Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, comprises peoples from hundreds of different cultures who were united under common political rule only in 1914. Achieving unity is an ongoing political project, given that Nigerian peoples’ identities as members of particular ethnic groups remain strong. Though use of the English language helps unite an increasingly modern country, Nigerians also speak hundreds of distinct languages and dialects in many of their daily encounters, and work to honor many of the traditional cultural practices of their ancestors.
The religious context of Nigeria varies from place to place. Roughly half of the population is Muslim, and half is Christian. Only a little over a century since Christianity began to be accepted in Nigeria (Islam has a longer presence in the north), just a tiny fraction of the population identifies exclusively or primarily with an indigenous traditional religion. Still, as the articles here show, traditional beliefs continue to shape the practice of Catholicism in Nigeria in distinctive ways.
In the north, among the Hausa-Fulani peoples, Islam is a dominant force, whereas in the south, Christianity is the dominant religio-cultural force. That division creates one of the most troubling fault lines in the country today.
The majority of Christians in Nigeria belong to Protestant and African Independent Churches. Nonetheless, given its huge overall population, Nigeria is home to some 29 million Catholics, the twelfth largest population of Catholics in the world, and the second largest population of Catholics in Africa.
The entries on the Catholics & Cultures site at present explore the religious lives of members of the Igbo ethnic group, particularly those who live in and around the city of Enugu, in south-central Nigeria. Enugu, like the rest of Igboland, is a Catholic stronghold, home to the largest Catholic seminary in the world.
Nigeria is a young country demographically. Its relatively small proportion of elderly people and large proportion of children and young people contribute to the sense of vibrancy that is evident in the Church and in other facets of life. Read more...
These statistics are derived from the Vatican's official publication, Statistical Yearbook of the Church 2020 (Vatican City: Librera Editrice Vaticana, 2022). The numbers may differ from data reported by other sources on this site.