Vital Signs

The Christian Challenge in Islamic Africa

Moreno Religious persecution in Africa is particularly interesting since countries there go from one extreme to another in terms of religious tolerance. The growth of Islam is reconfiguring Africa's religious landscape—at the cost of religious liberty.

Frontline Fellowship, an evangelical group based in South Africa which operates in Sudan and other countries, provides these estimates: Christians are restricted and pressured (often violently) in 17 African countries considered "officially Islamic." Out of Africa's 750 million people, 260 million are Muslim (half of whom live in the sub-Saharan region). The African population could thus be roughly categorized as 50 percent Christian and 35 percent Muslim. Animists (who overlap with the Christians and Muslims) make up the rest, together with very small percentages of Hindus, Jews, and Bahais.

The situation varies from country to country, but three of Africa's largest states are representative of conditions there now: Egypt, an example of the longstanding Muslim stronghold in Northern Africa; Sudan, an ethnically mixed country under harsh ride from its Muslim majority; and Nigeria, more representative of black Africa, which is increasingly being islamicized by its military regime.

The Arab Republic of Egypt gained independence from Great Britain in 1922, and in 1956, it declared itself an Islamic state. Religious minorities include six...

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