Religion in Kenya

Kenya Religion – No matter what their religion may be, Kenyans are exceptionally devout. Going to church on Sunday is an exuberant event that is absolutely not to be missed. The Bible (or the Koran) is the book of choice, knowledge of the scriptures is aspired to, praying is part of everyday life, amplified religious meetings are held in most public areas at lunchtime, religious icons and sacred tracts abound in home, office, and vehicles, and the majority of Kenyans are named after religious figures.

Kenya Religion – Churches in Kenya

There are more than 4,000 registered churches in Kenya, belonging to an innumerable variety of religious denominations. They can range from very mainstream churches, to lesser – known evangelical and gospel offshoots.

Churches in Kenya are predominately Christian, though many different denominations and congregations exist within the population. Overall, more than three quarters of the population identify themselves as Christian (either Protestant or Roman Catholic). However, many Kenyans mix their Christian beliefs with traditional beliefs (such as belief in witchcraft).

Most of the well-established churches in Kenya have their roots in early missionary work, when Europeans first took an interest in the area and they saw an opportunity to preach to a wide new audience.

Kenya Religion – Main Religion in Kenya

  1. Roman Catholics Church
  2. Anglican Church
  3. Full Gospel Churches
  4. Presbyterian Church of East Africa
  5. Africa Inland Church
  6. Methodist Church
  7. Baptist Church

Lately however, Kenya has witnessed the mushrooming of what are referred to as Pentecostal churches. In Nairobi, the most popular ones include

Kenya Religion – Pentecostal Churches in Nairobi

  1. Nairobi Pentecostal Church

    Kenya Religion - Religion in Kenya
    Kenya Religion – Religion in Kenya
  2. Nairobi Lighthouse Church
  3. Redeemed Gospel Church
  4. Deliverance Church
  5. Jesus is Alive Ministries
  6. Jubilee Christian Centre

Besides these denominations, there are numerous others with a significant presence in Kenya.

Religions in Kenya (2009 census)

  1. Catholic Population – 9,010,684
  2. Protestant Population – 18,307,466
  3. Other Christian Population – 4.559,584
  4. Muslim Population – 4,304,798
  5. Hindu Population – 53,393
  6. Traditionalist Population – 635,352
  7. Other Religion Population– 557,450
  8. No Religion Population – 922,128
  9. Don’t Know  – 61,233

Christianity in Kenya

Modern Christianity in Kenya dates from 1844, when a CMS missionary settled near Mombasa, but little progress was made until the 1870s. A settlement for freed slaves established at Freetown, near Mombasa, prospered, and the first Kenyans were ordained in 1885. When the Uganda Railway, begun in 1896, gave access to the central highland, RC and Protestant missionaries increased in number. The Kikuyu of Central Kenya were suspicious of the missionaries whom they saw as allies of the White settlers, and the settlers regarded them as pro-African.

In 1929 controversy arose over the attempt of some Protestant missions to get the practice of clitoridectomy outlawed; many Kikuyu left the mission churches and schools and started their own free of missionary control. In the Mau Mau uprising of 1952 some Christians refused to take the secret Mau Mau oath and were killed; they are commemorated in the Anglican cathedral at Murang’a. After independence in 1964 there was a huge influx into the Churches. The RC and Anglican are the largest, but independent Church movements have grown and multiplied. By 2000 over 75 per cent of the population claimed to be Christian

Christian missionary activity began in Kenya’s hinterland when its interior was opened to rail travel between Mombasa and Uganda at the end of the nineteenth century. Churches were founded in the 1920s and 1930s, especially in areas where Kikuyu, Luo, and Luhya predominated, some of which sought to combine Christian and indigenous beliefs. Most churches tended to be ethnically homogenous since colonial authorities maintained a policy of allocating a mission to a particular territory, though this tendency has changed with increasing communication and mobility.

In Kenya there are also several independent Christian churches that have broken ties with other Christian or Protestant denominations. The largest of these independent churches was the Nomiya Luo Church, whose founder, Johana Owalo, was an early convert to Christianity in 1900. In 1907 he had a vision in which he was taken up into heaven by the angel Gabriel. He saw that Europeans and Asians, and even the popes,were not allowed to enter heaven. Later, he converted to Islam and began to preach that mission churches were in opposition to traditional beliefs. His mix of Christian, Anglican, and traditional practices attracted many followers. In Kenya today there are still many mission churches. Many worldwide religious groups have a strong presence. The number of Kenyan clergy has grown in the past years and most of the Roman Catholic and Church Province of Kenya hierarchies are Kenyan.

