Religion in Zambia

Zambia is a "Christian country" by constitution. Christianity is the official religion in Zambia according to the 1996 constitution,[1] and the vast majority of Zambians i.e 96% are Christians of various denominations, but many other religious traditions are present. Traditional religious thought blends easily with Christian beliefs in many of the country's syncretic churches. Other religions include the Bahá'í Faith, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Judaism. Ismaili Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities exist owing to the Indian and Pakistani diasporic community.

In 2010, according to World Christian Trends, 85.5% of the population identified as Christian, 11.2% identified with indigenous religions, 1.8% identified as Bahá'í, 1.1% identified as Muslim, 0.2% identified as agnostic, 0.1% identified as Hindu, and all other groups accounted for less than 0.1%.[2] The 2010 Zambian census found that 75.3% of Zambians were Protestant, 20.2% were Catholic, 0.5% were Muslim, 2.0% followed other religions, and 1.8% had no religion.[3]


Religious distribution (2010)[3]
Religion% of total population

Zambia got independence in 1964 from British. Post independence, there were Pentacostal and Charismatic missionaries from the United States during the 70s where the 'prosperity gospel' was met with a wide audience. The growth of the religion suffered during the 80s and 90s on account of increased economic turmoil. After Frederick Chiluba (a Pentecostal Christian) became President in 1991, Pentecostal congregations expanded considerably around the country.[4] While the initial constitution did not specify religion, the amendment in 1996 declared the nation as "a Christian nation while upholding the right of every person to enjoy the person's freedom of conscience and religion". As per the Article 1 of the constitution, the nation is a Sovereign Secular Republic and as per Article 25, citizens free to express thoughts and practice any religion.[5]


Christianity is believed to have arrived in Zambia in the form of European Protestant missionaries and African explorers during the mid of 19th century. David Livingstone was a Scottish missionary who did pioneering missionary work that brought the attention of Africa to the Western world. Livingstone inspired abolitionists of the slave trade, explorers and missionaries. He led the way in Central Africa to missionaries who initiated the education and health care for Africans. Many African chiefs and tribes held him in high esteem and it was one of the major reasons for facilitating relations between them and the British.[6]

Zambia is officially a Christian nation according to the 1996 constitution,[1] but a wide variety of religious traditions exist. Traditional religious thought blends easily with Christian beliefs in many of the country's syncretic churches. Christian denominations include: Presbyterianism, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal, New Apostolic Church, Lutheran, Seventh-day Adventist, Jehovah's Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Branhamism, and a variety of Evangelical denominations. These grew, adjusted and prospered from the original missionary settlements (Portuguese and Catholicism in the east from Mozambique) and Anglicanism (English and Scottish influences) from the south. Except for some technical positions (e.g. physicians), western missionary roles have been assumed by native believers.[4] Zambia has the one of the largest communities of Jehovah's Witnesses in Africa with close to 250,000 members, second only to Nigeria.[7]

Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í population of Zambia has been estimated at 162,443, or 1.70% of the population.[8] Based on that data, ranks this as the sixteenth-highest national proportion of Bahá'ís in the world.[8] It also ranks Zambia's as the tenth-largest national Bahá'í community in the world in absolute terms, and the fourth-largest in Africa.[8][9]

The William Mmutle Masetlha Foundation, an organization founded in 1995 and run by the Zambian Bahá'í community, is particularly active in areas such as literacy and primary health care.[10][11] The Maseltha Institute, its parent organization, was founded earlier in 1983.[11]

Islam & Hinduism

Islam arrived in Zambia in the form of Arab slave traders during the mid of 18th century. Other Muslims and people from Hindu community arrived to Zambia during British Colonial rule.[9] Approximately 1% of Zambians are Muslim, mostly living in urban areas.[12] The vast majority of Muslims in Zambia are Sunni. An Ismaili Shia community is also present. About 500 people in Zambia belong to the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam.[13]


There is also a small Jewish community, composed mostly of Ashkenazis. Notable Jewish Zambians have included Simon Zukas, retired Minister, MP and a member of Forum for Democracy and Development and earlier the MMD and United National Independence Party. Additionally, the economist Stanley Fischer, currently the governor of the Bank of Israel and formerly head of the IMF was born and partially raised in Zambia's Jewish community.

Notable sects, such as the Alice Lenshina led Lumpa Church and the newly established Last Church of Order also exist.

See also


  1. "Amended Constitution of Zambia". Government of Zambia. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  2. "Zambia". Association for Religion Data Archives. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  3. "2010 Census of Population and Housing" (PDF). Central Statistical Office, Zambia. p. 20. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 October 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  4. Matthew Steel (2005). "Pentecostalism in Zambia : Power, Authority and the Overcomers". MSc Dissertation. University of Wales. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. Durham, W. Cole; Ferrari, Silvio; Cianitto, Cristiana; Thayer, Donlu (2016). Law, Religion, Constitution: Freedom of Religion, Equal Treatment, and the Law. Routledge. p. 164. ISBN 9781317107385.
  6. Blaikie, William Garden (1880). The Personal Life of David Livingstone. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  7. "The Largest Baha'i Communities". Retrieved 29 October 2007.
  8. Juergensmeyer, Mark; Roof, Wade Clark, eds. (2011). Encyclopedia of Global Religion. SAGE Publications. ISBN 9781452266565.
  9. DL Publicaciones. "About DLP". Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 29 October 2007.
  10. "William Mmutle Masetlha Foundation". Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Georgetown University. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  11. "International Religious Freedom Report 2010 - Zambia". Government of Zambia. 2011. Archived from the original on 23 November 2010. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  12. Henze, John, ed. (2007). Some basics of religious education in Zambia. Mission Press. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
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