Because religious and political issues overlap, it was difficult to categorize some incidents as being solely based on religious identity.
In Lodja, several youths belonging to a party in the president’s majority coalition physically assaulted a Catholic priest, reportedly for commenting in his sermon on a declaration by the Conference of Catholic Bishops (CENCO) considered by some as political.
The government conducted military operations in North Kivu against the ADF, a largely Islamic rebel armed group originating in Uganda. While leaders of the Muslim community reported they kept in frequent contact with the government regarding the ADF, there were reports that in the Beni and Goma areas, the national police and army harassed members of the Muslim community, particularly those dressed in a way that identified them as Muslim. According to the reports this usually involved demanding money or property such as cell phones, and was explained by officials as necessary to control the ADF.
In preparation for the national election scheduled for November 2016, some religious organizations were more outspoken in advocating electoral positions, and there were reports of retaliatory political intimidation. Representatives of the Catholic Church, which publicly urged the government to abide by the constitutionally mandated electoral deadlines, stated they experienced verbal harassment and interference based on their advocacy. CENCO reported harassment of its members, such as phone tapping and threats by national security forces and unfair treatment by government-sponsored media outlets. They stated they believed this was related to their electoral advocacy and not their religious beliefs. After CENCO published a political declaration called “Let’s Protect the Nation,” several church authorities reported being verbally harassed by reporters from the government-owned Radio-Television Nationale Congolaise. The government also closed the Catholic television station (RTCE – Radio Television Catholique Elikya).
Muslim community leaders said the government did not afford them some of the same privileges as larger religious groups. One Muslim leader stated Muslims had continued to be refused the opportunity to organize chaplains to provide services for Muslims in the military, police, and hospitals, despite filing a complaint with the president and his cabinet in 2009.
According to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, there were 404 Catholic organizations, 93 Protestant organizations, 54 Muslim organizations, 2,352 Evangelist organizations, and one Kimbanguist organization registered with the government. Despite the registration requirement, unregistered domestic religious groups stated they operated unhindered. Foreign religious groups reported they operated without restriction after receiving registration approval from the government. The Ministry of Justice has not issued final registration permits since 2012, reportedly due to the fraudulent use of the minister’s signature. In the interim, however, groups have been presumed approved and have been permitted to organize.
Leaders of all major denominations reported their members practiced their faith without interference from the government or local authorities and fully participated in their communities without religious discrimination. Aside from tension over electoral issues, Catholic, Muslim, Protestant, and Kimbanguist religious leaders stated they enjoyed a good relationship with the government, and the government continued to rely on religious organizations to provide public services such as education and healthcare throughout the country. According to the Ministry of Education, approximately 72 percent of primary school students and 65 percent of secondary school students attended government-funded schools administered by religious organizations.
One of the civil society positions on the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) was reserved for a member of clergy. The former head of the CENI was a Catholic abbot.