Christianity is booming in Africa, due to the rise of Pentecostalism on the continent. How is the rapid expansion of Christian religiosity in Africa shaping individuals’ values, beliefs, and behaviors? Is it helping to usher in an era of liberal values, economic growth, toleration, and democracy on the continent? Is it helping individuals recover from trauma and violent conflict? These questions have received little attention from researchers or policymakers.
To help fill this gap, we will scale up an ongoing field experiment in the D.R. Congo. The Church Access Program we study provides access to weekly services at urban Pentecostal churches to individuals living in rural areas without such churches. Despite high demand for Pentecostal services—particularly in light of a recent conflict in the region—the poor quality of rural roads prevents churches from establishing a robust footprint outside the main cities. In 100 randomly selected villages in Kasai Central, participating families are offered transportation to a church in the regional capital city, Kananga, every Sunday for 6 months, allowing them to integrate into the urban congregation. We measure the evolution of participants’ cultural norms, moral values, beliefs, and behaviors over time and compare them to similar individuals in “control” villages who lack access to religious services.
This project will thus provide the first quantitative evidence concerning the causal effects of this Christian revolution in Africa on the fundamental human traits of its inhabitants. By publishing academic and lay articles, we hope to advance knowledge of the social and moral development caused by religious participation and to encourage policymakers to pay more attention to the role of religion in social change. Our project will also provide access to religious services to families in hundreds of villages in war-torn rural Africa.