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Angola

Executive Summary

The constitution defines the state as secular, prohibits religious discrimination, and provides for freedom of conscience, religion, and worship.  The law requires religious groups to seek government recognition by meeting legally established criteria and allows the government to close the premises of unregistered groups.  There are 81 recognized religious groups and more than 1,100 unrecognized religious groups in the country.  The government did not recognize any new religious groups during the year and has not done so since 2000.  Ninety-seven registration applications remained pending at year’s end, among them two from Muslim organizations.  In January, following a year-long dispute, the government recognized new local leadership of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD), which led to the expulsion of 55 Church leaders connected to its Brazilian parent church.  In March, 11 IURD temples under the new leadership were permitted to open, but 340 temples remained closed pending the conclusion of investigations and court cases on charges of tax fraud and money laundering against IURD’s Brazilian leadership.  Some IURD Church members demonstrated against the government closure of their churches.  Also in March, the government relaxed its COVID-19 preventative measures, permitting religious services to be held on any day of the week, but with some occupancy restrictions.  Unlike in 2020, there were no arrests or major protests related to COVID-19 restrictions.

Throughout the year, interfaith religious organizations met to discuss religious freedom issues and to collaborate on social action projects.  In August, an NGO hosted a religious freedom forum attended by interfaith leaders.  The forum participants presented seven recommendations to the government, including recognition of Islam as an official religion.  The government did not respond to those recommendations by year’s end.

Throughout the year, officials from the U.S. embassy raised religious freedom issues with government officials at the national level, including the closure of places of worship, COVID-19 restrictions, long-pending registration applications, and implementation of religious freedom legislation.  Embassy officials spoke with representatives of religious groups and civil society organizations throughout the country to discuss the continuing issue of recognition of religious groups, the IURD intradenominational split, and the effect of continued COVID-19 restrictions on the ability to worship freely.  The embassy promoted religious freedom on its website and through social media platforms.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 33.6 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2014 national census approximately 41 percent of the population is Roman Catholic and 38 percent Protestant.  Individuals not associated with any religious group constitute 12 percent of the population.  The remaining 9 percent is composed of animists, Muslims, Jews, Baha’is, and other religious groups.  Among Protestants, Tocoists (members of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the World) are the largest group, with 2.8 million adherents, according to the Ministry of Culture’s National Institute for Religious Affairs (INAR).  The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD) reports 500,000 members.  Other major Protestant denominations include Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, Baptists, and the Assembly of God Pentecostal.  There is also a small number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country.  INAR reports that in 2018, the most recent data available, there were 122,000 Muslims.  INAR states the number has grown considerably since that time.  A leader of one Muslim organization estimated there are 800,000 Muslims in the country, of whom approximately 95 percent are foreign migrants, mainly from North and West African countries.  There are approximately 350 Jews, primarily resident foreign nationals.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution defines the state as secular and prohibits religious discrimination.  The constitution requires the state to protect churches and religious groups as long as they comply with the law.  The constitution provides for freedom of conscience, religious belief, and worship, and it recognizes the right of religious groups to organize and carry out their activities as long as they adhere to the law.  The constitution permits conscientious objection to military service for religious reasons, prohibits questioning individuals about their religious beliefs for reasons other than anonymous statistical purposes, and specifies the government may not suspend rights related to religion even if the state declares a state of war, siege, or emergency.  It recognizes the right of prisoners to receive visits from, and correspond with, religious counselors.  The law establishes that conscientious objectors may perform civilian service as an alternative to military service.

The penal code increases the penalties for crimes committed because of religion or religious belief, including homicide, verbal or physical assault, discrimination, persecution, defamation, and genocide.  Penalties for such crimes are variable and not based on a formula.  For example, the punishment for willful homicide is 14-20 years in prison, while the punishment for willful homicide carried out on the basis of religious hatred is 20-25 years in prison.  Hate speech, or inciting hate by other forms of communication based on religious belief, is punishable by imprisonment between six months and six years in prison.  Impeding or disturbing a religious service or a funeral also carries criminal penalties.

