Republic of Madagascar
August 1

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Area 587,041 The world's 4th largest island – 1,600 km long in the Indian Ocean 600 km off the coast of Mozambique in Africa.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 15,941,727 +3.01% 27 per sq. km.
2010 20,691,738 +2.56% 35 per sq. km.
2025 28,963,663 +2.05% 49 per sq. km.

Capital Antananarivo 1,425,000. Urbanites 25%.


Malagasy 98.6%. 18 main ethnic groups of mixed Indonesian, African and Arab origin speaking numerous regional forms of an Indonesian-related language. There are also the hunter-gatherer Kimoso 17,000 and Mikea 1,700.

Other 1.4%. Chinese 60,000; Réunionese 45,000; Comorian 20,000; Arab 20,000; Gujarati 18,000; French 16,000.

Literacy 46% – in decline; functional literacy even lower. Official languages Standard Malagasy, French. All languages 6. Languages with Scriptures 2Bi 1NT 1por.


Subsistence agricultural economy, yet not producing enough rice to feed all. Slash-and-burn farming has destroyed vast areas of forest and caused bad erosion. Poor communications hinder development. Centralized socialist experiments proved a costly failure. Malaria and malnutrition have become major problems because of the economic slump. A slow economic recovery is under way. Eco-tourism has great potential – if the country's rich bio-diversity is not destroyed. HDI 0.453; 147th/174. Public debt 108% of GNP. Income/person $250 (0.8% of USA).


The highland Merina people gained control of the whole island in the 19th Century – a fact still resented by the lowlander peoples. Annexed by France in 1896; independent in 1960. A coup in 1972 led to experimentation with Marxism which was a disaster for the country. Popular protest and demands for change were violently suppressed before constitutional change was conceded. Multi-party elections in 1993 gave overwhelming victory to the democratic opposition. Corruption and lack of progress led to a change of government three years later. The former president was returned to power having dispensed with Marxism, but with minimal popular support. Presidential elections were due in 2001.


There is now religious freedom, but the power of the old Malagasy folk religion remains pervasive. The four mainline churches have great influence and through the National Council of Churches pressure the government to restrict visas for missionaries associated with evangelical groups.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Christian 47.63 7,593,045 +3.3%
Traditional ethnic 44.77 7,137,111 +2.2%
Muslim 7.00 1,115,921 +6.2%
non-Religious/other 0.41 65,361 +6.5%
Baha'i 0.12 19,130 +6.8%
Chinese/Buddhist 0.07 11,159 +0.3%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 28 27.58 4,397 +4.3%
Independent 18 2.45 391 +4.9%
Anglican 1 1.76 280 +4.0%
Catholic 1 20.70 3,300 +2.6%
Orthodox 1 0.00 1 +0.0%
Marginal 2 0.22 36 +8.0%
Doubly affiliated   -5.08 -810 n.a.

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Catholic C 320 1,750,000 3,300,000
Ch of Jesus Christ P 4,500 1,200,000 2,500,000
Lutheran P 7,212 375,000 1,500,000
Episcopal A 1,100 100,719 280,000
Ev Indigenous Mission I 350 52,500 105,000
FTMA I 120 50,000 100,000
Seventh-day Adventist P 255 53,871 75,000
Pente Ch Jesus Saves P 146 29,279 65,000
United Pentecostal P 400 27,000 40,000
Jehovah's Witnesses M 225 10,441 35,000
Free Evangelical P 186 14,865 33,000
Assemblies of God P 115 10,000 21,000
Bible Baptist P 50 1,652 5,500
Other denoms [38]   1,739 157,500 345,000
Doubly affiliated     -400,000 -810,000
Total Christians [51]   16,718 3,433,000 7,595,000

Trans-bloc Groupings pop.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 8.8 1,404 +3.9%
Charismatic 2.7 433 +5.2%
  Pentecostal 1.3 211 +3.7%

Missionaries from Madagascar
P,I,A 96 in 11 agencies to 10 countries: Madagascar 74, Cameroon 6.

Missionaries to Madagascar
P,I,A 222 in 33 agencies from 15 countries: USA 63, Norway 46, South Africa 38, UK 22.

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Answers to Prayer

1 Church growth increased in the 1990s in the midst of political and natural disasters. The Lutheran Church gained 300,000 new converts in 1995. Pentecostal and charismatic congregations have multiplied. A number of churches, including CEIM and METM, have been showing remarkable growth numerically and spiritually.

2 Complete freedom of religion after years of Marxist rhetoric. There is a deep spiritual hunger and now is the time of harvest.

Challenges for Prayer

1 The Protestant Church has had a glorious history of faith despite persecution from heathen rulers and harassment from the French Catholic colonial authorities. It grew from 5,000 in 1861 to one million in 1900. There have been significant revival movements within the larger churches in 1895, 1941, 1948, and during the 1980s. Springing from the revival movements have been the indigenous lay movements of 'shepherds', which operate within the mainline Protestant Federation Churches from 50 centres across the island. Their emphasis on healing and exorcism has led to conversions and full churches in some areas. May this movement continue to grow and be rooted in Scripture.

