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Mozambique


International Religious Freedom Report 2006
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
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The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected 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 faith-based political parties as threats to national unity.

The generally amicable relationship among religious groups 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 an area of 308,642 square miles, and its population is approximately 19.4 million. According to the most recent census conducted by the National Institute of Statistics in 1997, half of the population did not profess to practice a religion or creed; however, religious leaders believed that the census scheduled for 2007 would show that virtually all of these persons recognized or practiced some form of traditional indigenous religion. Of the approximately eight million persons who professed a recognized religion in the 1997 national survey, 24 percent were Roman Catholic, 22 percent were Protestant, and 20 percent were Muslim. Many Muslim leaders disagreed with this statistic, claiming that since Islam is the major religion practiced in the most populous provinces of the country, at least 50 percent of the country's population must be Muslim.

Religious communities were dispersed throughout the country. The northern provinces were most strongly Muslim, particularly along the coastal strip, but some areas of the northern interior were strongly Protestant or Catholic. Protestants and Catholics were more numerous in the southern and central regions, but Muslim minority populations could be found in these areas as well. Government sources stated that evangelical Christians represented the fastest growing religious group. Generally, religious communities tended to draw members from across ethnic, political, economic, and racial lines; however, the increasing immigrant population of South Asian origin was predominantly Muslim and followed the Hanafi school of Islamic Jurisprudence.

There were 722 religious denominations and 124 religious organizations registered with the Department of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Justice. In the period covered by this report, fifty-one denominations and three religious organizations were registered. Major Christian denominations included Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Congregational, Seventh-day Adventist, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, Nazarene, and Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as many other evangelical, apostolic, and pentecostal churches. Many small, independent Protestant and Catholic churches that have split from mainstream denominations fuse African traditional beliefs and practices within a Christian framework. The Brazilian Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, established in Mozambique in 1993, has continued to make significant inroads in the expansion of its countrywide missionary network in addition to financial holdings. The Universal Church owns the Rede Miramar radio and television stations and various real estate holdings throughout the country.

The Government reported that no subgroups were registered under Islam; however, the vast majority of Muslims were Sunni, with the small Shi'a minority being principally of South Asian origin. The three principal Islamic organizations were the Mohammedan Community, Islamic Congress, and Islamic Council. The Kuwaiti-funded and Sudanese-managed NGO African Muslim Agency conducted humanitarian work as did the Muslim development agency Aga Khan. Muslim journalists reported that the distinction between Sunni and Shi'a was not particularly important for many local Muslims, and Muslims were much more likely to identify themselves by the local religious leader they followed than as Sunni or Shi'a. The country's Muslim population represented the four schools of thought in Islamic Law: Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki, and Hanbali.

Jewish, Hindu, and Baha'i groups were registered and constituted a very small percentage of the population.

The country's leading mosques and the Roman Catholic Church have gradually eliminated many traditional indigenous practices from their places of worship, instituting practices that reflect a stricter interpretation of sacred texts; however, some Christian and Muslim adherents continue to incorporate traditional practices and rituals, and religious authorities have generally been permissive of such practices. For example, members of these faiths commonly travel to ancestors' graves to say special prayers for rain. Christians and Muslims continue to practice a ritual of preparation or inauguration at the time of important events (for example, before a first job, a school examination, or a swearing-in) 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 themselves are nominal Christians or Muslims, in search of good luck, healing, and solutions to problems. Curandeiros are not recognized by the Ministry of Justice's Department of Religious Affairs as representing a distinct religious following.

Dozens of foreign missionary groups operated freely. Most were Protestant evangelical groups, but Islamic and Catholic missionaries were strongly represented as well. Protestant missionary presence was strongest in the south, but missionary groups such as the Nampula-based Sociedade Internacional de Linguistica (International Linguistic Society), supported by the Christian Council of Mozambique, were expanding Bible translation projects in the north. Muslim missionaries from Egypt, Pakistan, and South Africa have established Islamic schools, known as madrassahs, in many cities and towns in the northern provinces, and provided scholarships for students from the south to study in their respective countries. Indian Muslim groups have also developed a significant missionary presence in recent years.

