The Ministry of Islamic Affairs continued its efforts to implement a 2014 decree executing a law on state control of mosques, which converted the status of imams into civil service employees under the ministry and transferred ownership of mosque properties and other assets to the government. Government officials stated the decree aims to eliminate political activity from mosques, provide greater government oversight of mosque assets and activities, and counter perceived foreign influence. Reports state the implementation process has been slow. Less than half of the mosques in the country had an imam who was considered a civil service employee. The ministry met with an association of civil service employee imams to provide training and hold discussions on issues of concern.
In May the government inaugurated the newly-renovated al-Rahma Mosque in Djibouti City. The mosque had been closed since July 2014 when its imam was detained for 48 hours on charges of inciting an illegal demonstration. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs selected al-Rahma’s new imam, a civil service employee.
The government continued to permit registered non-Islamic groups to operate freely, including Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches. For several of these groups, the government subsidized the cost of utilities at church properties. Religious groups not independently registered with the government, such as Ethiopian Protestant and non-Sunni Muslim congregations, operated under the auspices of registered groups. Smaller groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Bahais, were unregistered but operated privately without incident.
The government legally recognized Islamic marriages conducted under the auspices of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and civil marriages conducted under the auspices of the Ministry of Interior. It did not recognize non-Islamic religious marriages.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs began a program this year in which religious leaders visit public schools for one-hour sessions to answer students’ questions about religion. These sessions are not mandatory and are attended by students only on a voluntary basis.
The government allowed non-Islamic religious groups to host events and encourage others to join their religion on the groups’ private property; in practice, groups refrained from proselytizing in public spaces. The government permitted a limited number of Christian missionaries to sell religious books and pamphlets.
The government issued visas to foreign Islamic and non-Islamic clergy and missionaries, but required them to belong to registered religious groups before they could work in the country or operate nongovernmental organizations.