2 Spiritual deadness rather than revival characterizes many congregations. Compromise with the old beliefs, veneration of ancestral spirits, and witchcraft are widespread and even increasing among those who claim to be Christians. The forms of worship remain, but many have little understanding of the biblical message of salvation. The Christian community is 80% Christianized, but not really evangelized. Pray that the power of Jesus might be manifested, and that many may trust Him completely.

3 Evangelical believers are predominantly found in the revival movements in the mainline churches – especially sections of the Lutheran Church, and in the Pentecostal and Baptist Churches – most of which are of indigenous origin. Pray for unity among true believers and also for effective evangelism through them. The need for practical training for outreach is great.

4 Theological training is the greatest source of weakness for the Church. There are seven seminaries and ten Bible schools, but some are theologically liberal and easily accommodate astrology and heathen customs. Pray that such schools may return to the biblical theology for which their forebears laid down their lives. The Assemblies of God, Baptists, METM (with AIM involvement) and the Jesus Saves Pentecostal Church have evangelical Bible colleges. Pray for the provision of well-trained, Spirit-led leaders who are able to apply biblical truth to the Malagasy worldview.

5 Young people are the key for the future in the rapidly-growing population. SU has 15 full-time workers in school and camp ministries, and UGBM(IFES) has 5 staff workers with 2,000 members in 120 groups. These have had impact in the capital, but little is done in other parts of the country. YWAM and YFC also have increasing ministry. Pray for them and for the mobilization of young people for evangelism. CEF have a growing work among children.

6 Less-reached areas and peoples:

a) Over 5,000 villages and 5 million people live in the less-evangelized north and south. The main problem is inaccessibility. Churches and Christians are few. The ministry of MAF and Helimission in providing a ministry life-line is vital for advancing the gospel. Malagasy evangelists travel for days to reach such villages – pray for health, bicycles, finance and faith for them.

b) Malagasy traditionalists are in the great majority among, for example, the Sakalava in the west, and the Betsimisaraka, Mahafaly, Bara, Antambahoaka and Tankarana. Over 80% of the southern population is still non-Christian. The Mahafaly on the SW tip of the island are asking for spiritual help. Shaman healers and witchcraft abound. Demonization is a major problem.

c) Muslims are growing in numbers among the Sakalava on the west coast, the Antemoro in the east and the Antankarana in the north. International and national Muslim efforts to strengthen and spread Islam by extensive mosque-building, offers of education and teaching have gathered momentum. Folk Islam is the norm. Pray that the present spiritual vacuum might be filled by the gospel. Specific outreach to Muslims is limited. The Lutheran Church has a vigorous outreach to them with the Shalom programme and AIM has started a ministry among the Sakalava and Bara.

d) Ethnic minorities. Pray for the Muslim Comorians and Gujarati traders with few known believers among them; AIM seeks workers to initiate ministry to them.

7 The Protestant mission force has been small, but visa restrictions are a big limitation for increasing their numbers. The big challenge is for more pioneers, willing to go to areas where health and living conditions are difficult. Long-term commitment to, and love for, the people, their language and their culture is needed – many short-term outreaches have not been wisely planned. Many expatriates are committed to ministry with and for existing indigenous denominations – in Bible teaching, literature and holistic service. Largest mission agencies: Norwegian Lutherans (46 workers), YWAM (27), SdA (24), AIM (18), CCCI (17), MAF (14), Evangelical Lutherans, USA (14), AoG (8), CBI (4).

8 Christian support ministries – pray for eternal fruit!

a) Bibles. The Protestant Malagasy Bible has been available since 1836. It has a treasured place in the culture of the Merina but is hard for other dialects to understand. Pray that its message may enter hearts. The Bible Society (UBS) has a widely recognized ministry and a vigorous distribution programme, but lack of foreign exchange limits importation and printing of the Scriptures. A new, much more readable inter-confessional Malagasy Bible is being translated. All Christian literature is in short supply. There are few good, spiritual books in Malagasy. The Lutherans and Catholics have large printing presses.

b) Christian radio. Christian programmes are regularly aired on national and on a multiplying number of local FM stations in the larger urban centres – but all lack consistent quality, organization or leadership. Avotra, a local ministry, has a radio station in Nosy Be with some ministry to Muslims. HCJB and the Islands Mission have helped to set up a number of the FM stations. Both TWR-Swaziland and FEBA-Seychelles broadcast a total of 9 hours in Malagasy and 7 hours in French weekly. Poverty and lack of batteries in rural areas limit audiences.

c) The JESUS film, in both Malagasy and French, is being widely used, but needs to be available in dialects other than Merina.

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