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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom:

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Department of State, September 5, 2000


The Constitution provides for religious freedom, and the Government generally respects this right in practice; however, at times it has limited this right.

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 are indications of increasing tension between Christians and Muslims due to the proselytizing by evangelical Christians.

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. Government Policies on Freedom of Religion Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for religious freedom, and the Government generally respects 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. 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. For example, the Minister of Interior banned the Islamic group Faydal Djaria in January 1998. Non-Islamic religious leaders 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.

On May 31, 2000, the Supreme Court handed down a decision rejecting 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.

Religious Demography

Of the total population, 54 percent are Islamic. About one-third are Christian, and the remainder practice traditional indigenous religions or no religion at all. Most northerners practice Islam; most southerners practice Christianity or a traditional indigenous religion. Many citizens, despite stated religious affiliation, do not regularly practice their religion.

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) is 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. Catholic and Protestant (primarily evangelical Christian) missionaries proselytize in the country. Itinerant Muslim imams also visit, primarily from Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Foreign missionaries do not face restrictions but must register and receive authorization from the Ministry of Interior.

Governmental Abuses of Religious Freedom

Within the Islamic community, the Government has intervened to imprison and sanction fundamentalist Islamic imams believed to be promoting conflict among Muslims. A fundamentalist imam in N'Djdamena, Sheikh Faki Suzuki (named after the Suzuki car equipped with loudspeakers that he uses for broadcasting his sermons around town) was restricted from preaching Islam for 6 months, from October 1998 to March 1999, and the authorities also placed him under house arrest. He is no longer under house arrest. However, since the beginning of 2000, he has experienced problems with the Islamic Committee in Ndjamena for painting their name and logo on his car. He was warned twice not to try to represent the committee, and he responded by removing the committee name from his car.

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. 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--although the Tidjani followers are allowed to proselytize.

In both instances, the Government claims that the men were responsible for inciting religious violence; their followers reject the Government's claim and cite religious differences with the Government.

On May 25, 2000, the Sultan of Kanem arrested a large number of adherents of an Islamic 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, and requested the Ministry of Interior to arrest the group's spiritual leader, Ahmat Abdallah. In January 1998, the Minister of Interior banned the group. However, since the beginning of 2000, the group has been increasingly active, resulting in the recent arrests in the Kanem. The new Director of Religious Affairs at the Ministry of Interior has requested that the Superior Council of Islamic Affairs to provide the specific sections of the Koran that support the ban of the group.

There is an undetermined number of Faydal Djaria followers who are prisoners in Kanem.

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

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

Most interfaith dialog happens on an individual level and not through the intervention of the Government. Although the different religious communities generally coexist without problems, some citizens have noted increasing tension between Christians and Muslims due to the proselytizing by evangelical Christians. In addition, tensions and conflicts between government supporters from the politically dominant northern region and rebels from the politically subordinate southern region occasionally have religious overtones.

However, representatives of civil society and religious leaders met under the Ministry of Social Affairs' auspices to develop a new Family Code during the period covered by this report. Although the working group was not able to resolve certain differences between religious groups, the Government still seeks to formulate a Family Code that takes all religious and ethnic groups' social practices into consideration. At issue were traditional Islamic attitudes regarding inheritance, marriage, and other social customs that Islamic leaders consider as fundamental to their religion and not open to compromise.

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.

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