Religion in Mozambique (2020 estimate)[1]

  Christianity (55.8%)
  Traditional faiths (26.1%)
  Islam (17.5%)
  No religion (0.5%)
  Other (0.3%)
Maputo Cathedral

Christianity is the largest religion in Mozambique, with substantial minorities of the adherents of traditional faiths and Islam.

Mozambique is a secular state. According to the most recent 2020 estimate, 55.8% of the population of Mozambique was Christian, 17.5% was Muslim (mainly Sunni), 0.5% had no religion, 26.1% adhered to traditional beliefs, and 0.3% of the population practised other religions.[2][3]

Religious demography

Inhambane Cathedral

Early 2000s

In the early 2000s, religious communities were dispersed throughout the country. Northern provinces were predominantly Muslim, especially along the coastal strip, and some areas of the inland northern areas had a stronger concentration of Catholic or Protestant communities;[4] Catholics and Protestants were generally more numerous in the southern and central regions, but Muslim minority populations were also present in these areas. The National Directorate of Religious Affairs in the Ministry of Justice stated that evangelical Christians represented the fastest growing religious group in the country due to other christian sects converting to evangelical christianity;[4] most religious communities tended to draw their members from across ethnic, political, economic, and racial lines.

In 2010, there were 732 religious denominations and 144 religious organizations registered with the Department of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Justice;[4] Major Christian religious groups include Roman Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), Congregational, Christadelphians, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventist, and Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, as well as evangelical, apostolic, and Pentecostal churches.

In 2010, Muslim journalists reported that the distinction between Sunni and Shi'a was not particularly important for many local Muslims, and Muslims were much more likely to identify themselves by the local religious leader they follow than as Sunni or Shi'a. There were significant differences between the practices of Muslims of African origin and those of South Asian background. In addition African Muslim clerics had increasingly sought training in Egypt, Kuwait, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia, returning with a more fundamental approach than the local traditional, Sufi-inspired Swahili Islam particularly common in the north.[4]

In 2010, the country's leading mosques and the Catholic Church tried to discourage traditional indigenous practices from their places of worship, instituting practices that reflect a stricter interpretation of sacred texts; however, some Christian and Muslim adherents continued to incorporate traditional practices and rituals, and religious authorities were generally permissive of such practices.[4]


According to the most recent 2020 estimate, 55.8% of the population of Mozambique was Christian, 17.5% was Muslim (mainly Sunni), 0.5% had no religion, 26.1% adhered to traditional beliefs, and 0.3% of the population practised other religions.[5][6][3]

In 2022, Jewish,[7] Hindu, and Bahá'í Faith groups constituted a very small percentage of the population.[5]

Many small, independent Protestant and Catholic churches that have split from mainstream denominations fuse African traditional beliefs and practices within a Christian framework.[5]

Freedom of religion

A Muslim worshipper awaits by the door of a mosque
Hindu temple in Salamanga

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.[5]

The country has been scored as 3 out 4 for freedom of religious expression.[8]

Mozambique is listed as the 32nd most dangerous country to be a Christian.[9] Islamist terrorists attacked a Catholic mission in Nampula, killing an elderly missionary and burning down several structures in September 2022,[5] and separated Catholic inhabitants of a village killing at least eleven in September 2023.[10]

Survey results

Religious affiliation in Mozambique
Affiliation 1997 census[11] 2007 census[12][13] 2009 DHS Survey[14] 2010 Pew Forum Estimates[15][16] 2015 DHS Survey[17]
Christian 49.1% 56.1% 61.3% 56.1% 69.4%
Catholic 23.8% 28.4% 32.3% 28.4% 30.5%
Zionist Christian 17.5% 15.5% 7.4% 10.3%
Evangelical 7.8%[note 1] 10.9% 9.5% [note 2]
Protestant 21.6% 27.1%[note 3] 18.4%
Anglican 1.3% 0.8%
Muslim 17.8% 17.9% 19.5% 22.8% 19.3%
None 23.1% 18.7% 12.8% 9.9%
Other/Unknown 10.0% 7.3% 6.4% 1.4%
  1. ^ In the 1997 census "Evangelical" included "Protestant".
  2. ^ In the 2015 DHS Survey "Evangelical" included "Pentecostal".
  3. ^ The 2010 Pew Estimates included all Protestants.

