Back to Index

U.S. Department of State
Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999

Released by the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington, DC, September 9, 1999


Section I. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. There is no state religion.

Persons who wish to form a religious group must register with the Ministry of the Interior. Registration requirements are identical for all religious groups. There were no reports that any group has been refused permission to register or has been subjected to untoward delays or obstacles in the registration process. Religious groups are free from taxation. The Government accords prominent religious leaders and different faiths respect. For example, Christian, Muslim, and traditional indigenous religious holidays are recognized officially and state-run television features coverage of the celebration of religious holidays and funerals of prominent religious leaders.

Reliable statistics on religious affiliation are not available. According to most estimates, some 40 percent of the population are nominally Christian, and about 40 percent are nominally Muslim. Insofar as many Christians and Muslims also practice traditional indigenous or syncretistic religions, approximately 60 percent of the population adheres in one form or another to traditional indigenous beliefs. The traditional Yoruba religion is the most commonly practiced traditional indigenous faith. There are practically no atheists. Almost all citizens appear to be believers in a supernatural order.

There are Christians, Muslims, and adherents to traditional indigenous religions throughout the country. However, most adherents of the traditional Yoruba religion are in the south, while other traditional indigenous faiths are followed in the north. Muslims are represented most heavily in the north and in the southeast. Christians are prevalent in the south, particularly in Cotonou, the economic capital. It is not unusual for members of the same family to practice Christianity, Islam, traditional indigenous religions, or several combinations of all of these.

Over half of all Christians are Roman Catholics. Other Christian groups include Baptists, Methodists, Assembly of God, Pentecostals, Latter-Day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, Celestial Christians, Rosicrucians, the Unification Church, Eckankar, and Seventh-Day Adventists. Nearly all Muslims adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam. The few Shi'a Muslims are primarily Middle Eastern expatriates.

Missionary groups operate freely throughout the country.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners.

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

Section II. Societal Attitudes

Due possibly to the diversity of religious affiliations within families and communities, religious tolerance is widespread at all levels of society and in all geographic regions. Relations are generally amicable between the many religious groups. Interfaith dialog occurs regularly, and citizens respect different religious traditions and practices, including syncretistic beliefs.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the overall context of the promotion of human rights.

[End of Document]

[Home Page] [Cos'è il CESNUR] [Biblioteca del CESNUR] [Testi e documenti] [Libri] [Convegni]

[Home Page] [About CESNUR] [CESNUR Library] [Texts & Documents] [Book Reviews] [Conferences]

Revised last: 10-09-1999