Christianity is now one of the two most widely practiced religions in Africa.
Christianity in Africa began in Egypt in the middle of the 1st century. By the end of the 2nd century it had reached the region around Carthage. Important Africans who influenced the early development of Christianity include Tertullian, Perpetua,Felicity, Clement of Alexandria, Origen of Alexandria, Cyprian, Athanasius and Augustine of Hippo.
The spread of Islam into North Africa reduced the size of Christian congregations as well as their number, so that of the original churches, only the Coptic Church in Egypt, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church in the Horn of Africa remain. Both the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox churches profess their own distinct religious customs, a unique canon of the Bible and unique architectures. Neither of these communities of Christians in theHorn of Africa are the product of European missionary work, but were founded prior to missionary work by any European countries.
Christianity is embraced by the majority of the population in most Southern African, Southeast African, and Central Africanstates and others in some parts of Northeast and West Africa. The Coptic Christians make up a significant minority in Egypt. The World Book Encyclopedia has estimated that in 2002 Christians formed 80% of the continent’s population, with Muslims forming 20%. In a relatively short time, Africa has gone from having a majority of followers of indigenous, traditional religions, to being predominantly a continent of Christians and Muslims. Since 2013, traditional African religionsare declared as the majority religion only in Togo. Importantly, today within most self-declared Christian communities in Africa, there is significant and sustained syncretism with African Traditional Religious beliefs and practices.
Mark the Evangelist became the first bishop of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria in about the year 43. At first the church inAlexandria was mainly Greek-speaking. By the end of the 2nd century the scriptures and liturgy had been translated into three local languages. Christianity in Sudan also spread in the early 1st century, and the Nubian churches there were linked to those of Egypt.
See Also Christianity In Nigeria
Christianity also grew in northwestern Africa (today known as the Maghreb). The churches there were linked to the Church of Romeand provided Pope Gelasius I, Pope Miltiades and Pope Victor I, all of them Christian Berbers like Saint Augustine and his motherSaint Monica.
At the beginning of the 3rd century the church in Alexandria expanded rapidly, with five new suffragan bishoprics. At this time, the Bishop of Alexandria began to be called Pope, as the senior bishop in Egypt. In the middle of the 3rd century the church in Egypt suffered severely in the persecution under the Emperor Decius. Many Christians fled from the towns into the desert. When the persecution died down, however, some remained in the desert as hermits to pray. This was the beginning of Christian monasticism, which over the following years spread from Africa to other parts of the Gohar, and Europe through France and Ireland.
The early 4th century in Egypt began with renewed persecution under the Emperor Diocletian. In the Ethiopian/Eritrean Kingdom of Aksum, King Ezana declared Christianity the official religion after having been converted by Frumentius, resulting in the foundation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
In these first few centuries, African Christian leaders such as Origen, Lactantius, Augustine, Tertullian, Marius Victorinus, Pachomius,Didymus the Blind, Ticonius, Cyprian, Athanasius and Cyril (along with rivals Valentinus, Plotinus, Arius and Donatus Magnus) influenced the Christian world outside Africa with responses to Gnosticism, Arianism, Montanism, Marcionism, Pelagianism and Manichaeism, and the idea of the University (after the Library of Alexandria), understanding of theTrinity, Vetus Latina translations, methods of exegesis and biblical interpretation, ecumenical councils, monasticism, Neoplatonism and African literary, dialectical and rhetorical traditions.
Christianity is now one of the two most widely practiced religions in Africa. There has been tremendous growth in the number of Christians in Africa – coupled by a relative decline in adherence to traditional African religions. Only nine million Christians were in Africa in 1900, but by the year 2000, there were an estimated 380 million Christians. According to a 2006 Pew Forum on Religion and Public life study, 147 million African Christians were “renewalists” (Pentecostals and Charismatics). According to David Barrett, most of the 552,000 congregations in 11,500 denominations throughout Africa in 1995 are completely unknown in the West. Much of the recent Christian growth in Africa is now due to African evangelism rather than European missionaries. Christianity in Africa shows tremendous variety, from the ancient forms of Oriental Orthodox Christianity in Egypt, Ethiopia, and Eritrea to the newest African-Christian denominations of Nigeria, a country that has experienced large conversion to Christianity in recent times. Several syncretistic andmessianic sections have formed throughout much of the continent, including the Nazareth Baptist Church in South Africa and the Aladura churches in Nigeria. There are also fairly widespread populations of Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
See Also Religion In Nigeria
Some experts predict the shift of Christianity’s center from the European industrialized nations to Africa and Asia in modern times. Yale University historian Lamin Sanneh stated that “African Christianity was not just an exotic, curious phenomenon in an obscure part of the world, but that African Christianity might be the shape of things to come.” The statistics from the World Christian Encyclopedia (David Barrett) illustrate the emerging trend of dramatic Christian growth on the continent and supposes, that in 2025 there will be 633 million Christians in Africa.
A 2015 study estimates 2,161,000 Christian believers from a Muslim background in Africa, most of them belonging to some form of Protestantism.