Last Updated: Monday, 22 September 2014, 18:59 GMT

U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2000 - Central African Republic

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 5 September 2000
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2000 - Central African Republic , 5 September 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a88110.html [accessed 22 September 2014]
Comments This report is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. The 2000 Report covers the period from July 1, 1999 to June 30, 2000
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion but establishes fixed legal conditions and prohibits what the Government considers religious fundamentalism or intolerance. Although the constitutional provision prohibiting religious fundamentalism is widely understood to be aimed at Muslims, in practice, the Government permits adherents of all religions to worship without interference.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.

Generally there are amicable relations between the various religious communities; however, there have been occasional reports that persons believed to be witches were harassed, beaten, or sometimes killed.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Government Policies on Freedom of Religion

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion but establishes fixed legal conditions and prohibits what the Government considers religious fundamentalism or intolerance. The constitutional provision prohibiting religious fundamentalism is widely understood to be aimed at Muslims. In practice, the Government permits adherents of all religions to worship without interference.

Religious groups (except for traditional indigenous religious groups) are required by law to register with the Ministry of Interior. This registration is free and confers official recognition and certain limited benefits, such as customs duty exemption for the importation of vehicles or equipment, but does not confer a general tax exemption. The administrative police of the Ministry of Interior keep track of groups that have failed to register but the police have not attempted to impose any penalty on such groups. During the period covered by this report, the Government continued to refuse to reregister the previously registered and subsequently banned Unification Church. The Government does not register traditional indigenous religious groups.

Religious Demography

A variety of religious communities are active. The population is believed to be about 50 percent Christian, 15 percent Muslim, and 35 percent practitioners of traditional indigenous religions, or non-religious. Most Christians also practice some aspects of their traditional indigenous religions.

Religious organizations and missionary groups are free to proselytize, worship, and construct places of worship.

The Government has taken positive steps to promote interfaith dialog.

Governmental Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Any religious or nonreligious group that the Government considers subversive is subject to sanctions. The Ministry of Interior may decline to register, suspend the operations of, or ban any organization that it deems offensive to public morals or likely to disturb the peace. The Government has banned the Unification Church since the mid-1980's as a subversive organization likely to disturb the peace, specifically in connection with alleged paramilitary training of young church members. However, the Government imposed no new sanctions on any religious group during the period covered by this report. The Ministry of Interior also may intervene to resolve internal conflicts about property, finances, or leadership within religious groups.

Muslims, particularly Mbororo (also known as Peulh or Fulani) herders, claim to be singled out for harassment by authorities, including extortion by police, due to popular resentment of their presumed affluence. Muslims play a preponderant role in the economy.

The practice of witchcraft is a criminal offense under the Penal Code; however, persons are generally prosecuted for this offense only in conjunction with some other offense, such as murder. Witchcraft traditionally has been a common explanation for diseases of which the causes were unknown. Although many traditional indigenous religions include or accommodate belief in the efficacy of witchcraft, they generally approve of harmful witchcraft only for defensive or retaliatory purposes and purport to offer protection against it. The practice of witchcraft is widely understood to encompass attempts to harm others not only by magic, but also by covert means of established efficacy such as poisons.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners.

Forced Religious Conversion of Minor U.S. Citizens

There were no reports of the forced religious conversion of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section II. Societal Attitudes

Although religious tolerance among members of different religious groups is the norm, there have been occasional reports that some villagers who were believed to be witches were harassed, beaten or sometimes killed by neighbors. Courts have tried, convicted, and sentenced some persons for crimes of violence against suspected witches.

During the period covered by this report, traveling in the northern central region of the country became unsafe. Religious groups, particularly Catholic priests and nuns, were victims of organized armed highway bandits on the road to Bambari, near Grimari village, 180 miles northeast of Bangui. On February 5, 2000, armed bandits attacked a vehicle transporting priests, and an hour later attacked another one in which they killed one nun and wounded another. A week later the funeral procession of the nun was attacked near the same place.

Archbishop Joachim Ndayen protested this assault against Catholic clergy by accusing the Government of silence, and of not stopping highway banditry or prosecuting the perpetrators.

When serious social or political conflicts have arisen, simultaneous prayer ceremonies have been held in churches, temples, and mosques to ask for divine assistance. The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace often conducts developmental and educational programs and seminars throughout the country. The members work closely with other church groups and social organizations on social issues. On April 15, 2000, this commission organized a large rally at the national stadium to promote dialog on peace and tolerance. President Ange Felix Patasse and many government officials attended. National radio and television covered the event.

There was some popular resentment of the presumed affluence of Muslims (see Section I).

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the overall context of the promotion of human rights. The Embassy maintains contact with religious groups, especially American missionaries in the country, and monitors human rights developments.

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