Religion in Mali

Last updated

Religion in Mali (2020) [1]

   Sunni Islam (92.9%)
   Ahmadiyya Islam (1.6%)
   Christianity (2.3%)
  None (0.5%)

Religion in Mali is predominantly Islam with an estimated 95 percent of the population are Muslim, [2] with the remaining 5 percent of Malians adhere to traditional African religions such as the Dogon religion, or Christianity. [3] Atheism and agnosticism are believed to be rare among Malians, most of whom practice their religion daily, although some are Deist. [4]


Muslims are mostly Sunni belonging to Maliki school of jurisprudence influenced with Sufism. Ahmadiyya and Shia minorities are also present. [5]


According to the 2005 U.S. Department of State’s annual report on religious freedom, Islam as traditionally practiced in Mali was characterized as moderate, tolerant, and adapted to local conditions. [4] Women were allowed to participate in social economical and political activities and generally do not wear veils, except for some Tuareg women. [4] According to the 2012 Pew Forum study The World’s Muslims: Unity and Diversity, 94% of Muslims in Mali believe that religion is very important in their lives and 71% believe there is "only one true way to understand Islam’s teachings" (24% believing that multiple interpretations of Islam are possible). [5]


Christianity was introduced to Mali in the late 19th century by the French. In 2014, there are 275,000 Catholics in Mali, around 1.86% of the total population. [6]


The constitution establishes a secular state and provides for freedom of religion, and the government largely respects this right. [4] Relations between Muslims and practitioners of minority religious faiths are generally friendly, and foreign missionary groups (both Muslim and non-Muslim) are tolerated. [4] Parties based on ethnic or religious lines are banned and public schools do not offer religious instruction. [7]

Dogon religion

The Dogon religion is the traditional African religious or spiritual beliefs of the Dogon people of Mali. Dogons who practice the traditional religion of their ancestors believe in one Supreme Creator called Amma (or Ama [8] ). [9] [10] Amma is the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent Creator in Dogon religion. [11] They also believe in ancestral spirits known as the Nommo also referred to as "Water Spirits". [12] Veneration of the ancestors form an important aspect of their spiritual belief. Mask dances are held immediately after the death of a person and sometimes long after they have passed on to the next life. [13]

Freedom of religion

Prior to the Northern Mali conflict, human rights groups recorded "no recent reports of persecution, discrimination, or imprisonment on the basis of religious convictions or affiliation." [7] However, terrorist groups attempted to institute strict Islamic law in the northern parts of the country in 2012 and Mali was listed high (#7) in the Christian persecution index published by Open Doors, which described the persecution in the north as severe. [14] [15] In spite of this, a 2015 study estimated some 8,000 believers in Christ from a Muslim background in the country. [16] Several Islamic sites in Mali were destroyed or damaged by vigilante activists linked to Al Qaeda, claiming that "idol worship" characterized the sites. [17] Given the cultural and religious importance of the sites in the city of Timbuctu (Tomboctou), eight of the shrines on the UNESCO heritage list had been fully reconstructed, and another six were in the process of reconstruction, by July 2015. [18] However, the occupation and Sharia law were both short-lived, cut short by a French and Chadian military intervention that began in January 2013.

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Dogon people

The Dogon are an ethnic group indigenous to the central plateau region of Mali, in West Africa, south of the Niger bend, near the city of Bandiagara, and in Burkina Faso. The population numbers between 400,000 and 800,000. They speak the Dogon languages, which are considered to constitute an independent branch of the Niger–Congo language family, meaning that they are not closely related to any other languages.

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Religion in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is a religiously diverse society, with Islam being the dominant religion. According to the 2020 estimate by the Pew Research Center, 62.7% of the population adheres to Islam. The vast majority of Muslims in Burkina Faso are Malikite Sunni, deeply influenced by Sufism. The Shi'a branch of Islam also has a small presence in the country. A significant number of Sunni Muslims identify with the Tijaniyah Sufi order. The Pew Research Center also estimated that 21.7% practices Christianity, 15.1% follow Animism/Folk Religion i.e., African traditional religion, and that 0.5% are unaffiliated.

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Dogon country

Dogon country is a region of eastern Mali and northwestern Burkina Faso populated mainly by the Dogon people, a diverse ethnic group in West Africa with diverse languages. Like the term Serer country occupied by the Serer ethnic group, Dogon country is very vast, and lies southwest of the Niger River belt. The region is composed of three zones: the plateau, the escarpment and the Seno-Gondo plain.

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Traditional African religions have faced persecution from the proponents of different ideologies. Adherents of these religions have been forcefully converted to Islam and Christianity, demonized and marginalized. The atrocities include killings, waging war, destroying of sacred places, and other atrocious actions.

The Lebe or Lewe is a Dogon religious, secret institution and primordial ancestor, who arose from a serpent. According to Dogon cosmogony, Lebe is the reincarnation of the first Dogon ancestor who, resurrected in the form of a snake, guided the Dogons from the Mandé to the cliff of Bandiagara where they are found today.

Awa Society

Awa, also known as the Awa Society, the Society of Masks, is an African mask and initiatory society of the Dogon people of Mali which is made up of circumcised men, and whose role is both ritual and political within Dogon society. The Awa Society takes an important role in Dogon religious affairs, and regularly preside over funereally rites and the dama ceremony—a ritual ceremony that marks the end of bereavement in Dogon country. This Society is one of the important aspect of Dogon religious life—which is primarily based on the worship of the single omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent Creator God Amma and the veneration of the ancestors. Although it is only one aspect of Dogon's religious sects, it is perhaps more well known than the others partly due to Dogon mask–dance culture which attracts huge tourism, and their masks highly sought after, and in fact, one of the first to be sought after by art collectors in the west.


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  2. Stephen W. Day (2012). Regionalism and Rebellion in Yemen: A Troubled National Union. Cambridge University Press. p. 31. ISBN   9781107022157.
  3. International Religious Freedom Report 2008: Mali
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Mali country profile. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (January 2005). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. 1 2 "The World's Muslims: Unity and Diversity" (PDF). Pew Forum on Religious & Public life. August 9, 2012. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  6. Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae 2014, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2016, S. 34, S. 66
  7. 1 2 Norris, Pippa (3 May 2011). "Muslim support for secular democracy" (PDF). The University of Sydney. p. 5.
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  12. Davis, Shawn R., Dogon Funerals [in] African Art, vol. 35, Issue 2, JSTOR (Organization), University of California, Los Angeles. African Studies Center, African Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles (2002), p. 68
  13. Report points to 100 million persecuted Christians. Retrieved on 10 January 2013.
  14. OPEN DOORS World Watch list 2012. Retrieved on 2013-01-18.
  15. Johnstone, Patrick; Miller, Duane Alexander (2015). "Believers in Christ from a Muslim Background: A Global Census". IJRR. 11: 14. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  16. Hughes, Dana (2012-07-03). "Al Qaeda destroys Timbuktu shrines, ancient city's spirit". ABC News. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
  17. "Tomboctou: Mme IRENA BOKOVA INAUGURE LES MAUSOLEES REHABILITES". Essor. Retrieved 23 July 2015.