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Religious Adherents, 2010 (World Christian Database)1

Sudan Northern Africa World
Baha'i <0.1% <0.1% 0.1%
Buddhist <0.1% <0.1% 7.2%
Chinese Universalist <0.1% <0.1% 6.3%
Christian 19.0% 8.0% 32.8%
Confucianist 0.0% 0.0% 0.1%
Ethnoreligionist 10.3% 2.1% 3.5%
Hindu <0.1% <0.1% 13.8%
Jain 0.0% 0.0% <0.1%
Jewish <0.1% <0.1% 0.2%
Muslim 69.8% 89.1% 22.5%
Shintoist 0.0% 0.0% <0.1%
Sikh 0.0% <0.1% 0.3%
Spiritist 0.0% 0.0% 0.2%
Taoist 0.0% 0.0% 0.1%
Zoroastrian 0.0% 0.0% <0.1%
Neoreligionists 0.0% 0.0% 0.9%
Atheist 0.1% <0.1% 2.0%
Agnostic 0.8% 0.6% 9.8%

Religious Adherence, 2005 (other estimates)2

Sunni 60.7%
Generic Christian 6.0%
Other 33.3%

Religious Demography3

The country has an area of 967,500 square miles and a population of 40.2 million. Demographic data are estimated. Two-thirds to three-fourths of the population live in the 15 states of the north and are generally from Arabic-speaking Semitic groups. The remaining one-fourth to one-third of the population live in the south and are mostly Nilotic peoples.

An estimated 70 percent of the population is Muslim. Islam predominates in the north. Almost all Muslims are Sunni, although there are significant distinctions between followers of different Sunni traditions, particularly among Sufi brotherhoods.

An estimated 25 percent of the population holds traditional indigenous beliefs (animism), which are prevalent in rural areas throughout the country. Some animists have been baptized but do not identify themselves as Christians, or they combine Christian and animist practices.

Christians are the third largest religious group, traditionally concentrated in the south and the Nuba Mountains. Widespread displacement and migration during the long civil war increased the population of Christians living in the north. While many Christians have returned to the south, Khartoum still has a significant Christian population. The Roman Catholic Church of Sudan and the Episcopal Churches of Sudan estimate they have six million and five million baptized followers, respectively, although active churchgoers are far fewer.

There are very small but long-established groups of Orthodox Christians in Khartoum and other northern cities, including Coptic Orthodox and Greek Orthodox. There are also Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox communities in Khartoum and the east, largely made up of refugees and migrants. Other Christian groups with smaller followings include the Africa Inland Church, Armenian (Apostolic) Church, Sudan Church of Christ, Sudan Interior Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, Sudan Pentecostal Church, Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church (in the north), Presbyterian Church of the Sudan (in the south), and the Seventh-day Adventist Church of Sudan.

Religion plays a prominent role in the complex system of political alliances. Northern Muslims have dominated the political and economic system since independence in 1956. Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, the Government of National Unity (GNU) has appointed both Muslims and Christians to prominent executive positions.

The dominant political power in Sudan, the National Congress Party (NCP), draws its support from conservative Arab Muslims in the north. Its previous incarnation, the National Islamic Front, ruled from 1989 to 1998. Northern opposition parties draw their support from different Sufi brotherhoods: the Umma Party is closely connected with Arab followers of the Ansar sect, and the Democratic Unionist Party with the Khatmia sect. Opposition parties typically include non-Arab Muslims from the north, east, and Darfur.

Following the civil war, the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) became the dominant political power in the south, and is the main coalition partner with the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the GNU. The SPLM draws its support from Southern Christians, but regularly engages with Muslim opposition parties and rebel groups in Darfur and the east.


Note: The World Christian Database (WCD) estimates, used in the Religious Adherents section above, count each person as belonging to a maximum of one religious group. For more information, see the WCD methodology document. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom report estimates, used in the Religious Demography section, use less restrictive criteria in which a person who identifies with more than one religion is classified as a follower of each. In certain cases (such as Japan and other nations with strong folk religion traditions), this can cause counts to vary widely between estimates. Users are advised to consult the relevant source documents before determining which counts to cite.

1.  The World Christian Database (WCD) is based on the 2600-page award-winning World Christian Encyclopedia and World Christian Trends, first published in 1982 and revised in 2001. This extensive work on World religion is now completely updated and integrated into the WCD online database. Designed for both the casual user and research scholar, information is readily available on religious activities, growth rates, religious literature, worker activity, and demographic statistics. Additional secular data is incorporated on population, health, education, and communications. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. Used with permission.

2.  Estimates based on country reports conducted by the Federal Research Division, which is a division of the Library of Congress. This information was supplemented with the 2009 Pew report entitled "Mapping the Global Muslim Population."

The country profiles are intended to "offer brief, summarized information on a country's historical background, geography, society, economy, transportation and telecommunications, government and politics, and national security." Included in each section on "society" is an estimate of religious demography of the nation.

The Pew report bases its estimates of the proportion of the Muslim population that is Shi'a on 1) "Analyses by more than 20 demographers and social scientists at universities and research centers around the world who are acting as consultants on this project"; 2) "Ethnographic analyses published in the World Religion Database (WRD)"; and 3) "review of other published or frequently used estimates."

3.  The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report is submitted to Congress annually by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. This report supplements the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom. It includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. These State Department reports are open source.

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