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Executive Summary

The constitution provides for freedom of individuals to manifest their religion or belief and prohibits religious discrimination.  It names two co-princes – the president of France and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Urgell in Catalonia, Spain – as joint heads of state.  In accordance with the constitution, the government offers the Catholic Church privileges not available to other religious groups.  In July the government submitted a draft equality and nondiscrimination law, including a prohibition of religious discrimination, to parliament.  A vote on the law was expected in early 2019.  The government again did not respond to requests by Muslim and Jewish groups to build a cemetery.  The government only issued religious work permits to Catholics, but it typically allowed non-Catholics to reside and perform religious work in the country under a different status.

The Muslim community used two prayer rooms, but there was no mosque in the country.  The Catholic Church of Santa Maria del Fener in Andorra la Vella continued to lend its sanctuary twice a month to the Anglican community.

During periodic visits, the U.S. Ambassador, resident in Spain, and the Consul General and other officials from the U.S. Consulate General in Barcelona continued to meet with senior government officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, and Justice, and with Jewish and Muslim leaders.  They discussed such issues as the lack of official status for faiths other than Catholicism and the lack of cemeteries for the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There still was no mosque in the country; the Muslim community relied on two Muslim prayer rooms that it rented in Andorra la Vella and in Escaldes Engordany.

The Catholic Church of Santa Maria del Fener in Andorra la Vella continued to lend its sanctuary twice a month to the Anglican community so that visiting Anglican clergy could conduct services for the English-speaking members of that community.

Antigua and Barbuda

Executive Summary

The constitution provides for freedom of worship as well as the right to practice and change one’s religion.  The government decriminalized marijuana and publicly apologized to the Rastafarian community for previous discrimination.  During the year the government started subsidizing private Rastafarian-run schools not requiring vaccinations for school entry.

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom.

U.S. embassy officials engaged representatives of the government and civil society on religious freedom issues, including the importance of respect for religious diversity.  They discussed issues involving government facilitation of religious diversity and tolerance and equal treatment under the law and the required vaccination of children entering the public school system.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom.


Executive Summary

The constitution states Buddhism is the state religion, and it is promoted by the government through holiday observances, religious training, Buddhist instruction in public schools, and financial support to Buddhist institutions.  The law provides for freedom of belief and religious worship, provided such freedom neither interferes with others’ beliefs and religions nor violates public order and security.  The law does not allow non-Buddhist denominations to proselytize publicly.  The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia sentenced former Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Noun Chea to life imprisonment for ethnic- and religious-based genocide against the ethnic Vietnamese and Cham populations during the Khmer Rouge era from 1975 to 1979.  The government refused to allow the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to permanently accept a group of Christian Montagnards from Vietnam who came to the country to claim refugee status.  There were reports local authorities discriminated against ethnic minorities in the country, including the primarily animist Phnong, such as threatening not to provide public services or sign legal documents.

Villagers killed at least one person suspected of practicing sorcery due to his animist beliefs and practices.  There were continued reports of societal barriers to the integration of the predominantly Muslim Cham ethnic minority as well as Christians.

U.S. embassy officials discussed the importance of religious acceptance and diversity with government representatives, political party leaders, civil society organizations, and leaders of Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim groups.  U.S. embassy officials raised religious freedom and tolerance with Ministry of Cults and Religion (MCR) representatives and other government officials.  The Ambassador traveled to Mondulkiri in January to meet with an ethnic Phnong community, in the process promoting religious tolerance.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In February villagers stabbed to death a 48-year-old farmer in Kampot Province who was accused of sorcery.  In past years, villagers or family members killed or threatened those who were suspected of practicing black magic.

There were reports from members of the Cham Muslim community of barriers to social integration.  Local media reported that some members of the majority Buddhist community continued to view the Cham and other minority ethnic groups with suspicion as purported practitioners of sorcery.

In October The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced plans to construct a temple in Phnom Penh.