The law requires religious groups to register to receive government recognition and allows the government to close the premises of unregistered groups.  Legal recognition gives a religious group the ability to purchase property and use its property to hold religious events, exempts it from paying certain property and import taxes, and authorizes the group to be treated as an incorporated entity in the court system.  The law requires 60,000 member signatures from legal residents to apply for registration and requires that at least 1,000 signatures originate from members residing in each of the country’s 18 provinces.  Each signature and resident declaration must be notarized separately.  Religious groups must also submit documents defining their organizational structure, location, methods and schedule of worship, financial resources, and planned construction projects.  The law also establishes qualification requirements for clergy and requires religious doctrine to conform to the principles and rights outlined in the constitution.

The Ministry of Culture, through INAR, is the adjudication authority for the registration process and has an oversight role for religious activities.  INAR assists religious groups through the registration process and analyzes religious doctrine to ensure that it is consistent with the constitution.  There are 81 recognized religious groups and more than 1,100 unrecognized religious groups in the country.  The Baha’i Faith and the World Messianic Church remained the only two non-Christian registered religious organizations.  The other recognized religious groups include 50 Protestant denominations such as Anglican, Baptist, Evangelical, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, and Seventh-day Adventist; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; 28 African Messianic denominations; and the Catholic Church.

Religious instruction is not a component of the public educational system.  Private schools are allowed to teach religion.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

In January, the government recognized new leadership of the IURD temples separate from leaders loyal to IURD’s Brazilian parent denomination.  This followed a 2020 dispute between Brazilian and Angolan IURD pastors, which included allegations of tax fraud and money laundering made by Church members and pastors against the Church’s Brazilian leadership.  Based on those allegations, the government closed all IURD temples in 2020.  In March, the government allowed 11 temples under the new leadership to reopen.  As of December, INAR reported that 340 IURD temples remain closed pending conclusion of criminal investigations and court cases.  In May, the government expelled 55 Brazilian Church leaders who were not members of the newly recognized local IURD denomination.  During the year, leaders loyal to IURD’s Brazilian denomination across the country filed multiple lawsuits in provincial courts to regain control of the denomination.  The lawsuits were pending at year’s end.  Some IURD Church members demonstrated against the government closure of their churches.

INAR reported that the government did not officially recognize any new religious organization during the year and had not done so since 2000.  Unregistered religious groups continued to state that the notary and residential declaration requirements (60,000 total signatures, including 1,000 signatures from each of the country’s 18 provinces), which they estimated to cost approximately 3,300 kwanza ($6) per signature, were too expensive and burdensome for their congregations.  In addition to the signature requirement, the large number of undocumented residents and an unreliable residential registry system continued to present obstacles to registration, according to religious group leaders.

According to INAR, since registration requirements were changed in 2019, which included lowering the number of member signatures required from 100,000 to 60,000, 97 religious groups submitted applications; all were pending government approval at year’s end.  Among those pending, 17 groups had not yet provided the requisite 60,000 signatures but had met the other criteria for approval.  While the law states the government may close the premises of religious groups that do not meet the registration requirements, government officials generally allowed groups with pending applications to hold religious services.

The government continued not to recognize any Muslim groups or issue any licenses to Muslim groups to practice their religion legally.  Requests for official registration submitted in 2019 by two Muslim organizations, CISA (Islamic Community of Angola) and COIA (also translated as the Islamic Community of Angola), remained among the 97 pending applications.  INAR officials said the primary reason Islamic groups had not been recognized was their lack of a single governing body.  In July, COIA leadership held a congress to form the Islamic Council of Angola (CONSIA) to satisfy this requirement but failed to gain enough participation from CISA for INAR to consider it as the single body governing all mosques in the country.  In the past, government officials stated that some practices allowed by Islam, such as polygamy, contradicted the constitution.

The INAR director and Ministry of Culture officials continued to state concerns regarding the proliferation of religious “sects,” some of which they said exploited vulnerable populations with limited financial means by requiring them to provide recurring payments or dues in order to worship or belong to these organizations.

In March, the government relaxed its COVID-19 preventative measures and allowed religious groups to meet on any day of the week instead of just on Saturday and Sunday.  Gatherings for religious services were limited to 50 percent occupancy of the facility used, the same as for nonreligious gatherings.  Churches and mosques generally adapted to the new restrictions; some held multiple smaller services during the day to avoid exceeding the occupancy limits.  Unlike in 2020, there were no arrests or major protests related to COVID-19 restrictions.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

During the year, several religious groups, in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Communication, held an ecumenical dialogue and participated in an interfaith social action initiative called Abraco Solidario (Solidarity Embrace), which provided food to vulnerable populations affected by the severe drought in the southern provinces of Cuando Cubango, Cunene, Namibe, and Huila.  Participants included the Council of Christian Churches in Angola, the Evangelical Alliance, and Catholic organizations Caritas, and Justice and Peace.

