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Congo-Brazzaville - Religion

The new constitution, adopted by referendum on 25 October 2015 and promulgated on November 6, prohibits religious discrimination, provides for freedom of religion, bans the use of religion for political ends, and stipulates impositions on freedom of conscience stemming from “religious fanaticism” shall be punishable by law. Police disrupted three Catholic Church masses on the day of the constitutional referendum. In 2015 May the government banned people from wearing full-face Islamic veils in public places.

Christian missionaries were active in the country throughout much of the colonial period in religious teaching, medical work, and primary education. About half the 1970 population were Christian, mostly Roman Catholic. Although Catholic and Protestant mission workers continued to teach most students, schools had been nation¬alized in 1965, and courses had been adjusted to include practical and vocational training that would be useful to the future subsis¬tence farmer or wage worker.

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 4.7 million (July 2015 estimate). A 2012 survey by the Ministry of Economy, Planning, Territorial Management, and Integration estimated 55 percent of the native-born population is Protestant (of which approximately 33 percent belongs to evangelical churches), 32 percent Roman Catholic, and 2 percent Muslim. Another 9 percent belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ on Earth through the Prophet Simon Kimbangu (Kimbanguist), Salvation Army, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). An estimated 2 percent of the population is atheist. A significant portion of the population combines traditional beliefs and practices with Christianity or other religious beliefs.

Many residents not included in government statistics are foreign workers from predominantly Muslim countries. Over the past few years, there has also been an influx of Muslim refugees, particularly from the CAR. According to the president of the High Islamic Council of the Congo (CSIC), there are an estimated 800,000 Muslims, of whom15 percent are citizens. Counting the immigrant community, the total Muslim population may be closer to 15 percent of the total population.

There were unconfirmed reports private citizens had expressed concerns about the potential for rising tensions because of the rapid growth of the Muslim population, especially in Pointe-Noire, the country’s second largest city and economic center. Muslim and Catholic leaders stated, however, they had not received any reports of religiously motivated incidents or actions directed against the Islamic community.

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