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The primary religion in Uganda is Christianity, with 85% of the population, followed by Islam, but several other religions are practiced within the East African country.

Of the Christian denominations, Roman Catholicism is the most prominent, claiming more than 40% of the total population. Next, is the Anglican Church of Uganda, with more than 35%. This may be attributed to the fact that the Anglicans and the Catholics have been active within the country since shortly after European first came to the region. Something between 3% to 5% of those claiming to be Christians are members of other Protestant denominations or independent Christian organizations.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are active in Uganda, carrying out missionary activities in at least ten different languages. There are a couple of hundred Presbyterian congregations, split between the Presbyterian Church in Uganda and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Uganda, the latter having separated from the former in 1990. Additionally, there are nearly thirty Mormon congregations in Uganda, as well as two history centers operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Quakers (Society of Friends) has two yearly meetings, and about three thousand followers in Uganda.

Between 10% and 12% of Ugandans are Muslims, the majority following Sunni Islam. Uganda’s Muslim population is concentrated in the Iganga District in eastern Uganda.

Perhaps 1% of Ugandans claim adherence to traditional African religions, but a larger number mix traditional religious practices with either Christianity or Islam. Smaller numbers practice other beliefs, such as Hinduism, Bahá’í, and Buddhism.

While Uganda has only a small Jewish population, there is a history of Judaism in the country. Some Ugandan ethnic tribes claim Jewish ancestry. One such tribe is the Abayudaya, a Baganda tribe in eastern Uganda that practices a form of Judaism, observing Shabbat and keeping kashrut. The Abayudaya live in several villages, some of which practice strict Orthodox Rabbinic Judaism and have learned Hebrew. They once numbered more than 3,000, but their numbers were sharply cut during the persecutions of the Idi Amin regime.

The Ugandan constitution guarantees freedom of religion. However, religions are required to register with the government, and some religions have been denied or restricted because they were considered to be cults. The Roman Catholic Church, the Church of Uganda, the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, and the Orthodox Church are registered under the Trustees Incorporation Act, but other religious groups are registered annually as non-governmental organizations.

Buganda, a pre-colonial kingdom within the region that was to become Uganda, was the stage for a serious of religious wars, between Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, a well as a period, between 1885 and 1887, when forty-five Catholic and Anglican converts were killed on orders from the king of the Kingdom of Buganda, now known as the Uganda Martyrs. The period leading up to the Idi Amin administration was a period of ethnic strife, some of which had religious connotations and, of course, the Idi Amin administration was particularly brutal, but his persecution were more political and ethnic, rather than religious in nature. He did, however, outlaw Uganda’s small Jewish population and destroyed synagogues.

Although the modern-day Ugandan government has been involved in wars, corruption, and persecution of members of the gay community, it has not been known for religious persecutions. Uganda enjoyed favorable media attention for its interfaith programs in its capital city of Mbale, where the Mirembe Kawomera Fair Trade Cooperative has brought Muslim, Jewish, and Christian coffee farmers together, using music to spread a peace message.

 

 

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