Several faith-based organizations linked to the Catholic Church and the Protestant religious group Congregational Evangelical Church in Angola formed the Plataforma Sul (Southern Platform) to advocate for more efficient government and social responses to problems affecting rural communities and minority ethnic groups resulting from the widespread drought, such as food shortages.

In August, the human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) Friends of Angola (FOA) organized a roundtable on religious freedom in the country.  Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim leaders participated, as well as representatives of other NGOs.  FOA presented recommendations from the participants to President Joao Lourenco, members of the National Assembly, and INAR, all calling for changes, such as recognition of Islam as an official religion, improved government dialogue with mosques around the country, no preferential treatment for any religious group by the government, creation of an independent body to regulate national religious affairs, and updates to the 2004 law on religious freedom.  The government had not responded to the recommendations by year’s end.

In addition to the Catholic radio station Ecclesia, which broadcasted in 16 provinces, other Catholic (Vatican Radio and Maria Radio), Methodist, Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Tocoist radio stations also operated in the country under government licenses.  Several religious groups had radio shows on secular radio and TV stations, such as the Jehovah Witnesses and the IURD.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

Embassy officials engaged with government officials throughout the year.  In meetings and communication with officials from INAR and other government agencies, embassy officials encouraged the government to further ease registration requirements for religious groups and discussed the status of religious groups pending their official recognition, the implementation of religious freedom legislation, continuing COVID-19 restrictions on places of worship, and the status of closed mosques and IURD temples.

Embassy officials also engaged with religious communities and civil society representatives throughout the year.  They spoke with religious leaders and NGOs from several provinces, including Luanda, Benguela, Huila, Cuando Cubango, and Cunene, as well as with representatives of multiple religious groups and organizations such as the Congregation of Christian Churches in Angola, the IURD, the Order of Angolan Evangelical Pastors, Jesuit Refugee Services, COIA, and the Jewish group Chabad-Lubavitch.  In these meetings, the main topics related to government recognition of religious groups, the IURD intradenominational split, and the effect of COVID-19 restrictions on religious groups.  In August, embassy officials participated in a roundtable discussion on religious freedom organized by FOA.

The embassy promoted religious freedom on its website and through social media platforms.  It used social media posts to promote the principle of religious freedom as a universal right on International Religious Freedom Day.

Brazil

Executive Summary

The constitution states freedom of conscience and belief is inviolable, provides for the free exercise of religious beliefs, and prohibits federal, state, and local governments from either supporting or hindering any religion.  In April, the Federal Supreme Court (STF) found unconstitutional a 2015 Amazonas State law requiring schools and libraries to keep at least one copy of the Bible in their collections on the grounds it violated the principle of state secularism.  In February, the Rio de Janeiro State Legislative Assembly established a commission of inquiry to investigate increasing religious intolerance and to discuss strategies to promote religious freedom.  In April, the STF upheld as constitutional COVID-19-related government decrees to close religious institutions; some religious groups protested government COVID-19 restrictions on the numbers of worshippers allowed to attend events.  In June, the state of Rio de Janeiro enabled individuals to use the military police’s 190 hotline to report acts of religious intolerance.  In March, the state of Sao Paulo approved a religious freedom law that regulated the constitutional principle of free exercise of faith and established fines of up to 87,000 reais ($15,300) for disturbances of religious ceremonies and cults, vandalism of sacred symbols, and discrimination based on religion in schools.  In July, a Sao Paulo judge acquitted a mother on charges of domestic violence filed after her daughter participated in a Candomble ritual.  The judge stated religious freedom was a constitutional right and there was no justification to restrict a Candomble ritual.  In July, in the state of Maranhao, Afro-Brazilian religious institutions, activists combating religious intolerance, and state government representatives discussed strategies to end attacks on terreiros (temples used in Afro-Brazilian religions).  In August, the federal police launched Operation White Rose to investigate crimes of discrimination or prejudice based on intolerance and the spread of Nazi symbols.  Civil police and the Public Ministry investigated the spread of hatred and threats of violence on social media, including against Jews; in December, civil police and prosecutors launched a series of actions, serving arrest and search and seizure warrants across seven states.  In May, the Sao Paulo Secretary of Justice, through the Inter-Religious Forum for a Culture of Peace and Freedom of Faith, conducted a webinar with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to discuss freedom of religion to promote peace and tolerance in the country and worldwide.  On January 21, municipalities throughout the country commemorated the National Day to Combat Religious Intolerance.

