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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Gabon


Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report
November 17, 2010

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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 reporting period.

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

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 103,347 square miles and a population of 1.5 million. Approximately 73 percent of the population, including noncitizens, is Christian; 5 to 10 percent is Muslim (of whom 80 to 90 percent are foreigners); 10 percent practices animism exclusively; and 5 percent of the population is not religious. Many persons practice a syncretistic faith that combines elements of Christianity, traditional mystical faiths, Voodoo or animism.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for 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. There were no formal or informal restrictions on the practice of religion.

The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Easter Sunday and Monday, Ascension Day, Assumption Day, Eid al-Fitr, Pentecost/Ascension, All Saints' Day, Eid al-Kebir (Eid al-Adha), and Christmas.

The Ministry of Interior maintained an official registry of religious groups; however, it did not appear to grant registration to some small animist groups. The government did not require religious groups to register, but recommended that they do so to receive full constitutional protection. No financial benefit was conferred by registration. Religious groups were exempt from land use and construction permit fees. Registered religious groups were not automatically tax exempt and must complete an additional formal registration process to prove that they are nonprofit organizations to be exempt from tax requirements. If recognized as a religious organization, but not eligible for not-for-profit status, a religious group was required to pay local taxes and customs duties on imports.

Islamic, Catholic, and Protestant groups operated primary and secondary schools. These schools must register with the Ministry of Education, which was charged with ensuring that these religious group-affiliated schools met the same standards required for public schools.

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 reporting period.

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


Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion.

Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom

The government promoted interfaith relations by facilitating meetings of leaders of major religious groups. Such meetings were rare, but informal discussions among religious leaders were routine and positive.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

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 embassy maintained contact with the minister of human rights, minister of interior, and various nongovernmental organizations to discuss the general state of religious freedom in the country.

The embassy made a specific effort to reach out to the Muslim community. Each year the embassy hosts an annual iftar (evening meal during Ramadan) with the participation of Muslims and other religious communities. The U.S. government enjoyed a strong working relationship between the embassy and the Muslim community.



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