Kenyans are typically deeply religious by nature. According to statistics released by the Pew Research Center, up to 97% of the Kenyan population follows a set religion with as many as 82% of Kenyans considering religion to be of great importance in their lives.
While these figures may apply to religion in the whole of Kenya, it is an accurate representation of the state of religious practices in the capital city of Nairobi as well.
While religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism do have a presence in Nairobi, Christianity, Islam, and indigenous believes are far more popular among locals and visitors alike.
The Kenyan Constitution makes provision for freedom of religion in both a private and public capacity as well as the fair and equal treatment of all religions under the law. In addition to this, no person can be forced to disclose their religious beliefs against their will. Let’s have a closer look at the most popular religious practices in the city:
At present, the majority of residents of and visitors to Nairobi are Christian. Modern-day Christianity in Kenya dates back to around 1844 when a CMS missionary settled near the coastal city of Mombasa.
In 1885 the first Kenyans were ordained in a settlement for freed slaves that was established in Freretown. After that, Christianity spread through the country fast and soon reached Nairobi where it has been the most dominant religion since. Today, up to 80% of Kenyans are believed to be Christian with Roman Catholicism and Protestant being the most common denominations.
Nearly 48% of the Kenyan Christian population are Protestant with Baptist, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches offering services in the capital city and the rest of the country. The Roman Catholic Church, on the other hand, accounts for nearly 24% of the population and boasts a particularly strong presence in Nairobi. Other popular Christian churches in Nairobi include the New Apostolic Church, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, the United Pentecostal Church, and Branhamism.
Islam is the religion of choice for nearly 12% of the Kenyan population with Nairobi boasting a notable Muslin population as well as several mosques and other Islamic institutions. The majority of Muslims in Kenya are followers of the Sunni Islam of Shafi school of jurisprudence although there are also noteworthy groups of Shia, Ahmadi, and Ibadism followers in the country. Although Kenyan Christians have dominated both the political and social scenes in Nairobi for quite some time, an increasingly dedicated Muslim population is strategically pushing to be heard.
The Nairobi Muslim Academy was opened in 1995 by the Nairobi Islamic Charitable Wakf and aims to provide devoted Muslims with increased access to various levels of education. Kenya is also home to approximately 100 food-related businesses of which a great deal are situated in Nairobi. Strangely enough, it is not only the city’s Muslim population who are supporting the halal eateries and food suppliers but an increasing number of Christians as well. Apart from halal food typically being extremely flavoursome, it is also widely considered to be less risky to consume as there are strict guidelines that govern the slaughter and preparation of the food.
Apart from main-stream religions there are also many individuals in Nairobi that still partake in indigenous beliefs and practices. Many tribes such as the Khikuyu worships a God named Murungu who is also commonly known as Ngai. Although Ngai cannot be seen, he is manifested in the sun, moon, stars, rain, thunder, and lightening as well as the giant fig trees that often serve as places of worship. Indigenous religions typically believe that there are many spiritual forces at work in the world. When these spirits are placated, success is assured. When they are wronged, however, great misery is to be expected. Sorcery and witchcraft also have a place in many native religions. In some instances, some of these eccentric beliefs persist long after an individual has converted to Christianity or Islam.
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Main Religious Practices in Kenya and Nairobi