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Mozambique


International Religious Freedom Report
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
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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; however, the Constitution bans religious denomination-based political parties as threats to national unity.

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 308,642 square miles and its population is approximately 17 million.  According to the National Institute of Statistics, half of the population does not profess to practice a religion or creed; however, scholars at local universities assert that virtually all persons recognize or practice some form of traditional indigenous religions.  Of the approximately 8 million persons who do profess a recognized religion, 24 percent are Roman Catholic, 22 percent are Protestant, and 20 percent are Muslim.  Many Muslim clerics disagree with this statistic, claiming that Islam is the country's majority religion. 

Religious communities are dispersed throughout the country.  The northern provinces and the coastal strip are most strongly Muslim, Catholics predominate in the central provinces, and Protestants are most numerous in the southern region.  Government sources note that evangelical Christians represent the fastest growing religious group, with the number of young adherents under age 35 increasing rapidly.

There are 394 distinct denominations of religions registered with the Department of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Justice.  Among Muslims only a generic "Islamic" community (Sunni) and the Ismaili community are registered.  Among Christians, the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Greek Orthodox Churches are registered along with Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Congregational, Seventh-Day Adventist, Mormon, Nazarene, and Jehovah's Witnesses groups, as well as many evangelical, apostolic, and Pentecostal churches.  The Zion Christian Church, the largest of the African Independent Churches in Mozambique, also has a large number of adherents.  Jewish, Hindu, and Baha'i communities also are registered and constitute small minorities.  Religious communities tend to draw members from across ethnic, political, economic, and racial lines.

Traditional indigenous practices and rituals are present in most Christian churches, including Catholic churches, and in most Muslim worship.  For example, members of these faiths commonly travel to the graves of ancestors to say special prayers for rain.  Similarly Christians and Muslims continue to practice a ritual of preparation or inauguration at the time of important events (e.g. a first job, a school examination, a swearing-in, etc.), by offering prayers and spilling beverages on the ground to please ancestors.  Some Christians and Muslims consult "curandeiros," traditional healers or spiritualists--some of whom are themselves nominal Christians or Muslims--in search of good luck, healing, and solutions to problems.

Dozens of foreign missionary and evangelical groups operate freely in the country, representing numerous Protestant denominations along with the Summer Institute of Languages Bible Translators and the Tabligh Islamic Call Mission.  Muslim missionaries from South Africa have established Islamic schools (madrassas) in many cities and towns of the northern provinces.

Section II.  Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides that all citizens have the freedom to practice or not to practice a religion and gives religious denominations the right to pursue their religious aims freely, and the Government generally respects these rights 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 1989 Law on Religious Freedom requires religious institutions and missionary organizations to register with the Ministry of Justice, reveal their principal source of funds, and provide the names of at least 500 followers in good standing.  No particular benefits or privileges are associated with the registration process, and there were no reports that the Government refused to register any religious group during the period covered by this report.  The Christian Council reports that not all religious groups register, but unregistered groups worship unhindered by the Government. 

The Government does not favor a particular religion, nor is there a state or dominant religion.  There are no national holidays that are religious in nature, but the Government has a liberal leave policy to permit religious observance.  

The Government routinely grants visas and residence permits to foreign missionaries.  Like all foreigners residing in the country, missionaries face a somewhat burdensome process in gaining legal residency; however, they carry out activities without government interference throughout the country.
 
The Constitution gives religious groups the right to own and acquire assets, and these institutions are allowed by law to own and operate schools.  There are increasing numbers of religious schools in operation; for example, in November 2000, the Islamic community began construction of a primary and secondary school for 1,000 students in Maputo and has established a small college in Nampula.  The Catholic University has educational facilities in Maputo, Beira, Nampula, and Cuamba.  Religious instruction in public schools is prohibited strictly.