Executive Summary

The constitution guarantees freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression, and the right to equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination based on religion.  The government does not require religious groups to register, but registered groups receive tax-exempt status.  In June the Supreme Court held that the law societies of British Columbia and Ontario had the authority to refuse accreditation to a Christian law school that required students to sign a strict code of conduct.  The court ruled it was permissible to limit religious freedom to ensure equal access for all students and the diversity of members of the bar.  In January an Ontario court affirmed the constitutionality of provincial regulations requiring doctors to refer patients seeking services such as assisted death, abortion, or contraception to another practitioner in circumstances where the physicians object to providing the services on religious or moral grounds.  In June a Quebec court indefinitely extended the suspension of the previous Quebec provincial government’s prohibition of religious face coverings when providing or receiving provincial government services.  In June the British Columbia Supreme Court sentenced two convicted polygamists to house arrest plus a year of probation and community service.  The two men stated the conviction violated their religious beliefs.  In November Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized for the government’s 1939 decision to turn away a ship with more than 900 Jews fleeing the Nazis.

Reports continued of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic activity, including cases of violence, hate speech, harassment, discrimination, and vandalism.  According to Statistics Canada’s hate crime statistics for 2017, the number of religiously motivated police-reported hate crimes was 83 percent higher than 2016, increasing to 842 cases.  In 2017, the most recent year for which there were statistics, the B’nai Brith Canada League for Human Rights reported in its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic occurrences there were 16 cases of anti-Semitic violence nationwide and 327 reports of anti-Semitic vandalism.  In July police arrested two men for a violent attack on a Muslim man.  In January on the one-year anniversary of a shooting at a Quebec mosque, police investigated hate messages posted on the walls and door of an Ottawa mosque.

The Ambassador, embassy and consulate officials, and other U.S. government officials raised respect for religious freedom and diversity with the national and provincial governments.  Embassy officials discussed strategies to combat religious intolerance through engagement with religious leaders, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and religious minority groups.  The embassy sponsored and participated in public programs and events encouraging interfaith dialogue and freedom of religion.  In January the Winnipeg Consul General and consulate staff visited the Islamic Social Services Agency to promote interfaith dialogue and explore future opportunities for collaboration.  The embassy amplified these activities through social media.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

During the year, there were reports of various acts directed at religious groups, in particular anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim actions, including physical violence, vandalism, hate speech, violence, and harassment.  In November Statistics Canada released hate crime statistics for 2017.  It reported the number of religiously motivated police-reported hate crimes was 83 percent higher in 2017 than 2016, reaching a total of 842.  Hate crimes targeting Muslims increased 151 percent (349), and hate crimes targeting Jews were up 63 percent (360).  Statistics Canada reported hate crimes against Catholics and other religious groups also increased.

In March a defendant pled guilty to the 2017 killings of six men at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec, according to media reports.  The defendant said he planned the assault after hearing news that Canada was prepared to accept more refugees from Muslim countries.  He said he believed that Muslims posed a threat to his family’s safety.  In June government prosecutors recommended the country’s longest sentence in history, 150 years, but the court had not yet handed down the sentence as of the end of the year.

In July two men attacked a Muslim man in Mississauga, Ontario, as the man and his family were leaving a picnic.  According to media reports, the assailants yelled religious and ethnic slurs at the family, before punching the victim in the face and kicking him when he fell to the ground.  The victim suffered facial fractures and required surgery to stop brain hemorrhaging.  Police investigated the case as a hate crime and arrested two men for assault.  The case was pending as of the end of the year.

In February an Ontario Jewish community center received anti-Semitic hate mail similar to messages sent to several local synagogues in late 2017.  The flyers said it was “Expulsion History Month,” asked “how many times have you been expelled?” and called to “Expel the Jews to the Lake of Fire!”  Police launched an investigation but made no arrests as of the end of the year.

In January on the one-year anniversary of a fatal Quebec mosque shooting, worshippers arriving at an Ottawa mosque found hate messages bearing white supremacist slogans and pictures of Hitler posted on the mosque door and walls, according to media reports.  One of the posters bore the phrase, “There is no god but Hitler, and we are his prophets.”  Police investigated the hate messages but made no arrests as of the end of the year.

