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Guyana


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.

Despite ethnic tensions, 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 82,980 square miles, and its population is approximately 700,000. The country is very religiously and ethnically diverse. Nearly half of the population traces its ancestry to the Indian subcontinent, and more than one-third of the population is of African descent. These two major ethnicities, along with smaller groups of native South Americans and persons of European and Chinese descent, practice a wide variety of religions.

Approximately 50 percent of the population are either practicing or nominal Christians--of these roughly one-third are Anglicans, one-quarter are Roman Catholics, and one-quarter are Pentecostals and Baptists; there are smaller percentages of Methodists, Presbyterians, Seventh-Day Adventists, Lutherans, and members of Jehovah's Witnesses. Practicing or nominal Hindus constitute approximately 33 percent of the population, and Muslims (both Sunni and Shia) constitute about 15 percent. There are also a small number of Mormons and Baha'is. Although not included in official figures, substantial numbers of persons practice Rastafarianism and/or a traditional Caribbean religion known locally as "Obeah," either apart from or in conjunction with the practice of other faiths. Members of all ethnic groups are well represented in all religions, with two exceptions: almost all Hindus are Indo-Guyanese, while nearly all Rastafarians are Afro-Guyanese.

There are a wide variety of foreign missionaries in the country.

 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.

Members of all faiths are allowed to worship freely. There is no state or otherwise dominant religion, and the Government practices no form of religious favoritism or discrimination.

Until 1979 almost all elementary and high schools in the country were run by church-affiliated organizations. In 1979 the Government effectively banned such schools, took church school property without compensation, declared that all schools would come under government control, and required that all children attend public, nondenominational schools. However, beginning in the late 1980's, these provisions were relaxed. Both public and religiously affiliated schools exist, and parents are free to send their children to the schools of their choice without sanction or restriction. The Government makes no requirements regarding religion for any official or nonofficial purposes.

The Government has promoted cooperation among religious communities as a means of addressing long-standing racial tensions.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally unrestricted practice of religion.

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 diverse religious communities are amicable. Although significant problems exist between the country's two main ethnic groups, religious leaders have worked together frequently to attempt to bridge these gaps.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

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



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