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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Central African Republic

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
July 30, 2012

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Executive SummaryShare    

The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally respected religious freedom. The government did not demonstrate a trend toward either improvement or deterioration in respect for and protection of the right to religious freedom.

There were reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

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

Section I. Religious DemographyShare    

According to the 2003 census, Protestants constitute 51 percent of the population, Roman Catholics 29 percent, and Muslims 15 percent. Others practice indigenous beliefs (animism), which are often incorporated into Christian and Islamic practice throughout the country.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious FreedomShare    

Legal/Policy Framework

The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. The constitution also prohibits religious intolerance, as defined by the government.

The 2009 penal code maintains witchcraft as a criminal offense punishable by five to 10 years in prison and a fine ranging from 100,000 CFA to 1,000,000 CFA ($200 to $2,000). While the new penal code abolishes the death penalty for witchcraft, a new clause states that when the practice of witchcraft results in serious injury or permanent disability, the prison sentence is five to 10 years of hard labor. In case of the death of the victim, the sentence is a lifetime of hard labor. The law does not define the elements of witchcraft, and the determination lies solely with the magistrate.

The law requires religious groups, except for indigenous religious groups, to register with the Ministry of Interior (MOI). To register, the MOI requires religious groups to prove they have a minimum of 1,000 members and leaders who graduated from what the government considers to be high-caliber religious schools.

The MOI may decline to register any religious group it deems offensive to public morale or likely to disturb social peace. Registered religious groups later characterized as subversive may face suspension of their operations. Registration is free and confers official recognition and certain limited benefits, such as customs duty exemption for the importation of vehicles or equipment.

The government grants religious groups one day of their choosing each week to make free broadcasts on the official radio station. Outside this regular time, religious groups must pay fees for broadcast time, just as nonreligious organizations are required to do.

Students were not compelled to participate in religious education and were free to attend any religious program of their choosing. Although the government does not explicitly prohibit religious instruction in public schools, such instruction was not part of the public school curriculum, nor was it common.

The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Easter Monday, Ascension Day, Monday after Pentecost Day, All Saints’ Day, and Christmas. The government does not observe Islamic holy days; however, the government allows Muslims to take off these days from work, and government officials participated in Muslim religious occasions.

Government Practices

There were no reports of abuses of religious freedom, although there were some reports of discrimination. During the year there were no notable cases involving religious freedom and the government did not make any measureable changes to its approach.

The government continued to try witchcraft cases when citizens brought charges of witchcraft. During a typical witchcraft trial, practitioners of traditional medicine are called to give their opinion of a suspect’s ties to sorcery, and neighbors are called as witnesses. The judge also uses personal discretion to determine if the defendant “behaves like a witch.”

Muslims continued to face discrimination especially regarding access to services like citizenship documentation, where low-level bureaucrats reportedly created informal barriers for Muslims. The constitutional provision prohibiting religious intolerance was widely perceived as targeting Muslims; however, the provision was not supported by any additional legislation.

There were no reports of new registrations during the reporting period. The MOI’s administrative police monitored groups that failed to register; however, the police did not attempt to revoke official recognition or certain limited benefits, such as customs duty exemption for the importation of vehicles or equipment.

The government maintained strict legal requirements that restricted registration of new religious groups. The MOI showed some flexibility toward provisions related to the minimum number of members and the level of a religious leader’s education. For instance, when an established religious group that existed in other countries arrived, the ministry did not systematically require a minimum number of 1,000 members before authorizing its activities. Additionally the ministry accepted most religious leaders without the mandated education level if a sufficient number of followers existed. The MOI did not refuse any application from new religious groups during the reporting period.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious FreedomShare    

There were reports of societal abuse or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

Women and men, especially the very old and those without family, continued to be targets of witchcraft accusations. Private individuals continued to abuse and discriminate against persons accused of witchcraft. Witchcraft was widely understood to encompass attempts to harm others by magic and established means, such as poisons. Although many indigenous religious groups accommodated belief in the efficacy of sorcery, accusations of witchcraft generally arose from personal disputes, not from specific religious or cultural practices.

Muslims continued to face consistent social discrimination. Many citizens believed Muslims were “foreigners” and resented them due to their generally better-than-average living standard.

Section IV. U.S. Government PolicyShare    

The U.S. government discussed religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights and met with religious leaders from various faiths throughout the year.

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