The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and stipulates individuals are free to profess and practice their religion. Registration is required for religious groups to have legal status. Muslim leaders reported some publicly-funded Christian mission schools forced female Muslim students to remove their hijab and forced Muslim students to participate in Christian worship services, despite a Ministry of Education directive prohibiting these practices. There were reports some publicly-funded Muslim mission schools required female Christian students to wear the hijab. There were reports that administrators at some hospitals did not allow Muslim staff members to wear the hijab in spite of Ministry of Health guidance barring this practice.
Muslim and Christian leaders reported cordial relations among the country’s main religious communities, facilitated through regular dialogue between their respective governing bodies and the National Peace Council. For example, in October the Presbyterian Interfaith Research and Resource Center sponsored a large interfaith gathering to discuss cooperation in promoting peaceful coexistence. In August at an Ahmadiyya gathering in the United Kingdom, the national chief imam praised Ahmadi Muslim contributions to the country and stressed the importance of harmony among Muslim communities.
The U.S. embassy engaged with government officials to emphasize the importance of mutual understanding, religious tolerance, and respect for all religious groups. The embassy discussed religious freedom and tolerance with religious leaders and community organizations and sponsored several events to promote interfaith dialogue and tolerance. In August the Ambassador presented the embassy’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. award to National Chief Imam Sheikh Dr. Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu in recognition of his commitment to promoting peace, mutual understanding, and harmony within Muslim communities and with other religious groups.
The constitution and other laws and policies prohibit religious discrimination and protect religious freedom, including the freedom to practice any religion or belief through worship, teaching, or observance and to debate religious questions. The constitution provides for special qadi courts to adjudicate certain types of civil cases based on Islamic law. Human rights and Muslim religious organizations stated that certain Muslim communities, especially ethnic Somalis, were the target of government-directed extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest, and detention. The government denied directing such actions. Ethnic Somali and other Muslim communities reported difficulties in obtaining government-mandated identification documents, citing heightened requirements.
The Somalia-based terrorist group Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (al-Shabaab) carried out attacks in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, and Lamu Counties and said it had targeted non-Muslims because of their faith. For example, on October 6, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the killings of six non-Muslims in a residential compound in Mandera County. Overall, there were fewer attacks on civilians by al-Shabaab and fewer resulting civilian casualties than in the previous two years.
Muslim minority groups, particularly those of Somali descent, were reportedly harassed by non-Muslims. There were reports of religiously motivated threats of societal violence and intolerance, such as Muslim communities threatening individuals who converted from Islam to Christianity.
The U.S. embassy emphasized the importance of respecting religious freedom in meetings with government officials, especially underscoring the role of interfaith dialogue in stemming religious intolerance and countering violent extremism. Embassy representatives regularly discussed issues of religious freedom, including the importance of tolerance and inclusion, with local and national civic and religious leaders. The embassy urged religious leaders to engage in interfaith efforts to promote religious freedom and respect religious diversity. The embassy supported interfaith efforts to defuse political and ethnic tensions, especially with regard to controversy over the composition of the national elections institution, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. The embassy also encouraged religious and civic leaders to work together across sectarian lines to advance tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion and provides for freedom of conscience, religion, belief, and thought. The Malawi Human Rights Commission investigated one case of religious discrimination against a Rastafarian student for wearing dreadlocks, but it was unresolved at year’s end. Muslim leaders continued to express concern about the role of Christian religious education in state-funded schools and about the impact of staggered school shifts on the ability of students to attend religious education.
Christians, Muslims, and Hindus often participated in business or civil society organizations together and religious organizations and leaders regularly expressed their opinions on political issues, which received coverage in the media.
U.S. embassy officials discussed religious freedom issues, including concerns about the religious curriculum, with leaders of religious groups.
The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and grants individuals freedom of religion in conformity with the law. The law criminalizes abuses against religious freedom. Terrorist groups used violence and launched attacks against civilians, security forces, peacekeepers, and others they reportedly perceived as not adhering to their interpretation of Islam. A July 19 assault claimed by Ansar al-Dine on the military base in Nampala killed 17 soldiers and wounded 35. An attack in May by al-Mourabitoun killed four UN personnel. Although Ministry of Justice officials stated resources were inadequate, the government continued efforts to investigate abuses carried out by violent extremist groups.
