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Diplomacy in Action

Sao Tome and Principe


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.

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 386 square miles, and its population is approximately 160,400 (2004 estimate). The population was predominantly Roman Catholic. No official statistics were available; however, it was estimated that approximately 80 percent of the population was Roman Catholic, 15 percent was Protestant, 3 percent was Muslim, and 2 percent was atheist. Protestantism has grown considerably in recent years due to the success of Protestant missionaries in the country. The number of Muslims has increased due to an influx of illegal immigrants from Nigeria and Cameroon, but no statistics were available. Traditional indigenous religions did not exist. Although witchcraft was practiced, it was not considered to be a religion. Practitioners of witchcraft most often were members of a major religion.

There were Catholic and Protestant missionaries in the country. Missionaries of other religions also operated in the country.

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. There is no state religion.

Religious organizations are required to register with the Government; however, there were no reports that any groups were denied registration or that the activities of unregistered groups were restricted.

There are no restrictions on the activities of foreign clergy, and missionaries in the country operated unhindered.

The Government celebrates some holy days as national holidays. These include Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, All Souls' Day, and Christmas.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

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

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

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

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. embassy, based in Libreville, Gabon, discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall policy to promote human rights. In addition, embassy officials regularly meet with the country's Catholic bishop, Protestant church leaders, and nongovernmental organizations. Following the 2003 coup attempt, the U.S. government also encouraged a formal process of national reconciliation that included leaders of various religious organizations. The final result of the process was the "National Forum" held in July 2004 that included the participation of most secular and religious leaders in Sao Tome and was chaired by an ordained Protestant minister.

 



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