In 2017, the most recent year for which there were statistics, the B’nai Brith Canada League for Human Rights reported 16 cases of anti-Semitic violence.  There were 327 reports of vandalism, including the painting of swastikas on buildings, up 107 percent from 2016, accounting for 19 percent of all anti-Semitic reported cases; other categories included harassment and violence.  The league received 1,752 reports of anti-Semitic cases in 2017, compared with 1,728 cases in 2016.  Approximately 80 percent of the occurrences (1,409) involved harassment.  The greatest number of reports (808) came from Ontario, where 13 of the cases involving violence occurred.

Media reported in April that residents of the Ontario town of Puslinch petitioned a provincial court to intervene in the proposed renaming of a street in their town called “Swastika Trail,” according to media reports.  A group of residents launched a campaign in the fall of 2017 to change the name, based on its link to Hitler, the Nazi party, and white supremacism.  Others objected, on the basis that they would incur personal expense to change the address on all of their personal documentation, and also on the grounds that the street was named in the 1920s, when they said the swastika was linked to peace.  A local association sponsored a vote, and residents voted by a slim margin to keep the name.  Two residents who supported the name change then sought judicial review; the case was pending at year’s end.

According to media reports, in January the Royal Canadian Legion in Tignish, Prince Edward Island, asked two Sikh men to remove their head coverings when entering Legion premises.  The men explained they were wearing the items for religious reasons; they said authorities told them they must follow the Legion’s rules, regardless of their religious beliefs.  Other patrons of the Legion reportedly told them they were not welcome in Canada and should return to their “own countries.”  The president of the Tignish Legion subsequently apologized and committed to providing additional training and education for his staff to prevent similar occurrences from happening in the future.

According to an Angus Reid Institute survey, approximately 40 percent of the first- and second-generation respondents said Canada more fully respected religious freedom than did their home country; approximately 40 percent said it was at a similar level.

Numerous interfaith and ecumenical organizations at the national, provincial, and local levels continued to sponsor programs to foster respect for religious diversity, tolerance, and equal treatment for all religious groups.  The groups included the Canadian Council of Churches, United Church of Canada, Catholic Church, the Salvation Army, other Protestant communities, as well as Jewish and Muslim associations.  The Canadian Interfaith Conversation is a collaboration of 41 faith communities and faith-based organizations that collectively “advocate[s] for religion in a pluralistic society and in Canadian public life.”  It spotlighted religious inclusion events held across the country throughout the year on its website.

Central African Republic

Executive Summary

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and equal protection under the law regardless of religion.  It prohibits all forms of religious intolerance and “religious fundamentalism.”  The law also requires the head of state to take an oath of office that includes a promise to fulfill the duties of the office without any consideration of religion.  The government continued to exercise limited control or influence in most of the country, and police and the gendarmerie (military police) failed to stop or punish abuses committed by militias, such as killings, physical abuse, and gender-based violence, including those based on religious affiliation, according to human rights organizations.  The predominantly Christian anti-Balaka and the predominantly Muslim ex-Seleka militia forces continued to occupy territories in the western and northern parts of the country, respectively, and sectarian clashes between them and Christian and Muslim populations continued.  These clashes often included attacks on churches and mosques, and the deaths of religious adherents at those places of worship.  The Muslim community stated there was continued discrimination by government officials on account of their religious beliefs or affiliation, including exclusion from public services, such as access to education and healthcare.

Armed groups, particularly the predominantly Christian anti-Balaka and predominantly Muslim ex-Seleka, continued to control significant swaths of the country and clashes continued throughout the year.  In April and May a joint government and UN operation to disarm a militia group in Bangui’s predominantly Muslim PK5 neighborhood sparked renewed violence.  On May 1, militia gunmen attacked and killed one priest, Father Toungoumale-Baba, 26 worshipers, and injured more than 100 civilians, in the Notre-Dame de Fatima Catholic Church in Bangui.  The following day, anti-Balaka elements burned two mosques in Bangui.  On November 15, a suspected ex-Seleka militia group set fire to the Catholic cathedral and an adjoining internally displaced person (IDP) camp in the city of Alindao, killing Bishop Blaise Mada and Reverend Delestin Ngouambango and more than 40 civilians.

