Religion in The Gambia
1 of 1: Religion in The Gambia

Religion

The Gambia is traditionally very tolerant of all religious creeds and beliefs and while the country is predominantly Muslim, with up to 90% of the population practising the basic tenets of Islam, it is essentially a secular country and it prides itself on its broad-minded acceptance of all faiths. Of the remaining 10% there is a population of Christians and a mixture of localised traditional religions.

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Islam came to this part of West Africa across the Sahara early in the second millennium and quickly became a commanding influence with most of the population converting.

A crucial difference to more strict Islamic countries however is that there is no strict adherence to Sharia Law and whilst most of the population of modern day Gambia devotedly follow the basic tenets of Islam and do not eat pork or drink any alcohol there is, generally speaking, no obvious evidence of religious affiliation either in dress or in behaviour. Even the two central mosques in Serrekunda and Banjul, whilst heavily attended, are unostentatiously decorated – sometimes the only reminder they are present is the hypnotic call to prayer of the muezzin. This is a country that remains devout in its faith but wears its religion lightly. 

There are many hundreds of localised religions in West Africa and these are generally centred around an idea of animism, or that any animal, plant or object has a soul or spirit and should be treated as such. This can mean that certain areas or places are considered sacred and possessed of spirits – or indeed by the souls of ancestors - and it is common to see offerings to these spirits (sometimes even called deities) left in the form of incense or flowers.

 
 
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