Namibians losing faith in religious leaders

Africans overwhelmingly tolerant of other religions
More than 70% of Namibians believe that some, most or all religious leaders are corrupt.
Ellanie Smit
While religious leaders are more trusted and seen as less corrupt than political leaders, the police or courts, more than 70% of Namibians think they are in some way involved in corruption.

Findings from national Afrobarometer surveys conducted in 34 African countries between late 2019 and mid-2021 showed that adults overwhelmingly identify with a religious faith and are far more likely to trust religious than political leaders.

According to a new Afrobarometer report released this month, religiosity and the views of religious leaders have important implications for many aspects of life, from the day-to-day practice of social tolerance to how communities respond to a global health crisis.

The report stated that with regards to religious tolerance and freedom, Africans overwhelmingly express welcoming attitudes toward people from different religious backgrounds, and most say that religious ethnic and racial diversity strengthens rather than weakens communities.

“Even so, findings show that religious discrimination by the government and other citizens still occurs.”

In them we trust

The survey indicated that most Africans (95%) identify with a religion.

Furthermore, more than two-thirds (69%) of Africans said they trust religious leaders.

Popular trust in religious leaders was highest in Tanzania (94%), Niger (90%), and Ethiopia (90%), while in Namibia it was 65%.

However, 12 countries recorded significant declines by more than 3 percentage points with regard to trust in religious leaders since 2014 and 2015, led by South Africa (-21 points), Lesotho (-20 points), Sudan (-18 points), and Namibia (-17 points).

The survey found that trust in religious leaders declines with education levels, from 80% among those with no formal schooling to 60% among those with post-secondary qualifications.Untrustworthy

Meanwhile, trust levels were higher in rural than in urban areas (75% vs. 62%).

Less faith

On average, 17% of Africans believe that all or most religious leaders are corrupt, while 35% believe that corruption is widespread in the presidency, parliament (38%), and courts (35%).

In Namibia, 18% of citizens believed religious leaders were corrupt.

In addition, 43% of respondents across the countries surveyed thought that some religious leaders were involved in corruption.

A total of 54% of Namibians, meanwhile, believed that some religious leaders were involved in corruption.

Furthermore, Africans overwhelmingly expressed tolerance for people from different religious backgrounds, Afrobarometer found.

We are tolerant

On average across 34 countries, almost nine out of ten citizens (88%) said they would like or not care if they had neighbours of different religions, including strong majorities in all surveyed countries.

According to Afrobarometer, religious tolerance was high across key demographic groups and increased with education levels, ranging from 81% of those with no formal schooling to 92% of those with post-secondary qualifications.

The survey data showed that 68% of Africans value diversity, indicating that communities are stronger if they are made up of people from different religious ethnic groups or races than if they are homogeneous.

"Despite these expressions of tolerance, about 18% of Africans say they experienced discrimination because of their religion at least once during the year preceding the survey, including 10% who say this happened several times or many times."

In Namibia, 26% of citizens reported religious discrimination.

In addition, 17% of respondents said that members of their religious group were at least sometimes treated unfairly by the government, including 5% who said this was a frequent occurrence.

Mauritius (43%) and Cameroon (41%) topped the list of countries reporting unfair treatment based on religion, while in Namibia it stood at 16%.

However, despite some experiences of religious discrimination, a majority of Africans viewed their countries as unified, with 65% saying despite religious, ethnic, political, and social differences, there is more that unites them rather than divides them.

A total of 59% of Namibians felt this way.