The constitution states the country is secular, and both it and other laws provide for the right of individuals to choose and change their religion and to practice the religion of their choice. The constitution states freedom of belief is subject to respect for law, public order, good morals, and “the human person.” Political parties based on religion, ethnicity, or regional affiliation are forbidden.
The law allows all organizations, religious or otherwise, to register with the Ministry of Territorial Administration, Decentralization, and Internal Security, which is in charge of religious affairs. The ministry, through the Directorate for Customary Affairs and Worship, monitors the implementation of standards for burial, exhumation, and transfer of the remains; helps organize religious pilgrimages; promotes and fosters interreligious dialogue and peace; and develops and implements measures for the erection of places of worship and the registration of religious organizations and religious congregations. The registration process usually takes approximately three to four weeks and costs less than 50,000 CFA francs ($89). Registration confers legal status but no specific obligations or benefits. Religious organizations are not required to register, but when they do so, failure to comply with applicable regulations required by all registered organizations may result in a fine of 50,000 to 150,000 CFA francs ($89 to $270).
Religious groups operate under the same regulatory framework for publishing and broadcasting as other entities. The Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization may request copies of proposed publications and broadcasts to verify they are in accordance with the nature of the religious group as stated in their registration.
Religious teaching is not allowed in public schools. Muslim, Catholic, and Protestant groups operate private primary and secondary schools and some schools of higher education. By law, schools (religious or not) must submit the names of their directors to the government and register their schools with the Ministry of National Education and Literacy, but the government does not appoint or approve these officials.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In March military forces killed one individual and arrested 18 associated with the militant Islamist group Ansarul Islam near the Mali border. The security minister stated that the country was determined to defeat what he termed extremists trying to enforce sharia.
The National Observatory of Religious Facts (ONAFAR), an organization created by the government in 2015 to “monitor regulations on cultural practices” and promote tolerance and interfaith dialogue, continued to monitor religious communities and cultural practices. Along with monitoring, the ONAFAR played a mediator role within the religious community to mitigate tensions between communities through dialogue. For example, the ONAFAR intervened in the Hauts-Bassins region to conduct mediation within a community in which a dispute over funeral rites to be performed on a deceased individual who had converted to Islam had resulted in violence. The ONAFAR, along with national and local government officials, met with the community leaders and members to find a peaceful resolution.
On January 9, the government announced the withdrawal of a draft bill designed to regulate religious organizations and practices, after the Federation of Burkina Islamic Associations (FAIB) publicly expressed concerns that the proposed bill would “reduce their freedom of conscience and worship.” The FAIB specifically objected to provisions stating that collective worship shall take place exclusively in buildings intended for public worship that have received prior authorization from authorities. It also objected to a provision that would prevent public officials from “conspicuously” and visibly exhibiting their religious beliefs in the performance of their duties. The FAIB additionally opposed provisions that required leaders of religious organizations and associations to “demonstrate solid knowledge of religious matters attested by at least one recognized structure or institution.”
The government continued to give all religious groups equal access to registration and routinely approved their applications, according to religious group leaders.
The government generally did not fund religious schools or require them to pay taxes unless they conducted for-profit activities. The government provided subsidies to a number of Catholic schools as part of an agreement allowing students from public schools to enroll in Catholic schools when public schools are at full capacity. The government taxed religious groups only if they engaged in commercial activities, such as farming or dairy production. The government reviewed the curricula of religious schools to ensure they offered the full standard academic curriculum; however, the majority of Quranic schools were not registered, and thus their curricula were not reviewed.
The government allocated 75 million CFA francs ($133,000) each to the Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, and traditional animistic communities. According to the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, the government could provide an additional subsidy under the following circumstances: when the religious community or organization pursued a mission of general interest, such as education, health, or vocational training; when the religious community conducted an activity of national interest, such as promoting peace or social stability; or when the success or failure of an activity could have affected a significant part of the population, as in the case of religious pilgrimages. The government also provided funding to registered Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim (commonly referred to as “Franco-Arabic”) schools through subsidies for teacher salaries, which were typically less than those of public school teachers.
In August the government allocated approximately one billion CFA francs ($1.78 million) to subsidize the costs of the 8,100 Muslims going on the Hajj.
On September 8, the ethics commission of the CSC, the governmental body in charge of regulating media, summoned and questioned officials of the Al Houda radio station for content it stated was “undermining the principle of religious tolerance” and violating the terms of agreements signed between the CSC and media organizations. During a program, a preacher stated that individuals adhering to Ahmadiyya beliefs should not be considered Muslims, prompting a complaint from a listener. Al Houda radio officials had been summoned in a similar incident in 2016. A CSC commission reviewed the case and sent a warning letter to Al Houda radio. The CSC could adopt sanctions against the radio if another incident occurs.
Abuses by Foreign Forces and Nonstate Actors
In March armed men killed a teacher and a resident in the northern city of Kourfayel. Several media reports indicated that armed men entered classrooms in Wonrongoma, Pelem Pelem, and Lassa and threatened teachers, telling them they would be killed if they did not start teaching the Quran instead of the regular curricula. This attack caused the temporary closure of dozens of schools and the departure of teachers from the region. Governmental delegations including the minister of security and the minister of education traveled several times to the region and met with representatives of teachers and local authorities to discuss ways to ensure the safety of teachers working in the northern part of the country.