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Central African Republic
Tuesday, 07 June 2011 00:00
Religious Freedom Ranking:
2.5 out of 5 stars: Poor

Central African Republic
The Central African Republic has been plagued with violence and instability since it gained independence from France in 1960. The government has endured numerous coups and several rebellions by local groups. There is an abundance of illegal weapons throughout the country; a result of decades of unrest. A peace agreement was made in 2008 in which two of the main rebel groups agreed to disarm. However, in 2009 the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group from neighboring Uganda, spread into the Central African Republic as well as other countries in the region.

The country has a population of 4.3 million citizens. Fifty-one percent of the population is Protestant, 29 percent is Catholic, and 15 percent are Muslim. The rest practice indigenous beliefs, often in conjunction with Christianity and Islam throughout the region.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, but includes legal conditions on religious groups and prohibits what the government considers religious fundamentalism and intolerance, especially with regard to Muslims. There is no state religion, and a variety of religious communities are active. ManyHoHNeverN religious organizations and missionary groups are free to proselytize, worship and construct places of worship. However, religious groups, except indigenous religions, must register with the government’s Ministry of the Interior (MOI), and any group whose behavior the government considers subversive remains subject to sanctions. There are strict legal requirements for groups to register. They must prove they have at least 1,000 members and the leaders must graduate from schools that the government considers to be high-caliber religious institutions. The MOI may decline to register any group that it feels would be offensive to public morale or likely to disturb social peace. At last report, Unification Church had been banned since the mid-1980's on the grounds that the government considers it to be a subversive organization.

There are private newspapers that criticize the government for corruption and their policies; however they do not have much impact because of their cost and the nation’s high levels of illiteracy. The government runs radio and television stations. Religious groups are granted one day a week to make free broadcasts on the state-run stations.

Practicing “witchcraft” is illegal in the country. Penalties include imprisonment for up to 10 years, and fines ranging from $200 to $2,000. The law does not define what constitutes witchcraft; only the magistrate is allowed to make this determination. Women are the typical targets of allegations, and in 2009, Bangui prison officials estimated that women accused of practicing witchcraft composed 50 to 60 percent of their prison’s female population.

Muslims are also persecuted by the government and face social discrimination. According to the U.S. State Department, low-level bureaucrats have created informal barriers that prevent access to Muslims from services like citizenship documentation. Muslims are viewed as “foreigners” to some of the population, and are resented because of their generally better-than-average living standards. The U.S. State Department also reports that the Ministry of the Interior refused to register a new political party that stated its purpose was to defend the interests of Muslims in the country. They were asked to change their focus from primarily Muslim interests before attempting to register again.

2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Central African Republic

Central African Republic - New World Encyclopedia

Central African Republic Country Profile- BBC News

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 November 2011 20:49