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Executive Summary

The constitution establishes the state as secular, prohibits religious harassment, and provides for freedom of religion and worship. According to media and religious leaders, most abuses involving religious freedom occurred in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest Regions, where a violent separatist conflict continued. In July, security officers killed a timekeeper at a Protestant church in Bangem as he rang the bell for morning prayers. In August, soldiers looking for separatists arrested and killed a Protestant pastor and several of his followers in the village of Mautu. In October, security forces arrested a Catholic priest one day after he began a protest march to raise awareness about violence in the Anglophone region and call for the release of political detainees. Also in October, gendarmes in the town of Ndop arrested the pastor of the Cameroon Baptist Convention, stating that he supported separatists spiritually and financially. Religious leaders in the Anglophone regions repeatedly accused security forces of burning churches, forcing residents to quarter soldiers, and desecrating religious spaces and objects. On several occasions, Christians in the Northwest and Southwest Regions said security forces interrupted church services and prevented them from accessing places of worship. In August, the government shut down a Yaounde church whose leaders preached that COVID-19 was a hoax and refused to comply with official public health mandates on crowd sizes. Religious leaders expressed frustration with the government’s failure to register any new religious groups for the 10th consecutive year and said many requests remained pending.

According to multiple media outlets and civil society organizations, Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa (ISIS-WA) continued to carry out violent attacks against civilians and military forces. Insurgents attacked places of worship and private homes. According to religious and civil society organizations, in more than 20 separate attacks in the Far North Region in January, presumed Islamist terrorists killed more than a dozen Christians, burned at least three churches, and destroyed nearly 200 homes. In August, suspected Islamist terrorists killed 14 community leaders in Bulgaram in the Far North Region during preparations for evening prayers in the local mosque, reportedly because community leaders cited the Quran while criticizing terrorism.

Media reported that Anglophone separatists in the Northwest Region killed a religious leader in Batibo who criticized their actions. In a separate incident, religious leaders in the Northwest Region accused separatists of killing a pastor in Batibo and of vandalizing churches and destroying worship articles in the village of Nwa. Religious leaders and civil society expressed concern over worsening relations between largely progovernment Muslim Mbororo herders and Anglophone, predominantly Christian, communities. In October, suspected separatists abducted parishioners in Kumbo during a pilgrimage to pray for peace in the Anglophone regions. Throughout the year, Muslim and Christian leaders initiated interfaith activities aimed at facilitating interreligious dialogue, promoting peaceful coexistence of different faiths, and seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, where Anglophone separatists were seeking secession. In March, Christian and Muslim leaders collaborated with UNICEF, sharing ideas on appropriate messaging by religious groups within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Embassy officials discussed with government officials the failure to register faith-based organizations. They also underlined the effect of the sociopolitical crisis in the Northwest and Southwest Regions on freedom of worship as well as the importance of interfaith dialogue with government officials, including regional delegations from the Ministry of Social Affairs and the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms. In discussions with leading figures from the main religious groups, U.S. embassy officers stressed the importance of interfaith dialogue, the necessity of assuring religious freedom within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need for a peaceful solution to the continuing crisis in the Northwest and Southwest Regions. In August, the embassy issued a press release condemning the killing of a religious leader in Batibo and called for those responsible to be brought to justice.


Executive Summary

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion and provides for freedom of conscience, religion, belief, and thought. A court case involving a Rastafarian child’s ability to attend school with dreadlocks remained pending, and by court order, the child was able to attend school with his hair intact pending conclusion of the litigation. Seven other Rastafarian students who had been denied enrollment registered complaints, and on January 4, the High Court in Zomba granted an injunction compelling the Ministry of Education to allow all Rastafarian children to be admitted and enrolled in government schools. Upon the reopening of schools following the COVID-19 shutdown, the Rastafarian students’ attorney received complaints from seven additional Rastafarian students who had been denied enrollment. In July, the city council in Blantyre removed a billboard urging persons to read the Quran after having read the Old Testament and New Testament, stating it was a “recipe for religious conflict.” Following mediation by an interfaith civil society organization, the two sides agree to a reworked billboard message that highlighted reading the Quran only. Muslim organizations continued to request the Ministry of Education to discontinue use of the “Bible knowledge” course and use only the broader based “moral and religious education” curriculum in primary schools, particularly in areas inhabited predominantly by Muslims.

According to media reports, religious conflicts often arose related to locally promulgated school dress codes. On September 18, a Joint Technical Team was established under the guidance of the Public Affairs Committee comprising seven Muslims and seven Christians to engage in dialogue on general dress codes in schools. On October 28, a group of Muslim individuals set fire to the office of the head teacher of a primary school in a majority-Muslim district after he turned away a female student wearing the hijab.

U.S. embassy officials engaged with religious leaders from Christian, Muslim, and other faiths to discuss religious freedom, interreligious relations, and community engagement. The Ambassador hosted an interfaith event in commemoration of U.S. National Religious Freedom Day, and the embassy facilitated discussions between the country’s Christian and Muslim communities and the visiting nonresident Israeli Ambassador.


Executive Summary

The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and provides for freedom of belief and the right to practice, profess, and promote any religion. Islamic leaders stated that prison officials continued to prevent some newly converted Muslim inmates from updating their religious affiliation in prison records and from meeting with Muslim clergy.

A nongovernmental interfaith council consisting of members of various Christian and Muslim groups, as well as representatives of the Jewish and Baha’i faiths, met on a regular basis and advocated for the shared needs of their congregations.

U.S. embassy representatives engaged with the government-run Office of the Ombudsman and the Namibian Correctional Services about complaints regarding religious freedom. Embassy officials engaged with religious leaders and the interfaith council to discuss religious freedom.

International Religious Freedom Reports
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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future