Religion in Lesotho (Afrobarometer 2020)[1]

  Protestantism (52%)
  Catholicism (41%)
  Others / None (7%)
St. Michael's Cathedral. Lesotho is a predominantly Christian nation.

Christianity is the dominant religion in Lesotho,[2] with Protestantism and Catholicism being its main denominations.[3][4]

The 2022 United States Department of State report found Protestants slightly outnumbered Catholics.[2] Non-Christian religions represent only 1.5% of the population, and those of no religion 3.5%.[5] The non-Christian people primarily subscribe to traditional African religions, with small groups of Muslims, Hindus and Baha'is.[2][6]


In 2020, Catholics accounted for 45 percent of the population while Protestants represented 31 percent and other Christians an additional 18 percent.[7] The Catholic population is served by the province of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Maseru and his three suffragans (the bishops of Leribe, Mohale's Hoek and Qacha's Nek), who also form the national episcopal conference.

Christianity arrived in Lesotho from French missions at the invitation of King Moshoeshoe I in the 1830s.[8] While King Moshoeshoe I invited Christian missionaries, he retained his traditional religion and divorced two of his wives who had converted to Christianity.[8] Initial reports of French evangelist missionaries alleged cannibalism as a part of Lesotho traditional religion. Later missionaries such as Henry Callaway, as well as anthropologists, consider those initial reports as unreliable and mythical, rather than a historical or true representation of the traditional religion of the Lesotho people.[9]

The first Catholic mission started in 1863. It was called Motse-oa-'M'a-Jesu and led by Bishop Allard. He invited Holy Family Sisters from France to work with Sotho women. The initial efforts aimed at gaining converts as well as ending the practice of polygyny where old men paid a bride price to marry young girls. The later efforts attracted resistance from the traditional families. According to Allard's memoirs, Sotho women converted to Catholicism in larger numbers earlier than Sotho men.[10]

The two Christian denominations have historic links to two major political parties in Lesotho. The Catholic Church has supported the Basotho National Party, while the Evangelicals have been aligned with the Basotho Congress Party.[4] The nuncio accredited to South Africa represents the Holy See to the Lesotho government.[4]

Traditional religion

The traditional Sotho religion is traceable with archaeological evidence to around the 10th century. They share themes with the Tswana traditional religion. The Chief of a Sotho community was also their spiritual leader. Ancestor spirits called Badimo worship practices were a significant part of the Sotho community, along with rituals such as rainmaking dance. The Sotho had developed the concept of Modimo, the Supreme Being. The Modimo, in Sotho theology, created lesser deities with powers to interact with human beings.[11]

Religious rights

The Lesotho constitution protects the freedom of religion.[2]

In 2023, the country was scored 4 out of 4 for religious freedom.[12]

See also


  1. ^ "Lesotho".
  2. ^ a b c d US State Dept 2022 report This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  3. ^ "Table: Christian Population as Percentages of Total Population by Country". Pew Research Center. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Elias Kifon Bongmba (2015). Routledge Companion to Christianity in Africa. Routledge. pp. 393–394. ISBN 978-1-134-50577-7.
  5. ^ "Lesotho: Demographic and Health Survey, 2014" (PDF). Ministry of Health. p. 38. Retrieved 21 April 2018.
  6. ^ Lesotho, CIA Factbook
  7. ^ The ARDA website, retrieved 2023-08-28
  8. ^ a b Mark Juergensmeyer; Wade Clark Roof (2011). Encyclopedia of Global Religion. SAGE Publications. p. 699. ISBN 978-1-4522-6656-5.
  9. ^ David Chidester (1997). African Traditional Religion in South Africa: An Annotated Bibliography. ABC-CLIO. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-313-30474-3.
  10. ^ Richard Elphick (1997). Christianity in South Africa: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. University of California Press. pp. 198–199. ISBN 978-0-520-20940-4.
  11. ^ Toyin Falola; Daniel Jean-Jacques (2015). Africa: An Encyclopedia of Culture and Society. ABC-CLIO. pp. 644–645. ISBN 978-1-59884-666-9.
  12. ^ Freedom House website, retrieved 2023-08-08