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Exploring religious dynamics in the Kafa region of southwestern Ethiopia

project chenchenkoProject management: Alexander Chenchenko

Project Supervision: Prof. Dr. Roland Hardenberg, Dr. Sophia Thubauville

Region: Kafa Zone, South West Ethiopia Peoples' Regional State, Ethiopia

Duration: November 2022 - October 2025


The Kafa region in southwestern Ethiopia may be described as a particularly dynamic (religious) field, mainly due to the multifaceted influence of various religious groups and denominations. While a steady increase in Pentecostal congregations in urban and rural areas can be observed, the Catholic Church is also increasingly involved in large-scale construction of churches and social infrastructure facilities, as well as the establishment and expansion of places of pilgrimage.

Especially in rural areas, where there is limited access to religious provisions, the various religious groups are competing for communities and members. Against the background of this recent religious competition, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is particularly involved in supporting rural communities, organizing preaching events and disseminating religious knowledge in local languages through several religious associations (mahbär or t'swa).

The project assumes that the utilization of these increased religious activities has a central relevance for negotiations of the everyday life of the people in Kafa. In this context, the research project pursues following questions: Which strategies of exerting influence do the different denominational groups employ? How do they gain influence within the population? In which ways and in which areas of life do the corresponding activities make themselves apparent in the everyday life of the people in Kafa?