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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Paraguay


Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report
November 17, 2010

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The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

The government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.

There were a few reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice, but prominent societal leaders took positive steps to promote religious freedom.

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 157,047 square miles and a population of 7 million. According to the 2002 national census, 89.6 percent of the population was Roman Catholic and 6.2 percent was evangelical Protestant. There are Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews (Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform), members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Muslims, Buddhists, adherents of the Unification Church, and members of the Baha'i Faith.

The department of Alto Paraná has a notable Muslim community due to immigration from the Middle East, particularly from Lebanon. Mennonite communities flourish in the departments of Boquerón and San Pedro. Members of other religious groups are concentrated in the largest cities, including Asunción, Ciudad del Este, and Encarnación.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The constitution and other laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion and impose few legal restrictions on religious expression or speech. The constitution and other laws protect the right of individuals to choose, change, and freely practice their religion; provide legal protections covering discrimination and persecution; and offer remedies for the violation of religious freedom.

The constitution recognized the historical role of the Catholic Church. Although the government was secular in name and practice, most government officials were Catholic, and Catholic clergy occasionally spoke during official government events. The government permitted political parties to form based on a particular faith. The constitution required the president, vice president, and members of congress to be laypersons.

The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Maundy (Holy) Thursday, Good Friday, Virgin of Caacupe Day, and Christmas.

The constitution provided for conscientious objection to military service. The armed forces have an extensive Catholic chaplain program supported by the government. The Catholic Church considered this chaplaincy to be a diocese and appointed a bishop to oversee the program on a full-time basis. In 2009 a Protestant chaplain was appointed for the first time.

Although the government does not restrict religious publishing or other religious media, such publications were subject to libel law.

The government required all churches and other religious organizations to register with the Vice Ministry of Worship in the Ministry of Education and Culture. Registration included completing required paperwork, obtaining certification as a nonprofit organization, passing financial and criminal background checks, and recertifying annually. After President Lugo took office in 2008, the Vice Ministry of Worship eliminated registration fees for religious organizations. Although the government imposed few controls on religious groups, many remained unregistered, typically small evangelical churches with few members.

The government did not place restrictions on foreign missionaries. The immigration process by which foreigners, including missionaries, obtained temporary or permanent residency remained bureaucratic and required applicants to pay fees in excess of $100 (400,000 guaraníes) per transaction and spend months or even years to obtain permanent residency.

The government permitted but did not require religious instruction in public schools. The government permitted parents to home school or send their children to the school of their choice without sanction or restriction.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period.

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

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were a few reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice, but prominent societal leaders took positive steps to promote religious freedom.

Anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi messages and symbols, including graffiti, appeared infrequently.

In November 2009 the vice president attended the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht) Memorial Event in Asunción to honor Jews who died in 1938 during Kristallnacht. In October 2009 President Lugo spoke at the ground-breaking ceremony for the first Islamic cultural center in the country, which was slated to include a mosque and school.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. The U.S. ambassador and embassy officials met with representatives of various religious groups.



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