On May 25, the Platform of Religious Confessions (PCRC) composed of Muslims, Catholics, and Protestants, published a memorandum on the continuing political crisis that started in 2012.  The memorandum expressed concerns about the persistence of violence and called for an end to the clashes among the religiously oriented factions.

In May the White House press secretary issued a statement condemning the attacks on the Notre-Dame de Fatima Church in Bangui and retaliatory attacks on Muslims in the weeks that followed.  The press secretary called on the government to provide security for all citizens, regardless of faith.  At the onset of the violence, embassy staff met with government representatives responsible for human rights and religious freedom and encouraged authorities to implement measures to stem the violence.  They also served as intermediaries to help increase communication and trust between the religious leaders and the government, address claims of religious discrimination, and support reconciliation efforts.  Embassy officials engaged the Christian and Muslim communities, including armed group representatives, to discourage further violence.  There were similar meetings with religious leaders and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).  These meetings explored possible solutions and offered assistance to aid the religious communities, promoted the return of IDPs that were dislocated because of religiously based violence, and highlighted the importance of religious tolerance.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

NGOs reported religion continued to be a primary feature dividing the population.  Many Muslim communities remained displaced in the western part of the country, where according to media reports, they were not allowed to practice their religion freely.

Religious leaders generally avoided characterizing the ongoing conflicts as religiously based.  Instead, they identified political and economic power struggles and foreign influence as the root causes.

Catholic Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga cited the practice of Christian leaders sheltering Muslims and Muslim leaders sheltering Christians fleeing conflicts in their respective homesteads.  He highlighted the central role ownership of land and mineral resources played in exacerbating tensions that led to interreligious violence.  Muslim Imam Omar Kobine Layama echoed Nzapalaninga’s view and said the militias and criminal elements had instrumentalized religion to deflect from the true cause of the conflict.  Both Christian and Muslim religious leaders rejected the idea that religion was the cause of the conflict.

In the predominantly Muslim Fulani community, there were complaints that Christian sponsors financed most local media outlets, and these reported negative comments directed towards Muslims.  Since September 2015, there have been no Muslim-operated radio stations or Muslim-oriented programs on national radio stations.

Muslims reported social discrimination and marginalization, including their inability to move freely throughout the country or have equal access to schools, hospitals, or government, and most privately funded, services.

According to religious leaders, Muslims throughout the country faced challenges within their communities because of ethnic differences, such as Muslims of Arab and Peulh (Fulani) ethnicity.  For example, sources stated some Muslims of Arab descent considered themselves superior to Muslims of other ethnicities, and that Muslims who converted from Christianity were frequently treated as inferiors among the Muslim population.  The sources also stated that these converts were often prevented from living in and interacting with some Muslim communities.

Before his death, Father Gbagoua said some Christians reported they felt marginalized by the MINUSCA peacekeeping forces and that, because a large number of MINUSCA forces were Muslims, they exhibited a bias towards their coreligionists.

On February 17, members of the Organization of Young Volunteers for Development (OJVD), a Christian organization, visited the Attik Mosque in Bangui, where they met and discussed peace and cohesion with the Muslim imam.  Participants said this meeting signaled a significant step toward greater interreligious dialogue, especially following the recent outbreaks of violence in Bangui.  Leading the OJVD delegation was its founding president, a former anti-Balaka chief.

On January 14, the secretary general of the Catholic Archdiocese of Bangui expressed concern over the increased number of attacks against churches and mosques as well as the killing of religious leaders.  On a separate occasion, Cardinal Nzapalainga and Imam Layama jointly denounced the killing of religious leaders.  In January the Central African Episcopal Conference, representing Catholic bishops in the country, made a public announcement via local media in which it emphasized the organization’s condemnation of sectarian violence and encouragement of interreligious community peace across the country.

On June 12, Cardinal Nzapalainga called on the population of the primarily Christian community of Yakite District, close to PK5, and Muslim armed groups in PK5, to make peace.

