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Ivory Coast - Religion

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 23.7 million (July 2016 estimate). According to the most recent census in 2014, 42 percent is Muslim, 34 percent Christian, and 4 percent adherents of indigenous religious beliefs.

In December 1999, the first coup in lvorian history ended nearly forty years of political stability. Following several more coup attempts, a civil war erupted in September 2002 in which rebels seized the northern half of Cote d'Ivoire, effectively dividing the country along the lines between the historically Muslim north and historically Christian south. During this period-especially in the early days of the rebellion-Muslims and northern immigrants were repeatedly harassed and their homes burned, leaving them hiding out in mosques or fleeing for northern Cote d'lvoire or neighboring states such as Mali and Burkina Faso from which many of them originally came. Religious affiliation today, then, indexes opposing sides in the contemporary national crisis that continues to threaten the unity and viability of the lvorian state.

Many Christians and Muslims also practice some aspects of indigenous religious beliefs. In the northwestern, Muslim area of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), hunters communicate with a forest spirit, Manimory, and the spirits of other dead hunters through ritual sacrifices. The goal is to assure safe hunting. Since spirits cannot speak human language, they communicate through divinatory signs. They also send dreams to hunters.

There is an emerging debate between the religious and the secular constituencies of Ivorian society on attempts to enforce a more liberal framework of sexual morality and gender practices. The enforcement of gender equality and the emerging debate on homosexuality and gay marriage are generally perceived by religious authorities, both Catholic and Islamic, as a threat to traditional morality.

Traditionally, the north is associated with Islam and the south with Christianity, although adherents of both religious groups live throughout the country. The government continued to fund and to organize Hajj pilgrimages for Muslims and pilgrimages to Israel and France for Christians, as well as local pilgrimages for members of independent African Christian churches.

The Muslim Kong Empire was established by the Juula in the early eighteenth century in the north part of the country. Kong became the center of agriculture and crafts during that time. However, ethnic diversity and religious discord gradually made the kingdom collapse. Bondoukou then became a major center of commerce and Islam. The kingdom’s Quranic scholars attracted students from all parts of West Africa.

Dan ethnic youth define their revival of the performance of Ge (pronounced like "gay") - an indigenous religious enactment usually involving masked dancers and music-as an enactment of anti-Islamic ideology. In direct opposition to their parents, some of whom have adopted the strict Wahhabiya form of Islam, and the many Muslims from the West African savanna who have migrated south. These young Dan revive what they call "the religion of Our ancestors" with Ge performance at its center. In discourse, these youth cite the importance of funerals, argUing that they should be conducted according to Dan custom - which includes the music and dance aspects of Ge performance called Getan - as opposed to Islamic Custom, which forbids it.

Christian groups include Roman Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Harrists, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Southern Baptists, Copts, adherents of the Celestial Church of Christ, and members of the Assemblies of God. Muslim groups include Sunnis, Shia, and Ahmadis. Other religious groups include Buddhists, Bahais, Rastafarians, followers of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and Bossonists, who follow traditions of the Akan ethnic group.

The new constitution adopted during 2016 continued to stipulate a secular state that respects all beliefs and treats all individuals equally under the law, regardless of religion. It prohibits religious discrimination in public and private employment and provides for freedom of conscience and religious belief and worship consistent with the law, the rights of others, national security, and public order. It prohibits “propaganda” that encourages religious hatred. It recognizes the right of political asylum in the country for individuals persecuted for religious reasons.

The government refused to register some religious groups because of internal disputes involving applicant groups and the submission of forged documents as part of the applications, according to an official at the Department of Faith-Based Organizations. Specifically, he said the department received some minutes from religious groups’ founding general assemblies that appeared to be forged and did not accurately reflect the organizations from which they were allegedly sent.

On 13 March 2016, a group of six attackers killed 22 people and injured 33 others in Grand Bassam. The terrorists allegedly shouted “Allahu Akbar.” Several religious leaders condemned the attack and encouraged peaceful relations among all religious groups. The president and first lady attended an interfaith ceremony on the Day of Remembrance for those killed during the terrorist attack at which both a priest and an imam said prayers for the victims and an indigenous priest made an offering.

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Page last modified: 19-11-2017 11:44:29 ZULU