Muslim religious leaders frequently condemned extremist interpretations of sharia and non-Muslim religious leaders frequently condemned religious extremism. Religious leaders, including Muslims and Catholics, spoke at an Eid al-Fitr ceremony in July hosted by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, where they jointly called for peace among all faiths.
The U.S. Ambassador and embassy representatives conveyed messages of religious tolerance to government leaders in private and, along with civil society interlocutors, in speeches, at embassy-hosted interfaith events, and at other events. The U.S. embassy supported training programs to promote religious tolerance and counter violent extremist messaging, and discussed religious freedom with religious leaders, human rights organizations, and civil society throughout the year.
The constitution provides for the right to practice or not to practice religion freely and prohibits discrimination based on religion. These and other rights may only temporarily be suspended or restricted in the event of a declaration of a state of war, siege, or emergency. The constitution prohibits faith-based political parties and the use of religious symbols in politics. Religious groups have the right to organize, worship, and operate schools. The government continued to register religious groups and organizations; however, a Catholic Church representative said that authorities in certain provinces required some dioceses to register locally in what he said was a violation of a 2012 agreement between the central government and the Holy See. The Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches continued to seek the return of properties the government seized in the years after independence.
In February four unidentified individuals fatally shot an Apostolic Faith Mission pastor in the central city of Chimoio. The pastor’s widow said her husband may have been targeted because of a conflict with other churches.
The U.S. Ambassador and other embassy officials discussed the importance of religious freedom and the return of seized church property with the justice minister and the national director of religious affairs. Embassy representatives also discussed the importance of religious tolerance with Catholic Church representatives and religious leaders in Nampula.
The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and provides for freedom of religion and worship consistent with public order, social peace, and national unity. It provides for the separation of state and religion and prohibits religiously affiliated political parties. The government prohibits full-face veils in Diffa Region under state of emergency provisions to prevent concealment of bombs and weapons. The government also prohibits open-air, public proselytization events due to stated safety concerns. According to media sources, President Mahamadou Issoufou, during his reelection campaign in February, said he would regulate the expansion of Wahhabism in the country but took no action as of year’s end.
According to religious leaders, cooperation between Christian and Muslim communities continued to improve in the wake of the violent and deadly January 2015 protests in the cities of Niamey and Zinder. The unrest was sparked by President Issoufou’s public statement “We are all Charlie” at an event in Paris commemorating the Charlie Hebdo killings. While the majority of the population adheres to the Maliki interpretation of Sunni Islam, Muslim leaders reported Wahhabism grew in size and influence during the year. The head of the Islamic Association of Niger and the Archbishop of Niamey urged mutual cooperation on National Cleanup Day in October, highlighting the importance of cleanliness and equating clean communities with faith.
In July the U.S. Second Lady met with officials from the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and leaders from a variety of religious groups to discuss the importance of religious tolerance, diversity, and respect in combating extremism and volatility in the region. The U.S. Ambassador and embassy representatives continued to advocate for religious freedom and tolerance through meetings with Muslim leaders and support of inter- and intrafaith dialogues throughout the country. The embassy hosted events and organized outreach activities and exchange programs with religious and civil society leaders to promote religious tolerance and encourage interfaith dialogue, including several interfaith iftars.
The constitutions of the union government and of the semiautonomous government in Zanzibar both prohibit religious discrimination and provide for freedom of religious choice. Three individuals were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the arson of a church in Kagera. A Christian bishop in Dar es Salaam was arrested and accused of sedition for speaking on political matters from the pulpit. The church’s license was withheld while police continued to investigate at year’s end. The president and prime minister, along with local government officials, emphasized peace and religious tolerance through dialogue with religious leaders. Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa addressed an interfaith iftar in July, noting his appreciation for religious leaders using their place of worship to preach tolerance, peace, and harmony.
In May 15 masked assailants bombarded and attacked individuals at the Rahmani Mosque, killing three people, including the imam, and injuring several others. Arsonists set fire to three churches within four months in the Kagera Region, where church burning has been a recurring concern of religious leaders. The police had not arrested any suspects by the end of the year. Civil society groups continued to promote peaceful interactions and religious tolerance.
The U.S. embassy began implementing a program to counter violent extremism narratives and strengthen the framework for religious tolerance. A Department of State official visited the country to participate in a conference of Anglican leaders on issues of religious freedom and relations between Christians and Muslims. Embassy officers continued to advocate for religious peace and tolerance in meetings with religious leaders in Zanzibar.
