International Religious Freedom Report 2008

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation,belief, or practice; however, at times community members forced old women falsely accused of being witches to flee their villages.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 105,689 square miles and a population of 14.3 million. The Government estimated in the 1996 census that approximately 60 percent of the population practices Islam, and that the majority of this group is Sunni. The Government also estimated that 24 percent of the population maintains exclusively traditional indigenous beliefs, 17 percent are Roman Catholic, and 3 percent are members of various Protestant denominations.

Statistics on religious affiliation are approximate because the majority of citizens practice traditional indigenous religious beliefs to varying degrees, and strict adherence to Christian and Muslim beliefs is often nominal.

Muslims reside largely in the northern, eastern, and western border regions, while Christians live in the center of the country. Persons practice traditional indigenous religious beliefs throughout the country, especially in rural communities. Ouagadougou, the capital, has a mixed Muslim and Christian population. Bobo-Dioulasso, the second largest city, is mostly Muslim. Small Syrian and Lebanese immigrant communities reside in the two largest cities and are more than 90 percent Christian.

There are more than 60 different ethnic groups. Most are religiously heterogeneous, although the Fulani and Dioula communities are overwhelmingly Muslim.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The law at all levels protects this right in full against abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

The Constitution and laws protect the right of individuals to choose and change their religion and provide the right to practice the religion of one's choice. The Government observes and enforces these provisions. The country is a secular state. Islam, Christianity, and traditional indigenous religious beliefs are practiced freely without government interference.

The Government establishes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Eid al-Adha, Easter Monday, Ascension Day, the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Assumption Day, All Saints' Day, Ramadan, and Christmas.

The Government requires all organizations, religious or otherwise, to register with the Ministry of Territorial Administration. Registration confers legal status but no specific controls or benefits. According to Article 45 of the Freedom of Association Code, failure to register may result in a fine of $97 to $292 (50,000 CFA to 150,000 CFA). The Government gives all religious groups equal access to registration and routinely approves their applications. The Government taxes religious groups only if they engage in commercial activities, such as farming and dairy production.

Religious organizations operate under the same regulatory framework for publishing and broadcasting rights as other entities. The Ministry of Security has the right to request copies of proposed publications and broadcasts to verify that they accord with the stated nature of the religious group; however, there were no reports that religious broadcasters experienced difficulties with this regulation.

Missionary groups occasionally faced complicated bureaucratic procedures, such as zoning regulations, in pursuit of particular activities.

Public schools do not offer religious instruction. Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant groups operate primary and secondary schools. Although school officials have to submit the names of their directors to the Government and register their schools, religious or otherwise, the Government does not appoint or approve these officials.

The Government does not fund religious schools or require them to pay taxes unless they conduct for-profit activities. The Government reviews the curriculum of religious schools to ensure that they offer the full standard academic curriculum; however, it does not interfere with religious curricula.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report.

Some Muslims continued to consider the 1996 law against female genital mutilation as discriminating against their religious practices and continued performing the procedure.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation,belief, or practice; however, at times community members forced old women falsely accused of being witches to flee their villages. The Catholic Church-funded Delwende Center, which houses and feeds women accused of witchcraft, reported several cases. The Ministry of Social Action and National Solidarity, along with various other nongovernmental and religious organizations, maintained similar shelters in Ouagadougou.


Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

The U.S. Embassy and some Islamic organizations cosponsored a number of workshops and public events discussing religious tolerance in the United States and promoting its continued practice locally. The Embassy also sent one Muslim leader and one Catholic priest to the United States on an International Visitor Program focusing respectively on the U.S. political process for young Muslim leaders, and religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue.

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