Symposium 2013: Africa

Brent Andrus reporting

Moderator: David Kirkham

Shiferaw Teklemariam – Minister of  Federal Affairs, Ethiopia
Ethiopia has a long history of religious tolerance.  Christianity is the largest faith, followed by Islam at one third of the population. Christianity and Islam coexist without major problems. Religious protection has been provided by the constitution for the past twenty two years.  No one religion is favored and freedom of worship is guaranteed.  New legislation has been proposed that provides for a more straightforward and manageable process for the registration of churches, providing for ownership of property and the right to sue (and be sued). Some religious organizations could be refused recognition if they do not meet certain requirements, including a minimum number of members.

Yao Kouadio – Chief of Staff, Ministere de l’Interieur, Ivory Coast
The country recognizes and espouses plurality…of religions, cultures and ideology. There exists about 367 churches in the country today. The constitution states the country is a democracy and embraces equality and respects all beliefs.  The country is non-denominational, neutral, and favors no community to believers. It encourages interdenominational dialogue between religions, particularly between various Christian sects and Islam. The government sees religion as the leaven of national unity. It allows religions to practice their faith according to their statutes, as long as they comply with the laws of the land. The State does forbid the use of religion for political ends.     

René Ferguson – Principal Tutor, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

South Africa has shifted from a racist society to one of democracy and openness since Apartheid was abolished in 1994. South Africa is home to many religions – various Christian churches, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism.  Indigenous religions are also prominent. With the large diversity of faiths, significant tensions exist in society. These tensions have spilled into public education, the presenter’s field. The Constitution provides for equality for all, including conscience, religious belief, and free exercise of worship and assembly. A Policy on religious education in public schools was put forward in 2003 to provide guidelines for fair and equal treatment of religious education in the classroom, particularly for minority religions. Historically, majority religions were favored at the expense of minority religions. The new religious education policy attempts to correct this bias. One continuing problem is the acceptance or repression of dress and behavior associated with minority religion customs.