Orthodox Christianity



religion is important for almost 98% of Ethiopians

The constitution of Ethiopia ensures religious freedom for its citizens. Ethiopia is a religiously diverse society, with Christianity as the largest percentage and also a good number of Muslims. Nearly two-thirds (62.8%) of the Ethiopian population follows Christianity and 1/3rd (34% are followers of Islam. A small percentage of the population are adherents of traditional African religions and other religions.

Orthodox Christianity

Ethiopia was one of the first sub-Saharan African countries to adopt the Christian religion, and its practice dates back to the 1st Century AD. Ethiopian core values align closely with the Christian Orthodox faith. They include a strong sense of family and a democratic way of life. The Ethiopian Orthodox religion is the most widely practiced with 43.5% of the population identifying as such. In fact, the largest and oldest Oriental Orthodox church is located here. Orthodox Christians make up the majority of the population in the northern region of the country, specifically in Tigray and Amhara. This sect of Christianity spread quickly after it was adopted by King Ezana the Great who proclaimed it a state religion in 330 AD.

Protestant Christianity

Protestants are the largest group of Christians who do not belong to the Orthodox Church and are made up of various sects, including Evangelicals and Pentecostals. These religious worshipers are mainly concentrated in the southern regions of the country. Many of the Protestants in Ethiopia have their roots in the American Pentecostal movement of the early 1900’s which sent missionaries all over the world. Religious conversions have grown significantly since then and today, Protestants make up 18.6% of the population.


Islam was introduced in the 7th century and is now practiced by about one-third of Ethiopians. It is most important in the outlying regions, particularly in the Eastern Lowlands, but there are local concentrations throughout the country. Traditionally, the status of Islam has been far from equal with that of Christianity. However, Haile Selassie I (reigned 1930–74) gave audiences to Muslim leaders and made overtures in response to their concerns, and under the Derg regime (1974–91) even more was done to give at least symbolic parity to the two faiths. Nevertheless, the perception of Ethiopia as “an island of Christianity in a sea of Islam” has continued to prevail among both highland Ethiopians and foreigners. There are some concerns among highlanders that fundamentalist Muslim movements in the region and in neighbouring countries may galvanize sentiments for a greater role of Islam in Ethiopia.


other beliefs

Other minority religions in the country include Waaq and indigenous beliefs, which are followed by 2.6% of the Ethiopian population, Roman Catholicism (.7%), and Judaism and Baha’i (.7% combined). Judaism has long been practiced in the vicinity of the ancient city of Gonder.  The Waaq religion is a traditional, monotheistic faith followed mainly by the Cushitic ethnic group in the far eastern regions of the country. Roman Catholicism was reintroduced in the country between the 13th and 18th Centuries. Its follower grew during the Italian occupation of Ethiopia between 1936 and 1941. Judaism has existed in Ethiopia since long before Christianity and some scholars believe that Ethiopian Jews are one of the lost tribes of Israel.