Religion tolerance

The constitution provides for the separation of religion and state and stipulates all persons are entitled to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, except as required by law to protect public safety, order, health, or morals, or the rights of others. It also provides for equal protection under the law and prohibits religious tests for office and the establishment of a state religion. Christian and Muslim organizations called upon the government to pay greater attention to interfaith dialogue and the needs of the Muslim community, while Muslim organizations continued to call for official recognition or observance of Islamic holidays, a greater role in official ceremonies, and accommodation in government institutions.

According to the 2008 National Census, 85.5% of Liberia’s population practices Christianity. Muslims comprise 12.2% of the population, largely coming from the Mandingo and Vai ethnic groups. The vast majority of Muslims are Malikite Sunni, with sizeable Shia and Ahmadiyya minorities.

Traditional indigenous religions are practiced by 0.5% of the population, while 0.4% subscribe to no religion.


Christian denominations include the LutheranBaptistEpiscopalPresbyterianRoman CatholicUnited MethodistAfrican Methodist Episcopal (AME) and AME Zion denominations, and a variety of Pentecostal churches. Some of the Pentecostal movements are affiliated with churches outside the country, while others are independent. There are also members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and Seventh-day Adventists. Christians live throughout the country.

In a religious context, the term kwi connotes a style of worship of a particular Christian church which is marked by formality and decorum. Kwi is a Liberian term used to connote Westernization. Services in churches considered to be non-kwi have more outward spiritualist expression, with dancing and even street processions in colorful costumes as key elements. Non-kwi churches also have self-proclaimed prophets who interpret dreams and visions, and prioritize a direct experience with the Holy Spirit. Liberia’s educated elite have historically regarded the apostolic churches as churches of the uneducated and thus non-kwi



Islam in Liberia is practiced by an estimated 12.2% of the population.The vast majority of Liberian Muslims are Malikite Sunni, with sizeable Shia and Ahmadiyya minorities.The primary Muslim ethnic groups are the Vai and Mandingo but also Gbandi, Kpelle and other ethnic groups.Historically, Liberian Muslims have followed a relaxed and liberal form of Islam that is heavily influenced by indigenous religions that were integrated into Islam when it came to Liberia in the 16th century with the collapse of the Songhai Empire in Mali. Islamic religious practices vary in cities and towns across the country. Younger Liberian Muslims, particularly in the cities along the coast, tend to be more secular but still practice Islam in everyday life. In rural areas, Liberian Muslims are more conservative in dressing modestly, performing prayers and attending religious studies. The practice of Islam in Liberia has been compared to Islam common in Senegal and Gambia, with strong orientation toward Sufism.
The major Islamic holidays, Eid el Fitr Ramadan and Eid al Adha, called Tabaski Day, are celebrated annually in Liberia. People have begun to go on Hajj to Mecca in recent years. Joint English-Arabic language, Quranic, and Muslim universities and Islamic studies schools have opened and been rebuilt in the capital Monrovia, rural towns and other cities. Islam appears to be experiencing revival alongside Christianity in the country as a result of the Liberian Civil War. America-Liberian Methodists, the first Christians in Liberia, arrived on January 7, 1822.

Traditional beliefs

Regardless of public statements of identification with Christianity, a “vast majority”of Liberians believe a supernatural world of ancestral and bush spirits that impact daily life. Ethnic groups in all regions of Liberia participate in the traditional religious practices of the Poro and Sande secret societies, with the exception of the Krahn ethnic group, who have their own secret society.

“Liberian religious culture is characterised by a predisposition towards secrecy (encapsulated in the concept of ifa mo – “do not speak it”) and an ingrained belief in the intervention of mysterious forces in human affairs”.”Both elite and non-elite Liberians usually attribute events to the activities of secret powers and forces”.

“Beliefs include the conviction that there are deep and hidden things about an individual that only diviners, priests, and other qualified persons can unravel. This presupposes that whatever exists or happens in the physical realm has foundations in the spirit world”.

Secret Societies

The Sande society is a female secret society found in LiberiaSierra LeoneGuinea and the Ivory Coast that initiates girls into adulthood, confers fertility, instills notions of morality and proper sexual comportment, and maintains an interest in the well-being of its members throughout their lives. In addition, Sande champions women’s social and political interests and promotes their solidarity vis-a-vis the Poro society, a complementary institution for men. Today this social institution is found among the BassaGolaKissiKpelleLomaPeople and Vai of Liberia.

Throughout the region, the complementarity of men’s and women’s gender roles – evident in such diverse activities as farming, cloth production, and musical performances – reach full expression. The women’s Sande and men’s Poro associations alternate political and ritual control of “the land” (a concept embracing the natural and supernatural worlds) for periods of three and four years respectively. During Sande’s sovereignty, all signs of the men’s society are banished.
At the end of this three-year period, the Sande leadership “turns over the land” to its counterparts in the Poro Society for another four years, and after a rest period the ritual cycle begins anew. The alternating three- and four-year initiation cycles for women and men respectively are one example of the widespread use of the numbers 3 and 4 to signify the gender of people, places and events; together the numbers equal seven, a sacred number throughout the region.