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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


International Religious Freedom Report
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has a total area of 227,344 square miles and its population is approximately 1,611,000. About half of the country's citizens identify themselves as Christians. Anglicans, Methodists, and the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa--formerly the London Missionary Society--claim the majority of Christian adherents. There also are congregations of Lutherans, Roman Catholics, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists, the Dutch Reformed Church, and other Christian denominations. Most other citizens adhere to traditional indigenous religions or to a mixture of religions. In recent years, a number of churches of West African origin have begun holding services and draw good-sized crowds with a charismatic blend of Christianity and traditional indigenous religions. There is a small Muslim community--approximately 2 to 3 percent of the population--primarily of South Asian origin, and a very small Baha'i community. It is unknown if there are any atheists in the country.

Foreign missionary groups operate in the country, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Quakers, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, and a number of independent evangelical and charismatic Christian groups.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels generally protects this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. There is no state religion. The Constitution also provides for the protection of the rights and freedoms of other persons, including the right to observe and practice any religion without the unsolicited intervention of members of any other religion.

All religious organizations must register with the Government. To register, a group submits its constitution to the Ministry of Home Affairs. After a generally simple bureaucratic process, the organization is registered. There are no legal benefits for registered organizations. Unregistered groups potentially are liable to penalties including fines up to $178 (1,000 Pula), up to 7 years in jail, or both. Except for the case of the Unification Church, there is no indication that any religious organization has ever been denied registration.

The Constitution provides that every religious community may establish places for religious instruction at the community's expense. The Constitution prohibits forced religious instruction, forced participation in religious ceremonies, or taking oaths that run counter to an individual's religious beliefs.

There are no laws against proselytizing.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Constitution provides for the suspension of religious freedom in the interests of national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health; however, any suspension of religious freedom by the Government must be deemed "reasonably justifiable in a democratic society."

In 1984 the Unification Church was denied registration by the Ministry of Home Affairs on the public order grounds stipulated in the Constitution. The Government also perceived the Unification Church to be anti-Semitic and denied it registration because of another constitutional provision that protects the rights and freedoms of individuals to practice their religion without intervention. In the intervening 17 years, the Unification Church has petitioned the offices of the President and Vice President without success, but has made no move to challenge the Ministry's decision in the courts. It is unclear whether the Unification Church maintained a presence in the country during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

Relations between the country's religious communities generally are amicable.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.  

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