Religion in Ethiopia

Religion in Ethiopia

A large number of religions are traditionally practiced in Ethiopia, the most numerous today being Christianity, Islam, and Animism.


Ethiopia is the second-oldest Christian state in the world, after Armenia. Saint Frumentius of Tyre is said to have converted the King of Axum, King Ezana during the fourth century AD. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, an Oriental Orthodox Church which is the largest Christian denomination in Ethiopia (it claims that 50% of the Ethiopian population are church members) and was part of the Coptic Orthodox Church until 1959, is the only pre-colonial Orthodox church in Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the 1994 Census of Government and the CIA World Factbook, 61.6% of the Ethiopian population is Christian [] (these figures further state that 50.6% are Ethiopian Orthodox, various Protestant denominations (such as the Ethiopian Orthodox Tehadeso Church, P'ent'ay, and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, are 10.1%, and the and Ethiopian Catholics constitute 0.9% of the population). But according to data from the surveys of U.S. Department of States, claim that about over 50% of the country are Christians (40 to 45% of the population belongs to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, about 10% are members of Christian evangelical and Pentecostal groups) [ [ Ethiopia ] ] [ [ Ethiopia ] ]


According to data from the surveys of U.S. Department of States, Muslims constitute about 40-45% of the population [ [ Ethiopia (03/08) ] ] [ [ Ethiopia ] ] ; but according to the older 1994 census of Government and CIA Factbook give a figure of 32.8% [1994 Ethiopian Census as cited by Berhanu Abegaz, [ "Ethiopia: A Model Nation of Minorities"] (accessed 6 April 2006)] [ [ CIA Factbook - Ethiopia] ] . Most Ethiopian Muslims are Sunni, and some belong to various Sufi orders. Islam first arrived in Ethiopia in 650. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital city, is home to about 1 million Muslims [] . Islam is most prevalent in the Somali and Afar regions as well as the southern parts of the Oromia region.


The Beta Israel, also known as the "Falashas" (though this term is considered pejorative), are a long-isolated group of African Jews who have lived in Ethiopia since antiquity. Their existence was not widely known to the outside world for many years, and they likewise were not aware of other Jewish groups outside of their own community. [] They became known to the West during the 19th and 20th centuries, and were accepted as Jews by the Israeli government in 1975. After this, Operation Moses and Operation Solomon, conducted in 1984 and 1991, respectively, airlifted the vast majority of the Ethiopian Jewish population to Israel, where there is currently a population of 105,000 Beta Israel. A small Jewish community still exists in Ethiopia, although it is mostly composed of Falash Mura, Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity in the past, and as such have not been recognized as Jews by the State of Israel, but have returned to Judaism (the Falash Mura now number some 22,000).


An estimated 12% of the Ethiopian population holds traditional Animist beliefs, according to the CIA World Factbook (5.6% of the population holds "traditional" beliefs,according to the 1994 census).

Religious politics

Freedom of religion is provided by the Ethiopian constitution, although in certain localities, this practice is not always respected. There is no state religion, it is forbidden to form political parties based upon religion, and all religious groups are required to register with the government (and renew their registration once every three years). It is a crime in Ethiopia to incite one religion against another. There is some tension between members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Protestant Christians, as well as between the Ethiopian Orthodox and Muslims.




See also

* Demographics of Ethiopia

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