On May 25, the PCRC organized a meeting with participants from various religious groups.  They drafted a joint memorandum calling on the government to use the SCC to prosecute individuals who committed crimes against citizens on account of their religious affiliation.

During a closing Eid-al-Fitr ceremony on June 29, former national anti-Balaka spokesperson Emotion Namsio and former ex-Seleka leader General Abdel Kalhil (Christian and Muslim, respectively) called upon the audience of approximately 100 participants of Christians and Muslims to cease attacking each other because of their religious preferences.  The ceremony was held in a mosque located in a Christian neighborhood in Bangui.


Executive Summary

The constitution provides for the freedom of religion and for the right of individuals to choose their religion, express and disseminate their religious beliefs, and participate in religious observances and ceremonies.  The constitution maintains the separation of government and religion, stipulating religious organizations are prohibited from “interference” in state affairs.  The religion law requires all religious organizations, including those previously registered under an earlier version of the law, to register with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to operate legally, a process also involving the concurrence of numerous government agencies.  The law states the MOJ will not register a religious organization if its goals or activities contradict the country’s constitution or if it is not recognized as a religion by the relevant state body under the grand mufti’s leadership.  The law also states that the government may dissolve a religious organization for activities violating the lawful interests of the country’s citizens or for harming their “health and morale.”  It prohibits all activity by unregistered religious groups.  According to the international religious freedom advocacy nongovernmental organization (NGO) Forum 18, 10 Jehovah’s Witnesses conscientious objectors were imprisoned for refusing military service.  Authorities arrested and detained individuals, including members of religious communities, in harsh conditions.  Forum 18 said there were more than 100 Muslim prisoners of conscience, most being held in the high-security Ovadan Depe Prison.  According to Forum 18, in July the Supreme Court rejected the appeals of five Muslim men who were sentenced in 2017 to 12 years’ prison labor for meeting to pray and study the works of Turkish theologian Said Nursi.  The government did not register any new religious groups during the year.  The government does not offer civilian service alternatives for conscientious objectors, and in September rejected the UN Human Rights Council’s recommendation that it do so.  Local human rights activists stated Ministry of National Security (MNB) and Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) officers responsible for fighting organized crime and terrorism continued to monitor members of religious minorities, including Christian groups, through telephonic and undercover surveillance.  According to local religious communities and international advocacy groups, members of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Protestant groups continued to face harassment, raids, fines, seizure of literature, and house searches.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses reported that authorities detained and questioned both adults and children regarding possessing religious material and participating in religious activities.  The government continued to appoint all senior Muslim clerics, to prevent the importation of religious literature, and to create difficulties for religious groups attempting to purchase or lease buildings or land for religious purposes.  Ethnic Turkmen who converted from Islam continued to say the government scrutinized them more closely than ethnic non-Turkmen converts.

Individuals deviating from so-called “traditional” religious beliefs and practices continued to report societal criticism, harassment, and occasional physical violence, including denunciation by family members, friends, and neighbors for converting to a different religion.  Members of registered Christian religious organizations continued to report ongoing hostility from acquaintances due to their religious affiliation.  Ethnic Turkmen who had converted from Islam received more societal scrutiny than ethnic non-Turkmen converts and continued to be ostracized at community events, especially in rural areas, according to representatives of religious minorities.

In meetings and official correspondence with government officials, the U.S. Ambassador, embassy representatives, and visiting U.S. government officials continued to express concern about arrests and detention of members of religious communities, and harsh prison conditions.  U.S. officials, including the Department of State Special Advisor for Religious Minorities, met with government officials and urged the government to improve its treatment of religious minorities, create civilian service alternatives to military service for conscientious objectors, clarify registration and reregistration procedures for religious organizations, and lift restrictions on the importation and distribution of religious literature.  In October the embassy held a roundtable with various religious organizations to discuss the status of their reregistration, limitations to the importation of religious literature, and restrictions to their religious rights.

Since 2014, Turkmenistan has been designated as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.  On November 28, 2018 the Secretary of State redesignated Turkmenistan as a CPC and announced a waiver of the sanctions that accompany designation as required in the “important national interest of the United States.”