Two prominent Christian figures, Reverend Jamisse Taimo and Reverend Arao Litsure, have chaired the last three National Elections Commissions, in 1999, 2003, and 2004. In 2004 religious leaders also served as chairmen of provincial election commissions in many areas. While President Guebuza is Presbyterian, most prominent figures in the Government are Catholic; only two members of President Guebuza's cabinet are Muslim. However, all major religions and denominations are strongly represented in the National Assembly and in various government ministries.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. The Government at all levels sought to protect this right in full and did not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

In name and practice, the Government does not favor a particular religion, nor is there a state or dominant religion; however, Islamic leaders and journalists objected to what they say is silent discrimination against the Muslim community. They cite the example of the National Family Day, a holiday that is observed on December 25. Officially, there are no national holidays that are religious in nature, but some members of the Muslim community insist that Ide should be made a national holiday if Christmas is observed de facto under the guise of family unification. In December 2005 President Guebuza swore into office the members of the newly created Council of State, an advisory body comprising well-known citizens representing various professions and organizations. As prescribed by law, in addition to the standing members, the president appointed four "personalities of recognized merit," and the Parliament elected seven more. The absence of any prominent Muslim leader on the council caused great controversy in the Islamic community, which believed that their contributions to the country's development warranted a place on the council. After the appointment of Catholic Cardinal Alexandre dos Santos, Muslim leaders complained that the Islamic community was being marginalized and favoritism was being demonstrated toward Christians.

The 1989 Law on Religious Freedom requires religious institutions and missionary organizations to register with the Ministry of Justice, reveal their principal source of funding, 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 reported that not all religious groups register, but unregistered groups worship unhindered by the Government.

The Government routinely grants visas and residence permits to foreign missionaries. Like all foreign residents, missionaries face a somewhat burdensome process in obtaining legal residency; however, they generally conduct their activities without government interference.

The constitution gives religious groups the right to acquire and own assets, and these institutions are allowed by law to own and operate schools, which are increasing in numbers. In 2003 and 2004, Islamic primary and secondary schools were established in the cities of Matola, Xai-Xai, Nampula, Nacala, and Pemba, many with financing from the African Muslim Agency or from prominent local Muslims, many of South Asian descent. Several other Islamic schools are under construction or rehabilitation in other cities. Many Protestant organizations have also opened primary and secondary schools in recent years, primarily in the central and northern provinces. On the university level, the Muslim community has financed the establishment of Mussa Bin Bique University in Nampula, which opened in 2002 and expanded in 2005. The Catholic University has educational facilities in Beira, Nampula, Cuamba, and Pemba. Religious instruction is a primary focus of the new primary and secondary schools, but the universities associated with religious denominations do not emphasize or even offer religious studies. In fact, many students at Catholic University branches are Muslim, particularly in Pemba. During this reporting period, the cardinal of Maputo inaugurated the new Sao Tomas University, and the Catholic Church reported that enrollment is not faith-based. Religious instruction in public schools is strictly prohibited.

A conference of bishops meets regularly and sends pastoral letters documenting issues of national consequence to the president of the republic. Throughout the period covered by this report, Catholic and other Christian groups freely held seminars and participated in government health programs, such as vaccination and cholera awareness campaigns. In February 2006 President Guebuza presided over the four-day launch of his Presidential Initiative on the Fight Against HIV/AIDS. As part of the launch, he invited more than 100 religious leaders representing all faiths to talk about approaches to stem the growing pandemic. This marked the country's first government-initiated interfaith dialogue on an issue of national interest.

Religious activities and positions were reported in the press without restriction; however, some Muslim journalists complained that the press gave more coverage to Christian holidays than Islamic days of cultural and religious importance.

In August 2004 the Government enacted a new Family Law, which replaced the colonial-era civil code and brought the law into compliance with equality provisions of the constitution. The new law raised the marriage age to eighteen for males and females, eliminated the husband's de facto status as head of the family, and legalized civil, religious, and common-law unions. The passage of the law was of particular consequence to the country's major religious faiths as it provided for state recognition of religious weddings for the first time in more than eighty years.

