 2008. Retrieved 6 April 2008.
  30. ^ US State Department (2007). "Background Note: Kenya". The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affair. Retrieved 6 April 2008.
  31. ^ Community health workers in Kenya stir broad changes Volume 7, Issue 4 March - January 1996
  32. ^ US State Dept 2022 report
  33. ^ Freedom House website, retrieved 2023-08-08
  34. ^ Open Doors website

Further reading