Legislation Factsheet: Attacks on Houses of Worship and Religious Leaders in Burkina Faso

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Burkina Faso is a landlocked west African nation roughly the size of the state of Colorado. The country is home to nearly 20 million people: approximately 61 percent are Muslim, 23 percent are Christian, 15 percent maintain indigenous beliefs, and less than one percent is atheist or practices other religions. A former French colony, Burkina Faso achieved independence in 1960. Following decades of military coups, Blaise Compaoré ascended to the Presidency in 1987 and remained in power for 27 years. In October 2014, President Compaoré’s regime was toppled by widespread civil unrest as he attempted to extend his tenure. Civil society groups played a key role in establishing a transitional government to govern the country until national elections could be held the following year. Following a failed military coup attempt against the transitional government, elections took place in November 2015 and Roch Marc Christian Kaboré became the first non-incumbent elected in the country’s history. Despite its demographic diversity and its political and development challenges, Burkina Faso has long been lauded for its religious tolerance and social harmony. The country is secular, in accordance with the constitution, which along with other laws protects the right of individuals to practice the religion of their choice and change their religion if they desire. In the past, the Burkinabe government has made deliberate efforts to demonstrate equity in its treatment of religious groups, including by allocating an equal amount of funding each to Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, and traditional animistic communities. Both government officials and religious leaders often encourage religious tolerance and praise the country’s history of interfaith harmony in public statements and speeches.