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Zambia


International Religious Freedom Report 2003
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.

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 290,586 square miles, and its population is approximately 10.3 million. Approximately 85 percent of the population is Christian; 5 percent is Muslim; 5 percent adhere to other faiths, including Hinduism and the Baha'i Faith; and 5 percent is atheist.

Foreign missionary groups introduced the Christian faith in the 1890s. The majority of indigenous persons, spread throughout the country, either are Roman Catholic or Protestant. In recent years, there has been an upsurge of new Pentecostal churches, commonly known as the "born again" churches, which have attracted many young persons into their ranks.

Muslims are concentrated in certain parts of the country where citizens of Asian origin have settled along the railroad line from Lusaka to Livingstone, in Chipata, and in the eastern province. Most citizens of Asian origin are Muslim, although Hindus constitute a small percentage. A limited number of indigenous persons also are Muslim.

Foreign missionary groups operate in the country and include the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, and the Church of God.

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. Statutes provide effective remedies for the violation of religious freedom. These provisions are enforced in a rigorous and non-discriminatory fashion.

Although a 1996 amendment to the Constitution declared the country a Christian nation, the Government generally respects the right of all faiths to worship freely.

The following religious holidays are considered national holidays: Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas. The observance of these holidays does not negatively impact any religious group.

There are governmental controls that require the registration of religious groups. The Government approves all applications for registration from religious groups without discrimination. There were no reports that the Government rejected any religious groups that attempted to register or obtain licenses. In order to be eligible for registration, groups must exist, have a unique name, possess a constitution consistent with the country's laws, and display compatibility with the peace, welfare and good order of the country. Unregistered religious groups are not allowed to operate in the country under penalty of law. Violators can face a fine and imprisonment of up to seven years in jail.

There were no reports that foreign missionary groups faced any special requirements or restrictions.

The Government permits religious instruction in public schools. Such instruction is conducted in the dominant Christian religion; however, it is not mandatory and students may be excused from it. Religious instruction in Islam and other faiths is conducted in private schools owned and controlled by those faiths.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Oasis Forum, composed of the Law Association of Zambia, the NGO Coordinating Committee, the Zambia Episcopal Conference, the Christian Council of Zambia, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, continued to be active during the period covered by this report. In the past, the Forum was criticized by individuals, including some members of the Government, for publicly opposing efforts to amend the Constitution to enable the President to seek a third term of office. In the current reporting period, there were reports that members of the Government criticized the Oasis Forum over the latter's stance on the constitutional review process and the mode of adoption of the Constitution. In spite of rebukes from government officials against church leaders for taking a stand on political issues, the churches continued to freely and vocally criticize the Government, organize activities, and mobilize public opinion.

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 refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

On July 2, Zambian police in Lusaka raided an Islamic school and arrested an Indian man and a Congolese accomplice for unlawful confinement and child abuse. The 2 men arrested were holding 280 boys between the ages of 4 and 10 under harsh conditions. The children, who were recruited from poor areas of the country, were forced to study Arabic and Islam. Police reported that some of the boys had been held for 1 to 3 years. During the following week, police raided two similar Islamic schools in the Lusaka area. The investigations were still ongoing at the close of the period covered by the report.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

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

Leaders of various ecumenical movements, such as the Zambia Episcopal Conference, the Christian Council of Zambia, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, hold regular meetings to promote mutual understanding and interfaith dialog, and to discuss national issues.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

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



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