Hinduism in Kenya

The influence of Hinduism in Kenya began in early 1st millennium AD when there was trade between East Africa and Indian subcontinent. Archaeological evidence of small Hindu settlements have been found mainly in Zanzibar and coastal parts of Kenya, Swahili coast, Zimbabwe and Madagascar. Many words in Swahili language have their etymological roots in Indian languages associated with Hinduism. Pew Research Center estimates there were 60,000 Hindus in Kenya in 2010, or less than 0.25% of the total Kenyan population. Other estimates place the number higher. There were over 200,000 Hindus in Kenya (still less than 1% of total population, mostly from Gujarat, Odisha and northwestern states of India), before it gained independence from British colonial rule in 1963. During political conflicts that followed, many Hindus emigrated from Kenya to Europe (UK mainly) and other commonwealth nations.

Unlike north and northeast African countries which do not allow construction of Hindu temples or open practice of Hinduism, Kenya allows religious freedom to practice Hinduism; several of Kenyan cities have a number of Hindu temples from different schools of Hinduism. The Hindu temples in Kenya are mostly of north and west Indian architectural style.

According to the 2009 Census, there are a total of 53,393 Hindus in Kenya.

Hinduism in Kenya mainly comes from coastal trade routes between primarily between Gujarat, Marwar and Odisha in India and East Africa.

The origin of the Kenyan Gujarati dates back to the late 1800s (early 1900s), when British colonialists brought laborers from India to build the Uganda–Kenya railway. Many of the laborers, rather than travel back to the Indian subcontinent, simply settled in Kenya, and slowly brought with them a host of hopefuls willing to start afresh.

Hindus in Kenya

One percent of Kenyan population practiced Hinduism as reported by IRF. This is in contrast to 0.14% reported in the Kenyan Census of 2009.

Today, the Gujarati community in Kenya is estimated at over ninety thousand, and is dispersed throughout the country. Despite varying degrees of acculturation, most have retained their strong Gujarati ties.

HSS (RSS) and ISKCON are the main contributors to the society in large by organizing public events and introducing many welfare programs such as the food relief programs and other services which has attracted many Kenyans and created a good reputation of the Hindu community at large.

Pushtimarg Vaishnav Sangh and Brahma Kumaris are also active in Kenya.

List of a few Hindu Temples in Kenya

  1. SCSS Swaminarayan Temple in Mombasa.
  2. Hare Krishna Temple in Mombasa.

There are approximately more than 40 Hindu Temples in Kenya.

A few well known are:

  1. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Nairobi (EASS Temple)
  2. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Eldoret
  3. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Kerugoya
  4. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Nakuru
  5. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Kisumu
  6. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (SCSS), Mombasa
  7. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Nairobi
  8. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Mombasa
  9. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Nakuru
  10. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Eldoret
  11. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Kisumu
  12. Shree Jalaram Mandir, Nairobi
  13. Shree Jalaram Mandir, Nakuru
  14. Hanuman Mandir, Naivasha
  15. Shree Sanatan Dharma Sabha Temple (SSDS), Nairobi
  16. Sri Kalyana Venkateswara Swami Temple, Nairobi
  17. Hare Krishna Temple – ISKCON Nairobi
  18. Hare Krishna Temple – ISKCON Kisumu
  19. Hare Krishna Temple – ISKCON Mombasa
  20. Hare Krishna Temple – ISKCON Ganjoni
  21. Shree Vallabh Dham (PVS), Nairobi
  22. Sri Ram Mandir, Nairobi
  23. Sri Ayyapa Swami Temple, Nairobi
  24. Ambaji Temple, Nairobi
  25. Shiv Mandir, Nairobi
  26. Ng’ombe Ishwar Mahadev Mandir, Mombasa

Hindu Council of Kenya

Hindu Council of Kenya is an umbrella body of Hindus in Kenya. The Council is recognized by the Government. Until a few years back, the Hindus were described in the voter’s register as ‘Non-Muslims’. Due to the efforts of the Council, they are now described as ‘Hindus’. The Council has been busy in preparing syllabus and books for Hindu religious education.

