The Pope is traveling to Benin this weekend so I thought a little background would be useful. Benin is the site of the former kingdom of Dahomey, which was one of the centers of the African slave trade.
First of all Benin is in west Africa. In 1910, only 1.7% of the residents of west Africa were Christians. Today, nearly 36% are Christians.
Benin is one of the centers of Vodun (Voodoo) which is followed by 17% of the population. Vodun traveled with African slaves to the new world, especially New Orleans. Possession is an important element of Vodun. (Marie Laveau, the famous "Voodoo Queen" of New Orleans was a free woman of color who was a placee - long term mistress - of a white man. The most devout Catholics in the city at the time were free women of color. Marie is said to have abandoned vodoo at the end of her long life and devoted herself to her Catholic faith.)
Today, roughly a quarter of west Africa's Christians are Catholic (35.5 million). Another quarter of Christians are members of historical Protestant groups and yet another quarter are members of the new Independent church movement which grew out of Protestantism.
Benin has seen the same staggering growth in Christianity over the past century. In 1910, a little over 1% of Benin's population was Christian. Today, nearly 40% are Christians: 2/3 of which are Catholic. Catholics are the largest religious group in the country, closely followed by Muslims.
Benin's President is an evangelical Protestant and a convert from Islam.
EWTN will be covering the Pope's trip November 18 - 20.