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Black African immigrants most religious among U.S. Blacks, study finds

A Bafumbira pastor prays during a service at Ntamutindi Baptist Church in Kisoro, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A Pew study found that African Christians who emigrate to the U.S. are more religious than U.S.-born and Caribbean-born Blacks. IMB photo

WASHINGTON (BP) – Black African immigrants are more religious than U.S.-born and Caribbean-born Blacks, the Pew Research Center said this week in the results of its latest study of faith among African Americans.

More frequently than Blacks born in the U.S. or the Caribbean, Black African immigrants attend church services, read Scripture and see a duty to convert nonbelievers. Black African immigrants also are more likely to view religion as very important, to believe in God as He is described in Scripture, and to believe that Scripture should be taken literally, Pew said in the findings released Wednesday (Dec. 8).

Charles Grant, executive director of African American relations and mobilization for the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, hailed the findings.

“I am excited about the opportunities this report reveals for advancing the Great Commission in partnership with our SBC networks and ethnic fellowships of the entire African diaspora,” Grant said. “I praise God for the spiritual engagement level of our African brothers and sisters here in the U.S., and I thank the Lord for our U.S.-born and Caribbean-born Black adults who are expressing an obligation to practice the spiritual disciplines listed.”

Fifty-four percent of Black African immigrants in the U.S. attend church services at least weekly, compared to 32 percent of U.S.-born and 30 percent of Caribbean-born Blacks; 50 percent read Scripture at least weekly, compared to 38 percent of Blacks born in the U.S. and the Caribbean; and 68 percent see a religious duty to convert nonbelievers, compared to 55 percent of Caribbean born and 51 percent of U.S. born.

Among Black African immigrants in the U.S., 72 percent judge religion as very important to them, compared to 59 percent of Blacks born in the Caribbean and the U.S.; 84 percent believe in God as He is described in Scripture, compared to 75 percent of Caribbean born and 74 percent of U.S. born; and 50 percent believe Scripture should be taken literally, compared to 45 percent of U.S. born and 41 percent of Caribbean born.

Still, all Blacks in the U.S., including current immigrants, engage in Christianity at a greater level than all Christians in the U.S. combined, Pew has said .

Black immigrants comprise about a tenth of the 47 million Black Americans in the U.S., roughly doubling over the last two decades to reach 4.6 million in 2019, Pew said, based on an analysis of U.S. Census data. Included in the 10 percent are 4 percent of Black Americans who were born in sub-Saharan Africa and 5 percent who were born in the Caribbean, Pew said. More often, Black Americans come from Jamaica, Haiti, Nigeria and Ethiopia than from any other African or Caribbean countries, Pew said, based on its analysis of the Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey.

Pew also found Black African immigrants to be more supportive of traditional gender norms.

“For example, those born in sub-Saharan Africa differ from other Black Americans on questions about how men and women should share duties in households that have both a mother and father,” Pew said. “African immigrants are more likely than other Black adults to say the father should be mostly responsible for providing for the family financially, and that the mother should be mostly responsible for taking care of the children. However, the most common view in all groups is that both parents should divide these responsibilities equally.”

Pew’s findings are based on its “Faith Among Black Americans” survey conducted Nov. 19, 2019-June 30, 2020. That nationally representative survey of 8,660 Black adults identified as Black or African American, including some who identified as both Black and Hispanic or Black and another race, such as White or Asian.

Pew’s analysis is available here, with the full study here.