Similar to reports from previous years, one Seventh-day Adventist student was expelled in Lautem Municipality for absenteeism as a result of his observance of the Sabbath on Saturday, when public schools are in session. As with several similar cases, the Seventh-day Adventist Church brought the student into Dili and enrolled him in a school that provided more flexibility for his observance of the Sabbath.
Religious leaders reported ongoing incidents of individual public servants refusing service to religious minority members. A Pentecostal group reported individual notaries had refused to accept members’ marriage certificates, but the notarial office director reversed the refusals and ensured that marriage certificates from religious minorities were accepted.
Religious minority leaders reported the government continued to reject marriage and birth certificates from religious organizations other than the Catholic Church as supporting documentation for registering for schools and other official acts. Registrations of births and marriages with the government continued to be an option, but civil registration rates remained relatively low, although increasing, in comparison with those of religious certificates. Civil registration later in life was an option and required only a reference from the head of the local community.
The government provided an annual budget allocation of $2 million each to the three Catholic dioceses. A Catholic spokesperson said the government’s yearly budget also provided an additional $9 million for church construction. The allocations were governed by the terms of the concordat with the Holy See. The direct budget allocations to the Catholic Church caused some tension with non-Catholic religious organizations, according to religious leaders. All religious organizations could apply, along with other organizations, for the $9 million in government funding set aside for civil society organizations during the year. The president of the Muslim community reported submitting proposals for funding support, but none received approval. The Protestant Church of Timor-Leste received $10,000 in funding to support their General Assembly.
At least one member of parliament accused Jehovah’s Witnesses of using money to buy people’s faith and suggested the government needed to adopt a law to regulate new religions. The prime minister rejected this suggestion and underlined the country’s respect for religious freedom.
Police cadets receive training in equal enforcement of the law and preventing discrimination, including discrimination based on religion.
An interreligious forum previously coordinated by the government did not meet during the year. A Catholic priest proposed its revival and institutionalization.
Several Catholic holidays were also national holidays, and Catholic religious leaders regularly presided over government ceremonies.