The country has an area of 308,642 square miles and a population of 21.7 million. According to the 1997 census, 24 percent are Roman Catholic, 22 percent are Protestant, 20 percent are Muslim, and one-third do not profess a religion or belief; however, religious leaders speculated that a significant proportion of this group practiced some form of indigenous religion, a category not included in the 1997 census. The South Asian immigrant population is predominantly Muslim.
Christian groups include Anglican, Baptist, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Congregational, Methodist, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Jehovah's Witnesses, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, as well as various other evangelical, apostolic, and Pentecostal churches. The three principal Islamic organizations are the Mohammedan Community, Islamic Congress, and Islamic Council. There are small Jewish, Hindu, and Baha'i groups.
Religious communities are dispersed throughout the country. The northern provinces are predominantly Muslim, particularly along the coast, while areas of the northern interior have a stronger concentration of Christian communities. Christians are generally more numerous in the southern and central regions, but Muslims also live in these areas.
Muslim journalists report that the distinction between Sunni and Shi'a is not particularly important for many local Muslims, and Muslims are much more likely to identify themselves by the local religious leader they follow than as Sunni or Shi'a. There are significant differences between the practices of Muslims of African origin and those of South Asian origin. In addition, African Muslim clerics have increasingly sought training in Egypt, Kuwait, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia, returning with a more fundamental approach than the local traditional, Sufi-inspired Swahili Islam particularly common in the north.
Many small churches that have split from mainstream denominations fuse African indigenous beliefs and practices within a Christian framework. Some Muslims also continue to perform indigenous rituals.