The Culture of Malawi: Malawian Religions

A Short Introduction to the Religions of Malawi

The Culture of Malawi: Malawian Religions
A Catholic priest performs a Mass in a village church.

A Short Introduction to the Religions of Malawi

All but a fraction of a percent of Malawians practice some form of religion. Due to the influence of European missionaries, the most common religion in Malawi is Christianity. About 87% of people in Malawi practice some form of Christianity. Islam is less common, with about 11% of the population. Traditional religions, atheism, and scattered populations of Judaism, Sikh, Baháʼí’, and Rastafarianism make up the remaining 2%.

Public primary schools in Malawi have required courses on religion, with some schools teaching the Bible and Christianity and others teaching a more general approach with morality and religion courses. There are also religious private schools available, but they require tuition. 

Fortunately, the majority of Malawians live and work together in harmony despite religious differences. You will sometimes find Christian churches and Islamic mosques side by side! Malawi is a peaceful country with little strife; a place where people are welcome – in the Warm Heart of Africa.


The largest Christian groups in Malawi are the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian. There are smaller Presbyterian denominations like the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Malawi and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Malawi. There are also smaller numbers of Anglicans, Baptists, evangelicals, Seventh-day Adventists, and Lutherans.

Christian groups played an important part in Malawi’s independence movement and in its continued democracy. Going to Church is common and many people are active in their local church choirs!


Historically, the Yao people of southern Malawi practiced Islam as far back as the 1600’s, owing their beliefs to traders who arrived from the Middle East and other parts of Africa. The Yao people suffered from persecution in the past, but Islam has rebounded and today many Malawians practice Sunni Islam. In fact, the first freely elected President of Malawi, Bakili Muluzi, is Muslim.

Traditional Religions

Traditional religions and a belief in spirits are interwoven into Malawian culture, with even the most devout Christians having some lingering traditional superstitions. Traditional beliefs include use of witchcraft and veneration of spirits for the purpose of harmonizing spiritual beliefs with nature.

Learn more about Malawian culture in our blog series!

Check out our blog on Malawian food here, and stay tuned for more articles!

The Orant Journal