According to press reporting, anecdotal evidence, and other sources, societal respect for practitioners of minority religions – especially Afro-Brazilian religions – continued to be weak, and attacks on terreiros continued.  According to the National Secretariat of Human Rights of the Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights, during the year, the National Human Rights Hotline received 581 calls reporting religious intolerance, compared with 566 reports in 2020.  Media reported individuals set fire to and destroyed Afro-Brazilian places of worship and sacred objects, sometimes injuring or threatening worshippers.  In July, a supermarket employee said his employer verbally harassed and ultimately dismissed him for wearing a protective facemask bearing an Afro-Brazilian deity.  An August report published by the press outlet Globo showed that in the first five months of the year, federal police investigated 36 cases of violations of the country’s laws against the use of symbols to publicize Nazism, a rate on track to be somewhat fewer than the 110 cases opened in calendar year 2020.  A journalist working for one of the country’s largest broadcasters stated that Brazil could attain the economic development enjoyed by Germany “only by attacking Jews.  If we kill a gazillion Jews and appropriate their economic power, then Brazil will get rich.  That’s what happened with Germany after the war.”  In the Israelite Federation of Sao Paulo State’s (FISESP) annual Antisemitism Report, it recorded 57 incidents and allegations of antisemitism in the country from January to July, compared with 149 incidents and allegations during the same period in 2020.  FISESP also reported a total of 92 incidents at year’s end.  FISESP attributed the drop in recorded cases to difficulties in collecting data during COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, when local branch offices were closed.  Media and religious organizations reported an increased number of accounts of hate speech directed at religious minorities on social media and the internet, in particular against practitioners of Afro-Brazilian religions and Jews.  In June, the Federal Public Ministry indicted a man for incitement of Nazism in 2015 on a Russian social network internet site.

During the year, embassy officials assisted the government’s efforts to address the spread of hatred and threats of violence against religious groups.  In January, the embassy organized a virtual roundtable with representatives from religious groups, academia, and the government, including a federal prosecutor, a professor from the University of Chicago, and representatives of both the Interfaith Forum in Sao Paulo and the Muslim Federation of Associations in Brazil, to discuss the legal instruments available in the country to promote tolerance and inclusion.  In August, the Consul General in Sao Paulo met with representatives from Jewish organizations including the Jewish Confederation of Brazil (CONIB), CONIB-Sao Paulo, the Albert Einstein Hospital, and the Harmony Club, a social and cultural club maintained by the Jewish community in Sao Paulo, to promote religious freedom and tolerance.  In October, the Consul General in Rio de Janeiro met Afro-Brazilian religious leaders, community activists, and lawmakers during a meeting at Rio’s Museum of the Republic to discuss religious intolerance against Afro-Brazilian religious communities.  On December 22, the Consul General in Sao Paulo met with the Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Cardinal Odilo Scherer, to discuss interfaith dialogue, the impact of COVID-19 on religious groups, and human rights in the country.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 213.4 million (midyear 2021).  According to a 2019 Datafolha survey, 50 percent of the population identifies as Roman Catholic, the same as the previous survey in 2016 but down from 60 percent in 2014.  Atheists and those with no religion represent 11 percent, and the proportion of evangelical Christians is 31 percent, compared with 24 percent in 2016.  Two percent practice Afro-Brazilian religions, and 3 percent are Spiritists.  According to the 2010 census, the most recently available data from official sources, 65 percent of the population is Catholic, 22 percent Protestant, 8 percent irreligious (including atheists, agnostics, and deists), and 2 percent Spiritist.  Adherents of other Christian groups, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Seventh-day Adventists, as well as followers of non-Christian religions, including Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Afro-Brazilian and syncretic religious groups, such as Candomble and Umbanda, make up a combined 3 percent of the population.  According to the census, there are approximately 600,000 practitioners of Candomble, Umbanda, and other Afro-Brazilian religions.  Some Christians also practice Candomble and Umbanda; however, some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) believe this is significantly underreported, given the number of terreiros located across the country.  According to recent surveys, many Brazilians consider themselves followers of more than one religion.

