Côte D'ivoire - Religions
In 2002, approximately 30% of the population were Christian, with the majority (about 19%) affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. There are a number of Protestant denominations represented in the country, including Methodist, Baptist, Assemblies of God, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. About 1% belong to the Harrist Church, a Protestant denomination founded in 1913 by the Liberian minister William Hade Harris. There are also a number of syncretic religions combining Christian tenets with African traditional customs and beliefs. These include the Church of the Prophet Papa Nouveau and Eckankar. About 39% of the population are Muslim, nearly 12% practice traditional indigenous religions, and about 17% claim no religious preference or affiliation. There are a small number of Buddhists.
Religious and political affiliation often follows ethnic and regional lines. Most Muslims live in the north and most Christians live in the south. Traditionalists are generally concentrated in rural areas in the north and across the center of the country. The Akan ethnic group traditionally practices a religion called Bossonism. The Baoules, an ethnic group that is largely Catholic, held a dominating position in the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire, which ruled the nation from it's independence in 1960 until 1999.
The constitution implemented in 2000 provides for freedom of religion; however, Christianity has historically enjoyed a privileged status in national life with particularly advantage toward the Catholic Church. For instance, Christian schools have long been considered official schools and so have received subsidies through the Ministry of Education; however, Muslim schools were considered religious institutions and were not considered for similar subsidies until 1994.
In the 2001, President Gbagbo initiated the Forum for National Reconciliation, designed, in part, to ease relationships between religious and ethnic groups. Through the Forum, Muslims accused the government of attempting to create a Christian state. Since then, the president has met with Muslim leaders to discuss their concerns and government leaders have made greater attempts towards interfaith understanding and acceptance.