A conference of bishops, including Catholic and Anglican members, meets regularly and consults with the President of the Republic.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The law governing political parties specifically forbids religious parties from organizing, and any party from sponsoring religious propaganda.  In late 1998, the Independent Party of Mozambique (PIMO), a predominantly Muslim group without representation in Parliament, began arguing for the right of political parties to base their activities on religious principles.  The Government has tolerated PIMO's activities, although it has criticized the group.  PIMO and some members of the legislature argued that the Movimento Islamico, a parliamentary caucus of Muslims from the ruling Frelimo party, was tantamount to a religious party.

Most places of worship nationalized by the State in 1977 have been returned to the respective religious organizations; however, the Catholic Church and certain Muslim communities maintain that some properties such as schools, clinics, and private residences remain in state hands.  The issue of restitution is complex, because some of these buildings are being used for government-administered schools and clinics, and the final responsibility for establishing a process for property restitution rests with provincial governments.  In April 1999, an independent newsletter claimed that the State had not returned Catholic schools and seminary property in Inhambane, Maputo, Niassa, and Zambezia provinces.  The Islamic community continued with its efforts to reclaim properties held by the State in Ressano Garcia, Inhambane, Beira, Nacala, and Pemba.  These complaints and government decisions are debated periodically, although the churches have not asked for the return of the property in order to avoid depriving the local population of access to social services.  The return of property increasingly appears to involve negotiation or collaboration, rather than recourse to the judicial system; for example, there is a state-administered school on Catholic Church property.  

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

In January 2000, the Supreme Court acquitted an imam who was arrested in 1999 in connection with a murder; in July 2000, the court found 2 other men guilty of the murder and sentenced them to 9 and 16 years' imprisonment.

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 among communities of different faiths generally are amicable, especially at the grassroots level.  The black and Indian Islamic communities tend to remain separate; however, there were no reports of conflict.

The 4-year-old Forum of Religions, an organization for social and disaster relief composed of members of the Christian Council of Mozambique, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Muslim, Baha'i, and Jewish communities is an example of interfaith cooperation.  The goal of the forum is to offer collective assistance to the needy, without regard to creed.  During the floods of early 2000 and 2001, numerous religious communities jointly contributed to flood relief efforts.

In November 2000, various religious and civic society organizations, such as the League of Human Rights, the Islamic Council, the Christian Council, and the Bar Association formed a Civil Society Commission.  The body investigated the deaths from asphyxiation of approximately 100 prisoners in Montepuez, Cabo Delgado.  However, a prominent Maputo imam noted that the Islamic community often is left out of this type of social and political dialog.

The Catholic Church played a leading role in brokering the 1992 Rome Peace Accords between the Frelimo Government and Renamo opposition coalition.  Since that time, it has continued to encourage the evolution of the political system.  The Catholic Church and Caritas International, citing the country's successful transition from war to "peaceful communal living," hosted a conference in August 2000 in Maputo on peace and justice.  During the period covered by this report, the Catholic Church published pastoral letters encouraging the faltering dialog between Frelimo and Renamo; strongly criticizing the November 2000 deaths of approximately 100 prisoners in Montepuez, Cabo Delgado; and criticizing a rise in criminality and corruption, including the November 2000 killing of renowned journalist Carlos Cardoso.

In early 2000, civil society and the media highlighted religious aspects of draft Family Law legislation.  Debate focused on the need for legal recognition of religious and common law marriages, as only civil marriages are legal at present.  Under the proposed law, polygamous marriages would not be recognized, although the law would offer protection to the widows and children of polygamous unions.  Several leaders within the Islamic community oppose the proposal for not recognizing polygamy.  On the other hand, approximately 50 Muslim women staged a public protest against polygamy in early May 2000.  Some Islamic groups oppose a section of the law that would raise the legal age of marriage to 16 years of age for both men and women.  However, several Christian religious groups have proposed higher minimum ages for marriage, such as 18 or even 20 years of age.

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.  U.S. Government actions in support of religious freedom have involved a variety of demarches on human rights matters to the Government.  The Ambassador and embassy officials also held several meetings with representatives of religious-based nongovernmental organizations, largely in connection with flood relief efforts, as well as with several American missionaries.  



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