REPUBLIC of religious discrimination is still there, just

REPUBLIC OF BENIN

Topic
Area : A (The Protection of Threatened
Religious Minority Groups)

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Benin is a religiously free country. The problem of
religious discrimination is still there, just like any other country, but only
in a bare minimum with peace continually being preserved by all stakeholders,
from the Government, religious leaders, law enforcement, and the people. As a
diverse nation, Benin’s population of 10.8 Million (2016)1 is
divided to different religions such as 48.5% Christian (with Roman Catholic
being the majority, alongside Celestial Christian, and other denominations),
27.75 Muslim (mostly Sunni), 11.6% Voodoo, 2.6% indigenous religious groups,
and 2.6% other religious groups.2 The Census also highlighted the
5.8% of the population that declare no religious affiliation (legally
recognized by the country). It is important to highlight that many individuals
identifying themselves as Christian or Muslim also practice Voodoo or other
traditional religions. Report of discrimination came from the voodoo (Vodun) religion, such as the inability
of individuals to leave or convert from the religious group; as noted by UNICEF
and NGOs such as Plan International3. Discrimination to particular
religious groups are not common, but inter-religious conflict often occurs
between the Vodun and the Catholic
Church, such as the vandalism in the Catholic Prayer Center of Notre Dame de
Lanta. Land disputes between religious groups also occur, for example when the
residents of Savé destroyed one of the mosques belonging to the Benin Chapter
of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association (2016). The voodoo religion and the
Catholics mostly have an ideological debate
rather than a physical conflict.4

Benin is a party of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and religious freedom
is enshrined in the constitution5, establishing a secular state6,
prohibiting religious discrimination, and providing for freedom of religious
thought, expression, and practice, consistent with public order as established
by law and regulations. The government committed to preserve religious
tolerance by creating annual forums (the most notable is the African Initiative
on Education for Peace and Development through Interreligious and Intercultural
Dialogue (2015)), petitioning for the UN Secretary-General to create an
appropriate structure for interreligious and intercultural dialogue for peace
(2016). Interfaith dialogue occurred regularly, for example was the Ecumenical
Foundation for Peace in Africa (EFPA) (2016) that gathered religious and
traditional leaders from Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, France,
and Asia in the city of Azove. As an open-minded country, Benin’s Ministry of
Interior allowed for the registration to form a religious group. Persons who
wish to form a religious group must register with the Ministry of Interior
which include submission of administrative and payment of a registration fee of
50, 000 CFA francs ($80). The Ministry of Defense through its gendarmes (peacekeeping force), generally in rural
areas, and the Ministry of Interior through the police, generally in cities,
have the authority to intervene in conflicts between religious groups to ensure
public order and social peace, provided that the intervention complies with the
principle of state neutrality in religious affairs.7. Benin has a
rigorous stance against Islamic extremism and is committed to establish
international peace and justice through ensuring religious tolerance and
harmonious coexistence. This is shown by sending soldiers to neighboring
Nigeria to join the fight against Boko Haram.8

           

With the commitment that we have for religious freedom, we
would like to provide a set of comprehensive solutions (GLEAM: Guideline, Enforcement,
and Advocacy for Religious Minorities’) that will help all Member State
to ensure legal protection of all religious groups in the world like what we
experience in Benin.  GLEAM will encompass:

The Creation of Universal Guideline
for Religious Minorities’ Protection for Belief Groups and Ethno-Religious
Groups that includes a codified Personal and Collective Rights to
be ensured by Member States in Peace
time and in Conflict with
the help of the International Law Commission and The Special
Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Tasking the Special Rapporteur on
Freedom of religion or belief with
the Religious Minorities’ Rights Enforcement
Mechanism to help states implement guideline to national legislation,
also to make an annual Protect
Religious Freedom Report
with a tiering system of basic protection of religious rights (Religiously Free(Green), Countries of
Particular Concern (Yellow), Special Watch List Countries (Countries with
Severe Violations-Red)
Advocacy
Measures by Member States to
ensure solid implementation of the guideline which include: a) mutual collaboration between state
and religious communities and, b) inter-faith education

 

 

1 Data
taken from “Benin: Country Profile”, https://data.worldbank.org/country/benin (29/12/2017)

2
Based on a 2013 Census, cited in the International Religious Freedom Report of
Benin for 2016, US Department of State (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and
Labor).

3
Executive Summary, Benin 2016 International Religious Freedom Report, p.1

4
Canada: Immigration and Refugee
Board of Canada, Bénin : information sur les conflits entre les adeptes du
vaudou et les chrétiens; information sur le groupe connu sous le nom de «
sakpata », leurs rites d’initiation, ainsi que la protection offerte par l’État
aux personnes qui refusent de se soumettre à ces rites (2012-octobre 2013), 11 October 2013, BEN104596.EF ,
available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/52eb86514.html accessed 29
December 2017

5
Article 23 of the Constitution

6
Article 2 of the Constitution

7
Ibid, p. 2

8
http://religion-freedom-report.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/country-reports/benin.pdf