Ghana Table of Contents
A tendaana, or priest of the land, in front of
his shrine in far northern Ghana (Talensi area)
Courtesy life in general (Brook, Rose, and Cooper Le Van)
The religious composition of Ghana in the first postindependence population census of 1960 was 41 percent Christian, 38 percent traditionalist, 12 percent Muslim, and the rest (about 9 percent) no religious affiliation. A breakdown of the 1960 population according to Christian sects showed that 25 percent were Protestant (non-Pentecostal); 13 percent, Roman Catholic; 2 percent, Protestant (Pentecostal); and 1 percent, Independent African Churches. The 1970 population census did not present figures on the religious composition of the nation.
The percentage of the general population considered to be Christian rose sharply to 62 percent according to a 1985 estimate. Whereas the Protestant (non-Pentecostal) sector remained at 25 percent, the percentage of Catholics increased to 15 percent. A larger rise, however, was recorded for Protestants (Pentecostals)-- 8 percent compared with their 2 percent representation in 1960. From being the smallest Christian sect, with a 1 percent representation among the general population in 1960, membership in the Independent African Churches rose the most--to about 14 percent by 1985. The 1985 estimate also showed that the Muslim population of Ghana rose to 15 percent. Conversely, the sector representing traditionalists and non-believers (38 and 9 percent, respectively, in 1960), saw dramatic declines by 1985--to 21 and about 1 percent, respectively. This shift, especially the increase in favor of the Independent African Churches, attests to the success of denominations that have adjusted their doctrines to suit local beliefs (see Syncretic Religion , this ch.).
Religious tolerance in Ghana is very high. The major Christian celebrations of Christmas and Easter are recognized as national holidays. In the past, vacation periods have been planned around these occasions, thus permitting both Christians and others living away from home to visit friends and family in the rural areas. Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, is observed by Muslims across the country. Important traditional occasions are celebrated by the respective ethnic groups. These festivals include the Adae, which occur fortnightly, and the annual Odwira festivals of the Akan. On these sacred occasions, the Akan ancestors are venerated. There are also the annual Homowo activities of the Ga-Adangbe, during which people return to their home towns to gather together, to greet new members of the family, and to remember the dead. The religious rituals associated with these festivities are strictly observed by the traditional elders of the respective ethic groups.
Data as of November 1994