According to the 2010 census, approximately 35,200 Muslims live in the country, while the Federation of Muslim Associations of Brazil (FAMBRAS) estimates the number to be 1.2 to 1.5 million.  The largest communities reside in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, and Foz do Iguacu, as well as in smaller cities in the states of Parana and Rio Grande do Sul.

According to CONIB, there are approximately 120,000 Jews in the country.  The two largest concentrations are 70,000 in Sao Paulo State and 34,000 in Rio de Janeiro State.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution states freedom of conscience and belief is inviolable, and the free exercise of religious beliefs is guaranteed.  The constitution prohibits federal, state, and local governments from either supporting or hindering any specific religion.  The law provides penalties of up to five years in prison for crimes of religious intolerance, including bullying, employment discrimination, refusal of access to public areas, and displaying, distributing, or broadcasting religiously intolerant material.  By law, courts may fine or imprison for one to three years anyone who engages in religious hate speech.  If the hate speech occurs via publication or social communication, including social media, courts may fine or imprison those held responsible for two to five years.  It is illegal to write, edit, publish, or sell literature that promotes religious intolerance.

Religious groups are not required to register to establish places of worship, train clergy, or proselytize, but groups seeking tax-exempt status must register with the Department of Federal Revenue and the local municipality.  States and municipalities have different requirements and regulations for obtaining tax-exempt status.  Most jurisdictions require groups to document the purpose of their congregation, provide an accounting of finances, and have a fire inspection of any house of worship.  Local zoning laws and noise ordinances may limit where a religious group may build houses of worship or hold ceremonies.

The law protects the right to use animal sacrifice in religious rituals.

Government regulations require public schools to offer religious instruction, but neither the constitution nor legislation defines the parameters.  By law, the instruction must be nondenominational and conducted without proselytizing, and alternative instruction for students who do not want to participate must be available.  Schools are required to teach Afro-Brazilian religion, history, and culture.  The law allows public and private school students, except those in military training, to postpone taking exams or attending classes on their day of worship when their faith prohibits such activities.  The law guarantees the right of students to express their religious beliefs and mandates that schools provide alternatives, including taking replacement exams or makeup classes.

A Rio de Janeiro State law enacted in March permits public and private schools to include subjects in their curricula that address respect for freedom of belief and worship; religious and cultural diversity; combating racism in the country; the important influence of Afro-Brazilian, indigenous, and Jewish faiths in the formation of national society; the relationship between religious freedom and secularity of the state; and the legal consequences of intolerance against expressions of religion.

The law prohibits public subsidies to schools operated by religious organizations.

A constitutional provision provides the right of access to religious services and counsel to individuals of all religions in all civil and military establishments.  The law states that public and private hospitals as well as civil or military prisons must comply with this provision.

A Sao Paulo State law approved in March establishes administrative sanctions for individuals and organizations engaging in religious intolerance.  The new law supplements an existing one from 2019 focused on religious discrimination by broadening the concept of religious intolerance, taking steps to promote religious freedom, and increasing the fines imposed.  Punishments range from a warning letter to fines of up to 87,000 reais ($15,300).

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

In January, the federal government created the National Registry of Religious Organizations, a voluntary database of religious leaders and entities eligible to receive federal funds and to carry out actions in partnership with the Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights.  Social science professor and leader of the Protestantism and Pentecostalism Study Group at the Pontifical Catholic University, Edin Sued Abumanssur, said the program duplicated preexisting databases of religious organizations, and he suggested creation of the new database was an attempt to garner the support of churches in the lead-up to the 2022 presidential election.

In January, the Rio de Janeiro city council created the Parliamentary Front of Religious Freedom.  The purpose of the group, composed of 38 city council members, was to discuss strategies to combat religious intolerance in the municipality.

Acting on a Rio de Janeiro State civil police report that said the state had registered 6,700 crimes of religious intolerance from 2015 through 2019, state legislator Martha Rocha established in February a parliamentary commission of inquiry in Rio de Janeiro’s Legislative Assembly to investigate this increasing number and to discuss possible strategies to promote religious freedom.

On March 3, Governor of Sao Paulo State Joao Doria approved a state-level religious freedom law regulating the constitutional principle of free exercise of faith, including imposing fines of up to 87,000 reais ($15,300) for verifiable cases of disturbances of religious ceremonies and cults, vandalism of sacred symbols, and discrimination in schools, such as prohibiting the use of religious attire.