The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and stipulates there shall be no state religion. It provides for freedom of belief and the right to practice and promote any religion, and to belong to and participate in the practices of any religious organization in a manner consistent with the constitution. The government requires religious groups to register. The government restricted activities of religious groups it defined as “cults” and arrested some members who refused to participate based on religious grounds in government immunization drives. On December 27 and 29, police raided two mosques, without advanced notice, to search for evidence related to the November killing of a Muslim cleric, and other unspecified criminal activity. Police stated the December 27 raid resulted in the discovery of arms and incriminating documents; however, a spokesperson for the group that runs the mosque accused the police of desecrating a place of worship, planting evidence, removing documents, and stealing approximately 505 million Ugandan shillings ($14,000). The Inspector General of Police apologized for the December 29 raid, noting the police acted on false intelligence. The Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) accused the government of discriminatory hiring practices against Muslims for both senior and lower-level positions.
On November 26, two unknown assailants shot and killed a Muslim cleric who was also a Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) officer and his UPDF bodyguard in Kampala, after trailing his truck on a motorcycle. The police arrested and charged four clerics from a rival action of the Muslim Salafist Tabliq group for his killing. According to observers, many of the disputes within the Salafist Tabliq group, one of the country’s main Muslim factions, were financially or politically motivated. As of year’s end, the case was ongoing.
The embassy brought together civil society and religious leaders to promote religious tolerance and diversity. The Ambassador issued Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr messages promoting religious tolerance via radio and television. The embassy also organized a U.S. study tour for eight religious leaders to explore the role of faith-based organizations in a diverse democracy.
The constitution declares the country a Christian nation while prohibiting religious discrimination and providing for freedom of conscience, belief, and religion. On October 27, the parliament created a Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs, whose role beyond directing national prayers had not yet been defined by the end of the year. Religion was a dominant theme in the pre- and post-general election environment. Various religious groups freely and publicly supported political parties of their choice. Some ruling party political leaders, however, labeled opposition party members as “Satanists,” in a move critics stated played on long-held social fears of different denominations. On October 18, the country celebrated a second annual National Day for Prayer and Fasting; however, many church leaders did not participate, stating it blurred the line between church and state. During the commemoration, President Edgar Lungu reaffirmed the country as a Christian nation. Some religious groups continued to criticize the government’s decision to build a Christian interdenominational church, arguing it inherently discriminated against non-Christian faiths and breached constitutional provisions for church-state separation.
Incidents of mobs attacking and killing individuals suspected of practicing witchcraft remained widespread. Victims were often elderly members of the community. In August police reported two siblings, Lubasi Mukena and Mubukwano Mukena, killed their 81-year-old father and critically injured their 68-year-old mother with a machete in Limulunga, Western Province, because they suspected their parents were practicing witchcraft. Community members with white hair were reportedly associated with witchcraft and were targets of attacks and death threats. Some non-Christian groups continued to report societal intolerance and said they were often called “Satanists.”
U.S. embassy representatives, including the Ambassador, met with government officials and with religious leaders to discuss issues of religious freedom, including enforcement of registration laws, interfaith relations, and the role of religion in the general election.
The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and provides for freedom of religion, including the freedom to practice, propagate, and give expression to one’s religion, in public or in private and alone or with others. Religious and civil society groups reported the government continued to target public events and prayer rallies and monitored or harassed church congregations and religiously affiliated NGOs perceived to be critical of the government. A pastor of the Remnant Pentecostal Church was released on charges of criminal nuisance after demonstrating outside the ruling party annual conference in late 2015. He was arrested again in November for wearing the national flag without seeking permission from Zimbabwean authorities. His trial remained ongoing at year’s end. Religious leaders criticized the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education for instituting a national pledge in schools without proper consultations.
As in previous years, some Christian groups blamed other Christian groups with indigenous beliefs, particularly the Apostolic community, for increasing HIV/AIDS rates by discouraging condom use and preventing HIV/AIDS education, as well as encouraging child marriage with girls as young as 14. In October several religious and civil society groups organized and hosted the Second Regional Interfaith Dialogue in Harare which focused on the importance of dialogue in fostering inclusivity and diversity for religious groups.
The U.S. embassy engaged government officials, religious leaders, and faith-based organizations to discuss the status of religious freedom.