Religions followed by the South Sudanese include traditional indigenous religions, Christianity and Islam. The last census to mention the religion of southerners dates back to 1956 where a majority were classified as following traditional beliefs or were Christian while 18% were Muslim. Scholarly and some U.S. Department of State sources state that a majority of southern Sudanese maintain traditional indigenous (sometimes referred to as animist) beliefs with those following Christianity in a minority. However, according to the U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report of 2012 the majority of the People are Christians while reliable statistics on animist and Muslim belief are not available.
The Federal Research Division of the US Library of Congress states that “in the early 1990s possibly no more than 10% of southern Sudan’s population was Christian”. In the early 1990s, official records of Sudan claimed that the population of what was then included as South Sudan, 25% of people followed traditional religions and 5% were Christians. However, some news reports claim a Christian majority, and the US Episcopal Church claims the existence of large numbers of Anglican adherents from the Episcopal Church of the Sudan: 2 million members in 2005.
Likewise, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia, the Catholic Church is the largest single Christian body in Sudan since 1995, with 2.7 million Catholics mainly concentrated in South Sudan. The 18 December 2012 report on religion and public life by the Pew Research Center states that in 2010, 60.5% of South Sudan’s population was Christian, 32.9% were followers of traditional African religion and 6.2% were Muslim.
The Presbyterian Church in Sudan is the third largest denomination in Southern Sudan. It has about 1,000,000 members in 500 congregations. Some publishers described the conflicts prior to partition as a Muslim-Christian war, but others reject this notion, claiming Muslim and Christian sides sometimes overlapped.
Speaking at Saint Theresa Cathedral in Juba, South Sudanese President Kiir, a Roman Catholic, said that South Sudan would be a nation that respects freedom of religion. Amongst Christians, most are Catholic and Anglican, though other denominations are also active, and animist beliefs are often blended with Christian beliefs.