Anti-Religious Campaign 1979-1982

The ruling Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), became predominantly Marxist during the liberation war. After independence, it declared state atheism and nationalized all schools and health facilities, including those owned and run by religious institutions. Facing resistance, the new state imprisoned some clerics in 1975 and 1976 and banned all Jehovah's Witnesses in the district of Zambezia in 1977.[18][19]

In response to these and other social and religious changes, Catholic bishops condemned the death penalty and re-education camps as godless. In 1978 the church decided to transform into a church of communities, something the state believed to be a move towards resistance to Socialism, rather than the collaboration stated by some Bishops. The result was an outright attack on all religion on the part of the state.[20]

From early 1979, the regime attempted to discredit the church on the basis of the history of the colonial church, and it began a campaign to close churches, prevent religious activities and restrict the movements of religious staff. Catholic and other religious institutions resisted, more or less openly. By 1980, resistance was often open and international criticism was rife, something which convinced FRELIMO to change its stance.[18]

Several Protestant groups in Mozambique had strong allegiance to the FRELIMO government, potentially because many in the FRELIMO leadership (including the late national hero Eduardo Mondlane) had been trained in Protestant schools and the World Council of Churches had supported the Mozambique institute in Dar es Salaam during the war of liberation.[21] But many non-Catholic churches suffered nonetheless, not least of all Jehovah's Witnesses, who were all deported to Zambezia and the Nazarene Church which saw many of its missionaries imprisoned.

Islam suffered probably the most during the anti-religious campaign, because of the plain misunderstanding or prejudice of the Frelimo leadership. Frelimo ministers thought, for example, that raising pigs was a good idea to combat rural underdevelopment and genuinely failed to understand that Muslims resistance in the north of the country came from religious objection. Some long-lasting trauma was thus created.[22]

The Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) benefitted from FRELIMO's anti-religious attack. Some campaigning was done nationally and internationally by the rebel movement on the subject of religion already in 1978, but with little long-lasting impact - only some radical American and English Pentecostal groups openly sided with Renamo. The guerilla stance was indeed eventually ambiguous in relation to religious institutions, and the movement did not hesitate to take religious hostages or kill missionaries, national priests, pastors or nuns.

The anti-religious campaign of FRELIMO formally ended in 1982 when the party in power held a meeting with all the main religious institutions. On that occasion, it claimed mistakes had been made and national unity needed to prevail. State control of religious institutions continued after 1982, but the state attack on faith had come to an end.[23]

See also


  1. ^ "National Profiles".
  2. ^ "National Profiles".
  3. ^ a b Eric Morier-Genoud, “Renouveau religieux et politique au Mozambique: entre permanence, rupture et historicité”, Politique africaine, n°134, June 2014, pp.155-177
  4. ^ a b c d e International Religious Freedom Report 2010: Mozambique. United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ a b c d e US State Dept 2022 reportThis article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain
  6. ^ "National Profiles".
  7. ^ JosephFebruary 1, Anne; Images, 2018Getty (February 2018). "In Mozambique, A Jewish Community Thrives". The Forward. Retrieved 2019-03-19.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Freedom House website, Retrieved 2023-07-05
  9. ^ Open Doors website, Retrieved 2023-07-05
  10. ^ Aid to the Church in Need, Retrieved 2023-09-26
  11. ^ 1997 Census of Mozambique
  12. ^ 2007 Census of Mozambique
  13. ^ The World Factbook - Mozambique
  14. ^ "Inquérito Nacional de Prevalência, Riscos Comportamentais e Informação sobre o HIV e SIDA em Moçambique (INSIDA), 2009" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Ministério da Saúde & Instituto Nacional de Estatística. p. 32. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  15. ^ "Table: Christian Population as Percentages of Total Population by Country". Pew Research Center. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  16. ^ "Table: Muslim Population by Country". Pew Research Center. 27 January 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  17. ^ "Moçambique: Inquérito de Indicadores de Imunização, Malária e HIV/SIDA em Moçambique (IMASIDA), 2015" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Ministério da Saúde & Instituto Nacional de Estatística. p. 40. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  18. ^ a b Eric morier-Genoud, “Of God and Caesar: The Relation between Christian Churches and the State in post-Colonial Mozambique, 1974-1981”, Le Fait Missionnaire (Lausanne), n°3, September 1996
  19. ^ "As feridas abertas pelo processo de reeducação em Moçambique" [The wounds opened by the re-education process in Mozambique]. Deutsche Welle (in Portuguese). Retrieved March 13, 2015.
  20. ^ Serapiao, Luis Benjamim. "The Catholic Church and conflict resolution in Mozambique's post-colonial conflict, 1977-1992." Journal of Church and State 46.2 (2004)
  21. ^ Serapiao, Luis Benjamim. "The Catholic Church and conflict resolution in Mozambique's post-colonial conflict, 1977-1992." Journal of Church and State 46.2 (2004)
  22. ^ Eric Morier-Genoud, “L’Islam au Mozambique après l’indépendance. Histoire d’une montée en puissance”, L’Afrique Politique 2002, Paris: Karthala, 2002, pp. 123-146; Bonate, Liazzat J. K., “Muslim Religious Leadership in Post-Colonial Mozambique.” South African Historical Journal, No 60 (4), 2008, 637-654.
  23. ^ FRELIMO (1983) "Consolidemos aquilo que nos une": reunião da Direcção do Partido e do Estado com os representantes das confissões religiosas 14 a 17 de Dezembro de 1982, Imprensa Nacional de Moçambique, Maputo