Ethiopians among the most religious people in the world, according to a new survey that seems to compare religious faith and poverty.
But the report by an American think-tank, Pew Research Centre, found that about 98 per cent of Ethiopians say “religion is very important in their lives,” thus placing Ethiopians in the league of most God-fearing people in the world. Other countries whose people are highly religious include Senegal (97 per cent), Indonesia (95 per cent), Uganda (94 per cent), and Pakistan (93 per cent). Others are Burkina Faso (92 per cent), Tanzania (90 per cent), Ghana (90 per cent), Nigeria (88 per cent) and Philippines (87 per cent).
Most of these ‘religious’ countries have a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita which is way below $5,000 (Sh510,000), according to the report, which was completed late last year. On the other end, most people in such developed countries as Canada (27 per cent), Italy (26 per cent), Ukraine (22 per cent), Germany (21 per cent), and Spain (21 per cent) were less religious. This was the same with the people of the United Kingdom (21 per cent), Russia (19 per cent), South Korea (19 per cent), Australia (18 per cent), France (14 per cent), Japan (11 per cent) and China (3 per cent). Most of these countries have a GDP per capita of more than $20,000 (Sh2,040,000).
The trend, according to the study, was that the people from wealthier countries tended to place less importance on religion when compared to those from poor countries. The exception was the United States where 53 per cent of the respondents said religion was important in their lives. “Overall, people in wealthier nations tend to place less importance on religion than those in poorer nations,” said Pew Research analyst Angelina Theodorou.
It would be interesting to understand whether religion is the cause of impoverishment or is simply its symptom. With 98 per cent of its people saying religion is very important in their lives, Ethiopia has the most religious people on earth, according to the study. On the other hand, only 3 per cent of Chinese consider religion to be very important in their lives. Kenya is a predominantly a Christian country with about 83 per cent of the population saying it is Christian. Islam comes second with about 11 per cent. Moses Mutua, a sociologist who teaches at Moi University, says that deep religious affinity among the people of Third World countries like Kenya can be traced to the colonial period. Religion came from developed countries and it was brought by either the missionaries or the colonialists themselves.
“Whenever the missionaries went they looked at how Africans practised their own religions and decided that their religions were supreme. The result was that African countries were forcibly converted into these religions, sometimes at gun point,” says Mutua. Rwanda, for example, which was colonised by the Belgians and the French, is thus predominantly Catholic which is the main denomination in France and Belgium.