The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom, and groups generally practiced their religion without government interference. Police, however, forcibly prevented a Catholic splinter group from making a monthly pilgrimage to a Virgin Mary shrine, resulting in 10 dead, 35 injured, and the conviction of 182 pilgrims, of which 32 received prison sentences. The government prosecuted three policemen in connection with the deaths and injuries in a case that remained pending at the end of the year.
There were reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. The Roman Catholic Church sought government assistance in blocking visits by the splinter group to the site where the group believed there were apparitions of the Virgin Mary.
The U.S. Ambassador and embassy representatives encouraged the government and societal leaders to continue to support broad-based religious tolerance. Embassy efforts included hosting an iftar and encouraging interfaith discussion of social and economic challenges.