In little more than a century, the religious landscape of sub-Saharan Africa has changed dramatically.
As of 1900, both Muslims and Christians were relatively small minorities in the region.
While sub-Saharan Africa has almost twice as many Christians as Muslims, on the African continent as a whole the two faiths are roughly balanced, with 400 million to 500 million followers each.
Since northern Africa is heavily Muslim and southern Africa is heavily Christian, the great meeting place is in the middle, a 4,000-mile swath from Somalia in the east to Senegal in the west.
Africans have long been seen as devout and morally conservative, and the survey largely confirms this.
But insofar as the conventional wisdom has been that Africans are lacking in tolerance for people of other faiths, it may need rethinking.Muslims are significantly more positive in their assessment of Christians than Christians are in their assessment of Muslims.There are few significant gaps, however, in the degree of support among Christians and Muslims for democracy.Large majorities say they belong to one of these faiths, and, in sharp contrast with Europe and the United States, very few people are religiously unaffiliated.Despite the dominance of Christianity and Islam, traditional African religious beliefs and practices have not disappeared. Whether or not this entails some theological tension, it is a reality in people’s lives: Large numbers of Africans actively participate in Christianity or Islam yet also believe in witchcraft, evil spirits, sacrifices to ancestors, traditional religious healers, reincarnation and other elements of traditional African religions.In most countries, relatively few see evidence of widespread anti-Muslim or anti-Christian hostility, and on the whole they give their governments high marks for treating both religious groups fairly.But they acknowledge that they know relatively little about each other’s faith, and substantial numbers of African Christians (roughly 40% or more in a dozen nations) say they consider Muslims to be violent.Many support democracy and say it is a good thing that people from other religions are able to practice their faith freely.At the same time, they also favor making the Bible or sharia law the official law of the land.Christianity and Islam also coexist with each other.Many Christians and Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa describe members of the other faith as tolerant and honest.