Hare Krishna – ISKCON in Kenya

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) also known as Gaudiya Vaishnavism or “The Hare Krishna Movement” has successfully established 4 Temples in Kenya till date. With all efforts and hard work, they preach the glories of Lord Sri Radha Krishna, love of godhead (Bhakti Yoga), the message of Bhagavad-Gita as It Is and also other Vedic scriptures. Also organize wonderful festivals such as Krishna Janmashtami, Radhastami, Rama Navami, Gaura-purnima, Narasimha Chaturdashi and many.

The most famous is the Jagannath Ratha-Yatra also known as the “Festival of Chariots” which attracts over 5000 Kenyans to dance and sing the holy names of Lord Sri Jagannath (The Lord of the Universe).

Hare Krishna Food for Life is the world’s largest vegetarian non-profit food relief organization. Its efforts span the globe, with projects occupying over 108 countries, including Kenya. Volunteers in Kenya provide up to 20,000 free meals daily. Food For Life does not only tackle one form of hunger but reaches out to all in need, including; the homeless and disadvantaged children.

Food for Life project is a modern-day revival of the ancient Vedic culture of hospitality with its belief in the equality of all beings.

The popular nickname of “Hare Krishnas” for Krishna Devotees comes from the vedic mantra that devotees sing aloud (Kirtan) or Chant (Japa) on Tulsi-mala. This mantra, known also as the Maha Mantra comes from the ancient Vedic Scriptures.

Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) – RSS in Kenya

HSS is part of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). HSS is known to have started in 14th November 1947 in Nairobi, and since then it has developed and has its centers in different cities like Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kisumu and Meru.

Its main aims have been known to preserve, practice and promote Hindu ideals and values and encourages in maintaining Hindu cultural identity in harmony with the prevailing diversity in the world.

Since its main moto is to “Serve the Society” (Seva) it carries out many humanitarian activities such as Feeding the needy, provides Wheel Chairs and Artificial Limbs to amputees, organizes medical camps for free medical services and for blood donation, and is mainly famous for its Tree Planting Program.

Religion of Kenya – Traditional Kenyan Beliefs

The spread of Christianity in Kenya has largely eliminated many of the traditional and tribal beliefs held by the people of Kenya, prior to contact with Europeans.

Kenyan tribes who most closely continue to live in their traditional ways, are the ones who also still hold their old beliefs. Christianity has not made much headway among the Samburu, Turkana or the Masai tribe, particularly. Overall, about 10% of the population still follow their African religion in Kenya.

For the most part, each tribe has its own set of beliefs, usually tied somewhat to their territory. Tribes that lived near Mount Kenya, for example, often believed that God lived at its peak.

Like Christians, Kenyans originally believed in a single creator God. “Ngai” or “Were” are common names for God, though not the only ones. Each tribe had its own creation myth, which usually attributes their tribe as being directly created by God.

Kenya Religion – Kenya Religion Pie Chart

Kenya Religion Pie Chart
Kenya Religion Pie Chart

Kenya Religion – The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK)

Churches in Kenya are under the National Council of Churches Kenya. The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) is a family of Christian communions and organisations in fellowship and witness.

It was established in June 1913 during the United Missionary Conference held at Thogoto, near Nairobi. The delegates in the conference, representing the missionary institutions working in the country at the time, affirmed their wish to work towards a united church that would impact the lives of the people.

The National Council of Churches of Kenya is a family of Christian communions and organisations in fellowship and witness. A member of the NCCK must be registered in Kenya.

While recognizing that each church and organization has its own basis or order or doctrine, all the members of the Council accept a common doctrinal statement as a declaration of their essential spiritual unity.

In the doctrinal statement, the members of NCCK are united in confessing the faith to which the church has ever witnessed in One Triune God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, worshipping the Father revealed to the world in Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

They also hold the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as being God’s revelation of Himself to the world, and that these contain all things necessary for salvation and are supreme and decisive standards of faith and conduct to which all teachings and all creeds and confessions are subordinate.

Religion in Kenya – Islam in Kenya

Islam is the second widely practised religion and the followers include the Sunni, Shia and Islamia. Muslims are about 10 per cent of the population.

Although Islam has spread throughout Kenya, the largest number of Muslims is found in the coastal region and North—Eastern Province.

Other parts of the country also have sizeable number of Muslims.

Kadhi’s courts have legal jurisdiction over personal law for the Muslims marriage, divorce and inheritance.

Religion in Kenya – Kenya Religion Video