The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.
There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.
The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.
Section I. Religious Demography
The country has a total area of 105,689 square miles, and its total population is 11,600,000. There is no single dominant religion. Exact reliable statistics on religious affiliation are not available. Approximately 50 percent of the population practice Islam, approximately 20 percent practice Roman Catholicism, approximately 5 percent are members of various Protestant denominations, and 25 percent practice traditional indigenous religions exclusively. However, syncretistic beliefs and practices are widespread among both Christians and Muslims, and a majority of citizens continue to practice traditional indigenous religions to varying degrees. Almost all citizens are believers in a supernatural order and atheism is virtually non-existent. 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 concentrated largely 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-Dioulasso, the country's second largest city, is largely Muslim. The country has a small Lebanese immigrant community, whose members are both Muslim and Christian.
Members of the dominant ethnic group, the Mossi, belong to all three major religions. Fulani and Jula groups overwhelmingly are 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. Government officials belong to all of the major religions.
Foreign missionary groups are active in the country, and 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 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), the Pentecostal Church of Canada, the World Evangelical Crusade, the Society for International Missions, and numerous Roman Catholic organizations.
Section II. Status of Religious Freedom
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. Islam, Christianity, and traditional indigenous religions are practiced freely without government interference. There is no official state religion, and the Government neither subsidizes nor favors any particular religion. 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.
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 only are taxed if they carry on lucrative activities, such as 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.
Foreign missionary groups, including Protestants, operate freely and face no special restrictions. 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. Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant groups operate primary and secondary schools. 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 never has 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.
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; this never has occurred. The Ministry of Security grants publishing licenses, and the Superior Council of Information (CSI) grants broadcasting licenses. The Government never has denied a publishing or broadcasting license to any religious group that has requested one. The procedures for applying for publishing and broadcasting licenses are the same for both religious groups and commercial entities. Applications first are sent for review to the Ministry of Information and then forwarded to the Ministry of Security. If the Government does not respond to the application for a publishing license within the required timeframe, the applicant can begin publishing automatically. For radio licenses, before beginning broadcasts the applicant must wait until the Authority for the Regulation of Telecommunications (ARTEL) assigns a frequency and determines that the group's broadcasting equipment is of a professional quality. The Ministry of Security has the right to request samples of proposed publications and broadcasts to verify that they are in accordance with the stated nature of the religious group; however, there were no reports of religious broadcasters experiencing difficulties with this regulation. In the case of radio stations, the CSI must be informed of the name of the broadcasting director as well as a general programming content. 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 ARTEL has been paid for the use of assigned frequencies, and that employee social security taxes and intellectual property fees have been paid. There are no special tax preferences granted to religious organizations operating print or broadcast media.
There are 14 radio stations operated by religious groups, of which 5 are run by the Catholic Church and 4 are run by Protestant denominations. Five of the stations were created before the CSI was established in 1995. All 14 have signed agreements with the CSI, which means that they have complied successfully with the regulations governing the operation of all radio stations in the country, including those that are commercial and state-run. There is one religious television station operated by a Protestant denomination in Ouagadougou. It broadcasts for 5 hours in the evening in both French and the local language, More. Muslim groups, the Catholic Church, and Protestant denominations publish periodicals.
The Government has established the following religious holidays as national holidays: Eid Al-Adha, Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Mouloud, Assumption Day, All Saints' Day, Ramadan, and Christmas Day. There is no evidence that these holidays have a negative effect on any religious groups.
Restrictions on Religious Freedom
Government policy and practice contributed to the generally unrestricted practice of religion.
There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.
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 Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.
Section III. Societal Attitudes
Relations among the various religious communities are amicable. Religious tolerance is widespread, and members of the same family often practice different religions.
There have been no significant ecumenical movements. Muslim, Christian, and traditional religious leaders played a prominent role in the National Day of Forgiveness in 2000, a government-organized event to atone for past state-sponsored political and economic crimes.
There were no reports of religious conflict or ritual murders during the period covered by this report; however, there were allegations of witchcraft. The Ministry of Social Action and the Family maintains a shelter in Ouagadougou for women forced to flee their villages because they were suspected of being sorceresses.
Section IV. U.S. Government Policy
The U.S. Embassy discusses issues of religious freedom with the Government in context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. The Embassy also maintains contacts with leaders of all major organized religious denominations and groups in the country.