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Local sources said persons deviating from traditional religious beliefs and practices continued to report harassment, such as public shaming, by their family members, friends, and neighbors.  Members of registered Christian groups continued to report hostility from acquaintances due to their religious affiliation.

Persons who joined so-called “nontraditional” religious groups reported continuing societal criticism.  Ethnic Turkmen who converted from Islam received more societal scrutiny than ethnic non-Turkmen converts and continued to be ostracized at community events, especially in rural areas, according to representatives of religious minorities.

According to Open Doors USA, Muslims who converted to Christianity faced pressure and occasional physical violence from families, friends, and local communities to return to their former faith.  Open Doors USA said some converts were locked up by their families for long periods, beaten, and sometimes expelled from their communities.

Forum 18 reported the level of societal harassment again increased for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who stated they continued to be treated with suspicion and scrutiny by fellow citizens.

Western Sahara

Executive Summary

The Kingdom of Morocco claims the territory of Western Sahara and administers the area it controls by the same constitution, laws, and structures as in internationally recognized Morocco, including laws that deal with religious freedom.  The Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO), an organization seeking the territory’s independence, disputes Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over the territory.  According to the Moroccan constitution, Islam is the religion of the state, and the state guarantees freedom of thought, expression, and assembly.  The constitution also says the state guarantees to everyone the freedom to “practice his religious affairs.”  The constitution states the king holds the Islamic title “Commander of the Faithful,” and he is the protector of Islam and guarantor of the freedom to practice religious affairs in the country.  It also prohibits political parties from being founded on religion and forbids political parties, parliamentarians, and constitutional amendments from denigrating or infringing on Islam.  Moroccan law penalizes the use of enticements to convert a Muslim to another religion and prohibits criticism of Islam.  There were no reports of significant government actions affecting religious freedom in the portion of the territory administered by Morocco.

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom.

U.S. officials discussed religious freedom and tolerance with Moroccan officials and also met members of religious minority communities during their visits to the territory.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom in the territory administered by Morocco.


Executive Summary


This separate section on Xinjiang is included given the scope and severity of reported religious freedom violations specific to the region this year.

Multiple media and NGOs estimated the government detained at least 800,000 and up to possibly more than 2 million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other Muslim groups, mostly Chinese citizens, in specially built or converted detention facilities in Xinjiang and subjected them to forced disappearance, torture, physical abuse, and prolonged detention without trial because of their religion and ethnicity since April 2017.  There were reports of deaths among detainees.  Authorities maintained extensive and invasive security and surveillance, in part to gain information regarding individuals’ religious adherence and practices.  The government continued to cite concerns over the “three evils” of “ethnic separatism, religious extremism, and violent terrorism” as grounds to enact and enforce restrictions on religious practices of Muslims in Xinjiang.  The reported intensification of detentions accompanied authorities’ implementation of a Xinjiang counterextremism regulation, enacted in March 2017, which identified many of the behaviors deemed “extremist,” as well as continued implementation of the National Counterterrorism Law, revised during 2018, which addressed “religious extremism.”  In October the Standing Committee of the 12th People’s Congress in Xinjiang revised its regulation to insert guidance on “vocational skill education training centers.”  Authorities in Xinjiang punished schoolchildren, university students, and their family members for praying and barred youths from participating in religious activities, including fasting, during Ramadan.  The government sought the forcible repatriation of Uighur Muslims from foreign countries and detained some of those who returned.

Uighur Muslims reported severe societal discrimination in employment and business opportunities.  In Xinjiang, tension between Uighur Muslims and Han Chinese continued.

