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Tuesday, 07 June 2011 00:00
Religious Freedom Ranking:
3.5 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement



Ethiopia has a population of 80 million people. Among these, 44 percent belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Thirty-four percent of the population is Sunni Muslim, and 19 percent belong to Evangelical Christian and Pentecostal groups. There are also smaller groups of Oriental Rite and Latin Rite Roman Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Mormons, animists, and followers of indigenous religions.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, including the right of conversion, and freedom of worship exists in practice. It also states that Ethiopians are equal before the law, irrespective of nationality, sex, religion, occupation, social or other status. Ethiopians are guaranteed freedom of conscience and religion. However, the exercise of freedom of religion may not be carried out in a manner contrary to the interest of "the state and the revolution, public morality or the freedom of other citizens.

State and religion are separate and law is to determine the legal status of religious institutions. Religious groups must register with the government every three years. However, the registration process is not difficult. The government allots land to religious organizations for the building of houses of worship. The title to the land remains with the government and may be revoked. Minority religious groups have claimed that there is discrimination in the distribution of land, but the Ministry of Federal Affairs has begun to standardize the process of distributing and obtaining land. Schools, including religious schools, are not permitted to teach courses on religion, although they do teach courses on morals which sometimes have some religious content.

The national government seeks to maintain amicable relations with and among religious groups. According to a 2008 law, it is illegal to incite one religious group against another. However, within the society, tension between Protestant and Orthodox believers and Muslims and Christians arises. There have been some serious riots in which violence between Muslims and Christians has broken out (particularly January 2001 in Harar). Muslim mobs also destroyed several churches in early 2002, and the government destroyed one church in Agressa in 2002 after American attacks on Afghanistan. There are reports of police shooting demonstrators. In 2009, police killed two demonstrators in Dessiet Town, and several others were injured. Furthermore, in 2009 police arrested 70 students during a protest at Addis Ababa University. The demonstration was in support of allowing Muslim students to wear a niqab and pray on campus. In 2010 members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church burned down a Mekane Yesus church and attacked some of its members.


2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Ethiopia

Ethiopia - New World Encyclopedia

Ethiopia Country Profile- BBC News

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 November 2011 20:33