About Madagascar

Madagascar is a large island off the southeast coast of Africa. It is a beautiful island. 80% of the plants and animals are found no where else in the world.

Madagascar is about the size of Texas and home to 20 million people. This island is the 11th poorest country in the world. 45% of the population is under the age of 15 and 59% live in extreme poverty. 2 million children are forced to do hard labor instead of go to school. That number has risen 25% in the last year and continues to climb.

Traditional Religion: Approximately 50% of the country's population practice traditional religion, which tends to emphasize links between the living and the dead. The Merina in the highlands particularly tend to hold tightly to this practice. They believe that the dead join their ancestors in the ranks of divinity and that ancestors are intensely concerned with the fate of their living descendants. The Merina and Betsileo reburial practice of famadihana, or "turning over the dead", celebrates this spiritual communion. In this ritual, relatives' remains are removed from the family tomb, rewrapped in new silk shrouds, and returned to the tomb following festive ceremonies in their honor where sometimes the bodies are lifted and carried high above the celebrants heads with singing and dancing before returning them to the tomb.
Christian and Catholic: Today about 45% of the Malagasy are Christian, divided almost evenly between Catholics and Protestants. Many incorporate the cult of the dead with their other religious beliefs and bless their dead at church before proceeding with the traditional burial rites. They also may invite a Christian minister to attend a famadihana.
Islam: About 10 to 15% of the population practices Islam.

There are 18 tribes in Madagascar. They speak the Malagasy language. This language can be traced to the Malayo-Polynesian language family.