Section I. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. There is no official state religion. Islam, Christianity, and traditional indigenous religions are practiced freely without government interference. The Government neither subsidizes nor favors any particular religion.
The Government requires that religious groups register with the Ministry of Territorial Administration. Registration establishes a group's legal presence in the country but entails no specific controls or benefits. Religious groups are only taxed if they carry on lucrative activities, i.e., farming. Registration only confers legal status. There are no penalties for failure to register. All groups are given equal access to licenses, and the Government does not approve registrations in an arbitrary manner.
There is no single dominant religion. Approximately 52 percent of the population practices Islam, about 17 percent practice Roman Catholicism, about 4 percent are members of various Protestant denominations, 26 percent practice traditional indigenous religions, and approximately 1 percent practices either Buddhism or no religion. There are no reliable data on the number of atheists or persons not practicing any religion. The majority of the country's Muslims belong to the Sunni branch of Islam, while small minorities adhere to the Shi'a or Tidjania branches.
Muslims are largely concentrated around the northern, eastern, and western borders, while Christians are concentrated in the center of the country. Traditional indigenous religions are practiced widely throughout the country, especially in rural communities. Ouagadougou, the capital, is mostly Christian, and Bobo-Diaoulasso, the country's second largest city, is largely Muslim. The country has a small Muslim Lebanese immigrant community.
Members of the dominant ethnic group, the Mossi, belong to all three major religions. Fulani and Jula groups are overwhelmingly Muslim. There is little correlation between religious differences and political differences. Religious affiliation appears unrelated to membership in the ruling party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP). Government officials belong to all of the major religions, and the practice of a particular faith is not known to entail any advantage or disadvantage in the political arena, the civil service, the military, or the private sector.
Foreign missionary groups, including Protestants, operate freely and face no special restrictions. The denominations and organizations represented include the Assemblies of God, Campus Crusade for Christ, the Christian Missionary Alliance, Baptists, Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Mennonite Central Committee, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormon Church, the Pentecostal Church of Canada, the World Evangelical Crusade, and the Society for International Missions (SIM). The Government neither forbids missionaries from entering the country nor restricts their activities.
Religious instruction is not offered in public schools; it is limited to private schools and to the home. The Muslim and Catholic faiths operate general schools at the primary and secondary levels. The State monitors both the nonreligious curriculum and the qualifications of teachers employed at these schools. Although school officials must submit the names of their directors to the Government, the State has never been involved in appointing or approving these officials. The Government does not fund any religious school. Unlike other private schools, religious schools pay no taxes if they do not conduct any lucrative activities.
The Attorney General and the Superior Council of Information (CSI) have the authority to grant publishing and broadcasting licenses to religious groups. No religious group has ever been denied a license. Before granting a license, the Attorney General and the CSI must examine samples of proposed publications to assure that they are in accordance with the stated nature of the religious group and be informed of the name of the proposed publication or broadcasting director. Religious groups are free to say what they want in their publications and broadcasts unless the judicial system determines that they are harming public order or committing slander, which to date has never occurred.
There are five radio stations operated by religious groups, of which three are run by the Catholic Church and two by Protestant denominations. All five stations were created before the CSI was set up in 1995. Three of the five have signed agreements with CSI, which means that they have successfully complied with the regulations governing the operation of all radio stations in the country, including those that are commercial and state-run. The remaining two stations have until November 1999 to sign and are expected to do so without incident.
There is one religious television station run by a Protestant denomination in Ouagadougou. It broadcasts two hours in the evening in both French and the local language, More. The Catholic Church and several Protestant denominations publish periodicals.
The Government has never denied a publishing or broadcasting license to any religious group that has requested one. There are no special tax preferences granted to religious organizations operating print or broadcast media.
The procedures for applying for publishing and broadcasting licenses are the same for both religious groups and commercial entities. Applications are first sent for review to the Ministry of Communication and Culture and then forwarded to the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Security (MATS). If the Government does not respond to the application for a publishing license within the required timeframe, the applicant can automatically begin publishing. For radio licenses, the applicant must wait until the National Office of Telecommunications (ONATEL) assigns a frequency and determines that the group's broadcasting equipment is of a professional quality before it can begin broadcasts. Once the broadcast license is granted, the Government regulates the operation of religious radio stations in accordance with the same rules that apply to commercial and state-run stations. Stations must show that their workers are employed full-time, that ONATEL has been paid for the use of assigned frequencies, and that employee social security taxes and intellectual property fees have been paid.
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
Relations among the various religious communities have been amicable. Religious tolerance is widespread, and members of the same family often practice different religions. There have been no significant ecumenical movements.
There have been no official reports of religious conflict or ritual murders involving practitioners of traditional religions during the period covered by this report. However, there have been allegations of witchcraft. The Ministry of Social Action and the Family maintains a home in Ouagadougou for women forced to flee their villages because they were suspected of being sorceresses.
Section III. U.S. Government Policy
The U.S. Embassy discusses issues of religious freedom with the Government in context of its overall promotion of human rights.
The Embassy also actively maintains contacts with leaders of all major organized religious denominations and groups in the country. For example, during the period covered by this report, embassy officers met with the head of the Muslim community, the Catholic Archbishop, and the Executive Secretary of the Protestant Office of Church Development.
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