U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2001 - Chad

The Constitution provides for religious freedom; at times the Government limited this right in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report. The Government has arrested and sanctioned some Islamic imams. The Government has banned the Islamic religious group Faydel Djaria and arrested and detained some of its members.

Generally there are amicable relations between the various religious communities. There were no indications of increasing tension between Christians and Muslims due to the proselytizing by evangelical Christians during the period covered by this report.

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

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has a total area of 495,755 square miles and its population is 7,612,950. Of the total population, 54 percent are Muslim, approximately one-third are Christian, and the remainder practice traditional indigenous religions or no religion at all. Most northerners practice Islam and most southerners practice Christianity or a traditional indigenous religion; however, population patterns are becoming more complex, especially in urban areas. Many citizens, despite stated religious affiliation, do not practice their religion regularly.

The vast majority of Muslims practice a moderate form of Islam known locally as Tidjani, which originated in 1727 under Sheik Ahmat Tidjani in what is now Morocco and Algeria. Tidjani Islam, as practiced in the country, incorporates some local African religious elements. A small minority of the country's Muslims (5 to 10 percent) are considered fundamentalist.

Roman Catholics make up the largest Christian denomination in the country; most Protestants are affiliated with various evangelical Christian groups.

Adherents of two other religions, the Baha'i Faith and Jehovah's Witnesses, also are present in the country. Both faiths were introduced after independence in 1960 and therefore are considered to be "new" religions. Because of their relatively recent origin and their affiliation with foreign practitioners, both are perceived as foreign.

There are foreign missionaries representing both Christian and Islamic groups. Itinerant Muslim imams also visit, primarily from Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for religious freedom, and the Government limited this right in practice. The Constitution also provides that the country shall be a secular state; however, despite the secular nature of the State, a large proportion of senior government officials are Muslims, and some policies favor Islam in practice. For example, the Government sponsors annual Hajj trips to Mecca for certain government officials.

The Government requires religious groups, including both foreign missionary groups and domestic religious groups, to register with the Ministry of the Interior's Department for Religious Affairs. Registration confers official recognition but does not confer any tax preferences or other benefits. There are no specific legal penalties for failure to register, and there were no reports that any group had failed to apply for registration or that the registration process is unduly burdensome. In the past, the Government reportedly has denied official recognition to some groups of Arab Muslims in Ati, near the eastern border with Sudan, on the grounds that they have incorporated elements of traditional African religion, such as dancing and singing, into their worship; however, there were no such reports during the period covered by this report.

On May 31, 2000, the Supreme Court rejected a request from one branch of a Christian evangelical church to deny government recognition to its independent sister branch. In 1998 the Eglise Evangelique des Freres (EEF) split into moderate and fundamentalist groups. The moderate branch of the EEF retained the legal registration for the Church, but on April 7, 1999, the Ministry of Interior awarded recognition to the fundamentalist branch under a new name Eglise des Freres Independentes au Tchad (EFIT). Since 1999 the EEF branch has sought to bar the EFIT church legally from practice, and ultimately the case went before the Supreme Court, which upheld the rights of the EFIT to continue its religious work and its right to function.

In 2000 representatives of civil society and religious leaders met under the Ministry of Social Affairs' auspices to develop a new Family Code; however, the working group was not able to resolve certain differences between religious groups and no further action was taken on the draft Family Code during the period covered by this report.

Foreign missionaries do not face restrictions but must register and receive authorization from the Ministry of Interior. There were no reports that authorization was withheld from any group. Catholic and Protestant missionaries proselytize in the country.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

In January 1998, the Minister of Interior banned the Islamic religious group Faydal Djaria. The group arrived in the country from Nigeria and Senegal, and incorporates singing and dancing into its religious ceremonies and activities. Male and female members of the group freely interact with one another during religious gatherings. The group is found from the Kanem region around Lake Chad into neighboring Chari Baguirmi. The Chadian Superior Council of Islamic Affairs considers that the Faydal Djaria group does not conform to Islamic tenets. Early in 2000, the group increasingly became active, resulting in a number of arrests in the Kanem. The new Director of Religious Affairs at the Ministry of Interior has requested that the Superior Council of Islamic Affairs provide the specific sections of the Koran that support the ban of the group.

According to a Protestant pastor in N'Djamena, while differing faiths or denominations are treated equally by the Government, Islamic congregations appear to have an easier time obtaining official permission for their activities. Non-Islamic religious leaders also claim that Islamic officials and organizations receive greater tax exemptions and unofficial financial support from the Government. State lands reportedly are accorded to Islamic leaders for the purpose of building mosques, while other religious denominations must purchase land at market rates to build churches. However, during the period covered by this report, at least one Christian congregation was able to reclaim a former building that was being used by a Muslim congregation, because the Government found that the Christian Church had a stronger legal claim to the building.

Abuses of Religious Freedom

There is an undetermined number of followers of Faydal Djaria, the banned Islamic group, who are prisoners in Kanem. On May 25, 2000, the Sultan of Kanem arrested a number of adherents of the group Faydal Djaria. In addition the Chadian Superior Council of Islamic Affairs, which believes that the group does not conform to Islamic tenets, requested that the Ministry of Interior arrest the group's spiritual leader, Ahmat Abdallah.

Within the Islamic community, the Government has imprisoned and sanctioned fundamentalist Islamic imams believed to be promoting conflict among Muslims. A fundamentalist imam in N'Djdamena, Sheikh Faki Suzuki was restricted from preaching Islam for 6 months, from October 1998 to March 1999, and the authorities also placed him under house arrest on the grounds that he was inciting religious violence. However, Suzuki was no longer under house arrest, he was not restricted from preaching Islam, and did not experience problems with the Islamic Committee during the period covered by this report.

In January 1999, the Government arbitrarily arrested and detained imam Sheikh Mahamat Marouf, the fundamentalist Islamic leader of the northeastern town of Abeche, and refused to allow his followers to meet and pray openly in their mosque. The Government claims that Marouf was responsible for inciting religious violence although Marouf's followers reject the Government's claim and cite religious differences with the Government. Sheik Marouf was released from prison in November 1999 after nearly 1 year in jail. Sheikh Marouf may pray but is not permitted to lead prayers. His followers are allowed to pray in their mosques, but are forbidden from debating religious beliefs in any way that might be considered proselytizing; however, the Tidjani followers are allowed to proselytize.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including 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 III. Societal Attitudes

Former Islamic adherents who have converted are shunned by their families and sometimes beaten; however, there were no reported incidents of beatings during the period covered by this report.

Most interfaith dialog happens on an individual level and not through the intervention of the Government. The different religious communities generally coexist without problems. Unlike in past years, government and church officials reported that there was no conflict between Christian denominations, including Protestant denominations, during the period covered by this report.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

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

The International Religious Freedom Report for 2001 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 law provides that the Secretary of State shall transmit to Congress by September 1 of each year, or the first day thereafter on which the appropriate House of Congress is in session, "an Annual Report on International Religious Freedom supplementing the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom." The 2001 Report covers the period from July 1, 2000 to June 30, 2001.

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