The law does not legally recognize polygyny; however, women in polygamous marriages are granted full marital and inheritance rights.

In May 2006 the Mohammedan Community constructed 150 houses for donation to families displaced by the devastating floods of 2000 and 2001. The $300,000 housing project based in Maputo province won widespread public praise for the scope of its charitable vision and did not exclude non-Muslims from receiving aid. The community planned to construct an additional 250 homes as well as a mosque, primary school, vocational school, orphanage, clinic, pharmacy, and well.

The Catholic Church continues to encourage the evolution of the country's political system principally on the provincial level. The Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM), established in 1948, plays a role in politics. After the Rome Peace Agreement that ended the country's sixteen-year civil war, the CCM's Peace and Reconciliation Committee began collecting and destroying hundreds of armaments and explosives in exchange for agricultural implements and construction materials. During the reporting period the CCM collected fifteen weapons and explosives in the southern region. The CCM also participates in the civil society organization Electoral Observatory, and takes part in key policy debates such as the National Poverty Alleviation Plan.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion; however, the law governing political parties specifically forbids religious parties from organizing and any party from sponsoring religious propaganda.

Most places of worship nationalized by the Government in 1977 have been returned to their respective religious organizations; however, the Catholic Church and a few Muslim communities maintain that other properties, including schools, health centers, and private residences, continue to remain unjustly in state hands. The groups continued to press for their return. The issue of restitution is complex, as many of these buildings continue to be used for government-administered schools and clinics; moreover, while the final responsibility for establishing a process for property restitution lies with the provincial government, it is the Directorate for Religious Affairs that is mandated to address the general issue of the restitution of church properties. Return of the properties often is delayed due to construction of new facilities, particularly schools and health clinics. The Papal Nunciature reported that the Government continued to occupy properties in Inhambane, Maputo, Niassa, and Zambezia provinces that were used for schools, seminaries, and residences, and that the Vatican had entered into negotiations with the Government for their restitution. Because of the complexity of the restitution issue and seeming contradictions within the law, the return of property is seen by the Catholic Church as less a recourse to the judicial system than a process of collaboration.

In June 2004 fourteen American Protestant evangelical missionaries were expelled from the northern city of Montepuez; however, the reason for their expulsion was not religious, and they were able to reestablish missionary activities in other areas of the north.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

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.

Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination

Relations among religious groups generally are amicable, especially at the grassroots level. No religiously inspired altercations between members of different faiths were reported during this period. Within the Islamic community, the black and South Asian communities tend to remain separate, with each group generally attending different mosques and schools. While relations between blacks and established Mozambicans of South Asian origin are generally good, cultural conflict between black communities and South Asian immigrants has led to increasing tensions.

In February 2006 a Maputo newspaper reprinted eight of the Danish cartoons that had sparked world controversy and widespread condemnation by Islamic groups. A protest staged largely by Muslims of South Asian ancestry turned violent in front of the newspaper's office building, and a Muslim journalist reported that the mob attacked black Muslims advocating for peaceful demonstrations and dialogue. While the Muslim community unified to boycott the paper for two months, black Muslims said that the facade of harmony hides the underlying tension and perception they were strong-armed into action. The Government issued a statement condemning the paper's decision to reprint the contentious cartoons and underscored the state's commitment to secular principles and religious freedom, but it did not comment on the violent protest.

Some black Muslims said that the Government's perceived inaction was part of a pattern of political favors being purchased by the wealthy Muslim community mostly comprising South Asians. Black Muslims also see as an indication of favoritism the Government's official acknowledgement of the date of the Ide Muslim festival recognized by the South Asians over the date recognized by the black Muslim leadership.

In October 2005 President Guebuza attended the inauguration ceremony of the country's second oldest mosque, the Mesquita Central da Baixa, originally constructed in 1903. Controversy surrounding the opening ceremony highlighted the growing rift between Muslims of South Asian ancestry, who generally frequent the mosque, and the black Muslim population, which boycotted the ceremony due to the perception that the financial backer of the rehabilitation project was using his wealth in exchange for political favors for South Asians.

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.

 



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