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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Guinea-Bissau


International Religious Freedom Report 2004
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 as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has a total area of 13,948 square miles, and its population is 1,388,363. Approximately 49 percent of the population follows traditional indigenous or animist religious practices, 38 percent of the population are Muslim, and estimates for the percentage of Christians range from 5 to 13 percent. There are few atheists.

Christians belong to a number of groups, including the Roman Catholic Church and various Protestant denominations. Christians are concentrated in Bissau and other large towns. The Muslim population is concentrated in the Fula and Mandinka ethnic groups, and Muslims generally live in the north and northeast. Practitioners of traditional religions inhabit the remainder of the country.

Missionaries from numerous Christian denominations long have been active. Numerous foreign missionary groups operate in the country without restriction.

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 strives to protect this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

There is no state religion. Members of all major faiths are represented in the National Assembly.

Christmas is the only religious holiday considered a national holiday.

The Government requires that religious groups be licensed and did not refuse any applications. There were no reports that new applications were made during the period covered by this report.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion. There were no reports of government harassment or expulsion of religious associations. In 2003, the Ahmadiya, an Islamic religious group expelled from the country in 2001, was permitted to return after the Government determined that former President Yala's decision to expel them had been an illegal breach of due process.

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.

Abuses by Terrorist Organizations

There were no reported abuses targeted at specific religions by terrorist organizations during the period covered by this report.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom. Society is tolerant on religious matters.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. However, since there is no U.S. Embassy in Bissau, the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, handled all official contact with Guinea-Bissau. Local employees staff the U.S. Office in Bissau and American diplomats from the Embassy in Dakar travel frequently to Bissau to conduct normal diplomatic relations.

The Embassy has good relations with leaders of major religious organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and missionary groups in the country, including the National Islamic Council and the Catholic bishops. In November 2003, the Embassy hosted an Iftar dinner for Muslim leaders in Bissau. The Embassy seeks opportunities to further understanding of religious freedom in the United States through public diplomacy programs, such as the International Visitors Program, and publications.



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