Embassy officials met with government officials regarding the treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.  According to a statement issued at the July 24-26 U.S. government-hosted Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, “We are particularly troubled by reports of the Chinese government’s deepening crackdown on Uighurs and members of other Muslim minority groups… [including] the detention of hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, in facilities ranging from makeshift holding centers to prisons, ostensibly for political re-education,” in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.  There are reports of deaths in these facilities.  We call on the Chinese government to release immediately all those arbitrarily detained.”  On September 21, the Secretary of State said, “Uighurs are held against their will in so-called reeducation camps where they’re forced to endure severe political indoctrination and other awful abuses.  Their religious beliefs are decimated.”  On December 21, in discussing why China remained a Country of Particular Concern, the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom said what is happening to Muslim Uighurs is one of the “worst human rights situations in the world.”  In October the then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said, “In China, the government is engaged in the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities that is straight out of George Orwell.”  She added, “It is the largest internment of civilians in the world today” and “It may be the largest since World War II.”

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Because the government and individuals closely link religion, culture, and ethnicity, it was difficult to categorize many incidents of societal discrimination as being solely based on religious identity.  Muslims in Xinjiang faced discrimination in hiring and retaining their positions.

In Xinjiang, policies discriminating against Uighurs, as well as greater access to economic opportunities for Han Chinese, exacerbated tensions between Uighur Muslims and both the Han Chinese and the government.


Executive Summary

The constitution declares the country a Christian nation; the constitution also prohibits religious discrimination and provides for freedom of conscience, belief, and religion.  Prominent religious groups continued to state the government should not be involved in religious affairs, such as organizing national prayer days.  On October 18, the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs (MNGRA) coordinated the fourth National Day of Prayer and Fasting.  Various religious groups raised concerns over the government-managed event, stating it blurred the line between church and state.  The government continued to introduce administrative measures to regulate religious affairs that religious groups said were excessively bureaucratic.  New procedures included a requirement that clergy practicing in the country must have attended a “recognized and reputable” theology school, but the government provided no specific definition or list of acceptable schools.  Religious groups must also belong to a larger religious grouping, locally known as a “mother body.”  To accommodate this requirement, the MNGRA sought to recognize additional church mother bodies to encompass the variety of Christian and other religious groups. Some religious groups remained opposed to the process, as they felt that government was forcing them to align their faith to a particular mother body.  Religious leaders stated the clearance procedures for foreign visitors coming to conduct religious activities remained arduous.  They also criticized public statements by government officials that they said were detrimental to promoting religious tolerance.  For example, in September Minister of National Guidance and Religious Affairs Godfridah Sumaili told the media that inviting Hindus and Muslims to join in the MNGRA-hosted National Day of Prayer event would cause “confusion.”

Incidents of mob attacks and killings of individuals suspected of practicing witchcraft continued throughout the country.  Victims were often elderly persons reportedly associated with witchcraft.  For example, in August a 59-year-old man from Copperbelt Province’s Masaiti District was killed by a mob on suspicion of practicing witchcraft.  Leaders of religious organizations continued to hold regular meetings to promote mutual understanding of and joint advocacy on religious issues.  Among these were joint approaches in favor of restricting government involvement in oversight of worship and religious practice.

U.S. embassy representatives, including the Ambassador, met with government officials to discuss topics related to religious freedom such as enforcement of registration laws and the regulation of new and existing religious groups.  Embassy representatives also met with religious leaders to discuss issues of religious freedom, interfaith relations, and the role of religious groups in the national dialogue process designed to reduce tensions following the disputed results of the 2016 general election.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Incidents of mob violence against and killings of suspected practitioners of witchcraft continued, particularly against elderly citizens.  In August police arrested a 22-year-old man in Central Province’s Serenje District for allegedly killing his 86-year-old grandfather, whom he suspected of practicing witchcraft.  The court case continued at the end of the year.  In the same month, a mob killed a 59-year-old man from Copperbelt Province’s Masaiti District on suspicion that he killed his daughter through witchcraft.

Leaders of religious organizations, including the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops, Council of Churches in Zambia, and Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, continued to hold regular meetings to promote mutual understanding of and joint advocacy on religious issues.  Among these were joint approaches in favor of restricting government oversight of worship and religious practice.  The three mother church bodies also objected to the government sponsoring and organizing the National Day of Prayer.

Religious groups continued to sponsor social and economic programs.  For example, the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops implemented a child protection policy that sought to make the church and society a safe place for children and vulnerable adults.

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