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Religious Liberty in Africa (Part 1 of 3)

7/20/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

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Report Published by Aid to the Church in Need

ROME, JULY 20 2006 (ZENIT) - Aid to the Church in Need released a report on religious freedom around the world.

Religious Liberty in Africa

Although with the ending of a number of civil wars the more intense waves of violence characterizing Angola, the Ivory Coast and Sudan have ceased, the conflict in Uganda that also caused the death of the Caritas worker Okot Stalin and resulted in an atmosphere of persecution addressed at the Catholic Church, is not by any means over.

The efforts to promote dialogue and tolerance made by a number of states, such as Morocco and Tunisia, are opposed by Algeria's reversal through the approval in 2006 of a law punishing conversion from Islam.

In spite of a degree of openness shown by the government, the clash between Islamic extremists and Orthodox Copts, often the victims of threats, attempts at forced conversions and mass attacks, now seems to have become radicalized in Egypt.

The radical Islamic advance is also perceived in Kenya and above all in Nigeria, where the enforcement of Koranic Law tends to also be applied to non-Muslims and has caused continuous tension often resulting in attacks on the Christian communities causing dozens of victims on both sides.

Algeria

In Algeria, the constitution states that Islam is the state religion and forbids all discrimination in respecting various individual freedoms. Although the constitution does not specify this, the government generally respects freedom of worship, although establishing a number of restrictions, such as the need to obtain official acknowledgment from the authorities so as to implement activities.

The Catholic Church, the Protestant community and the Seventh Day Adventists are currently the only non-Islamic denominations acknowledged and allowed to operate in this country.

Those belonging to other religious denominations are obliged to pray without permission and therefore to worship only in private homes, with the exception of the Methodists who are included in the Protestant community.

As far as the activities of Islamic groups in this country are concerned, the authorities exert strict control over the curricula of students in religious universities and also over the imams in the mosques, whose sermons are checked before being held. Furthermore, all activities in mosques are carefully supervised for security reasons and also to prevent the creation of extremist cells.

The government has expressed great concern on the subject of evangelization which caused it to approve a draft bill against proselytism undertaken by Christian groups in the month of October 2005.

The new provisions allow the authorities to forbid the proselytizing activities of non-Islamic religions. In the course of the year, in fact there were increased proselytizing activities by so-called "born again Christians," an expression of American neo-Pentecostal Churches. The phenomenon involving the growth of neo-protestant communities has started to worry the Islamic communities and the Imams in Algeria.

Algeria's small Catholic community has a few hundred believers spread all over its vast territory, about 130 priests and monks, 250 nuns

Angola

The government of Angola respects all religious organizations. During the past year there have been no significant changes in religious legislation, after the approval in March 2004 of a law regulating the requirements for the registration of religious groups, which must have at least 100 thousand adult members resident in the state and be present in at least two thirds of the provinces.

These requirements are addressed at avoiding the proliferation of new Churches and at preventing rituals going against the dignity or safety of people and of public order.

The conflict between the Catholic Radio Ecclesia and the government has not been solved. This radio station -- which has been broadcasting since 1954 and is the most listened to independent radio station -- has for years hosted programs that criticize the government, addressing issues often ignored by other national media, such as, for example, the clashes in the Cabinda region, the conflicts for control over diamond trafficking and the opposition's policies.

This radio station can only broadcast in the Luanda region and for years has unsuccessfully requested authorization to cover the entire national territory. Since the month of November a number of its programs have been broadcast by Vatican Radio so as to also be heard outside Luanda.

Burundi

Promulgated on March 18, 2005, Burundi's new constitution confirms the freedom of worship already established in the previous constitution. Religious organizations must register with the ministry of the interior and have ...

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