The constitution states the country is secular, provides for freedom of religion or belief, prohibits religious discrimination, and makes forced impositions on conscience based on “religious fanaticism,” such as forced conversion, punishable by law. The constitution bans the use of religion for political ends, including religiously affiliated political parties.
A decree bans individuals from wearing the full-face Islamic veil, including the niqab and the burqa, in public places. The decree also bans Muslims from foreign countries from spending the night in mosques.
All organizations, including religious groups, must register with, and be approved by, the Ministry of Interior. Religious group applicants must present a certification of qualifications to operate a religious establishment, a title or lease to the property where the establishment is located, the exact address where the organization will be located, bylaws, and a document that clarifies the mission and objectives of the organization. Penalties for failure to register include fines and confiscation of goods, invalidation of contracts, and deportation of foreign group members.
The law prohibits religious instruction in public schools. Private schools may provide religious instruction. The law requires that all public and private schools respect all philosophical and religious doctrines. The constitution protects the right to establish private schools.
A 2017 bilateral framework agreement between the government and the Holy See formalized relations between the government and the Catholic Church. The agreement defined places of worship, cemeteries, and ecclesiastical sites; penal case processes for clergy, property rights, and rules pertaining to use of mass media; education; appointment of chaplains to the security forces; and church institutional activities providing health, education, social, and medical services for the common good.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
According to sources, high-ranking church officials, such as bishops, often received payments in the form of gifts from the government.
On August 20, the government suspended the activities nationwide of the Christian Ministry of Spiritual Combat Church due to what the government said were concerns about tensions related to infighting among church leadership. Members reportedly continued to worship in private homes as the entrance to the main facility was inaccessible. The church’s activities remained suspended at year’s end.
Until mid-October, due to COVID-19 public health regulations, the government required that all participants in religious services respect social distancing measures and wear masks. On October 14, the government ended the state of health emergency and removed all restrictions related to COVID-19.
According to local representatives from the Interconfessional Platform for Dignity and Peace for the Great Lakes, officials continued to allow Christian and Muslim clergy access to prisoners during the year.
In October, the Ministry of Health and Population partnered with the Church of Jesus Christ to conduct training for midwives and physicians on techniques to prevent massive hemorrhages in women during labor and delivery.