In March, media reported that evangelical Christians and Catholics in Pernambuco State protested the state’s imposition of COVID-19 related limitations on public religious gatherings.

In April, the STF found that government decrees to close churches and other religious temples throughout the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic were constitutional.  The decision followed the STF review of Sao Paulo Governor Doria’s decree ordering the closure of religious centers to avoid large crowds.  Following the decision, according to press reports, religious groups protested the government’s COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings in Brasilia.  In response to the STF decision, in October, the Sao Paulo legislature overturned Governor Doria’s decree, and it declared religious observances and their respective places of worship were essential activities to be maintained in times of crises, including during pandemics and natural disasters, provided that the activity complied with the recommendations of the Ministry of Health.

In December 2020, the city of Porto Alegre inaugurated a Police Office for Combating Intolerance with a mandate to assist victims of prejudice and investigate discrimination, including religious discrimination.  As of April, the office had registered 169 occurrences, including eight related to religious discrimination.

Beginning in June, individuals could report religious intolerance in Rio State to the military police’s 190 hotline.  The Commission to Combat Religious Intolerance (CCIR), an independent organization comprised of representatives of religious groups, civil society, police, and public prosecutors’ office representatives, was responsible for documenting cases of religious intolerance and assisting victims.  CCTR coordinator Ivanir dos Santos highlighted the importance of this new channel, saying that even though victims were already able to report incidents to civil police, the 190 military police hotline was more easily accessible and familiar.

In June, Bahia’s Court of Justice sentenced Edneide Santos de Jesus, a member of the Casa de Oracao Evangelical Church, to monthly court appearances and community service for repeatedly verbally harassing members of a traditional Candomble temple in Camacari, Bahia.  The court also found de Jesus guilty of spreading rock salt in front of the Candomble temple to “cast out demons.”  The ruling by the Court of Justice was the first ruling of “religious racism” (religious intolerance or prejudice) in the state’s history.

Media reported that in June, during a search for suspected serial killer Lazaro Barbosa, police officers repeatedly entered at least 10 Afro-Brazilian temples in Goias State.  Religious leaders filed a complaint alleging that police used force in their entry, pointed weapons at the heads of those present, and examined mobile phones and computers without a court order.  The Public Security Secretariat of Goias stated that a task force composed of police officers from Goias, the federal district, and the federal highway police was “working with a single purpose:  to guarantee peace to the population of the region and to capture Lazaro Barbosa within the limits of legality.”

In July, a judge on Sao Paulo’s Court of Justice acquitted Juliana Arcanjo Ferreira of charges of domestic violence and bodily harm against her daughter after Ferreira took the 11-year-old to a traditional Candomble rite called a “cure” in October 2020.  The girl’s father filed a police report four months after the ceremony accusing Ferreira of assault, following a weekend visit during which he discovered scars on the girl’s body from the rite, which entailed making small superficial incisions on the skin.  Medical examiners found that the scars from the ritual were mild and did not cause disability; there was no conclusion that they were made under torture or other cruel means.  The judge presiding over the case emphasized that religious freedom was a constitutional right and that the transmission of beliefs to children could not carry criminal consequences if it was done with “respect for life, freedom, and security.”  He continued that there could be no justification, other than religious intolerance, for restricting a Candomble ritual.

In August, the government of Sao Paulo State announced the creation of an Online Diversity Police Station, a tool to enable citizens to report crimes of discrimination and intolerance, including those involving religion, through an online platform.  Per the tool, after reporting, cases were directed for further investigation to the city of Sao Paulo’s newly redesigned 26-person specialized precinct for crimes of discrimination and intolerance.  Alternatively, cases in the interior of Sao Paulo State were directed to the State Criminal Investigation Departments.  Authorities said 20 percent of the state’s police officers in these departments had special training in combating and investigating intolerance.

According to the FAMBRAS, women said they continued to face difficulties in being allowed to wear Islamic head coverings such as the hijab when going through security in airports and other public buildings.

In July, President Jair Bolsonaro met Beatrix von Storch, a German parliamentarian and lawmaker of the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD).  CONIB representatives criticized the welcoming of Storch, saying that the AfD was a party that downplayed Nazi atrocities and the Holocaust.  According to media reports, however, Storch’s official visit did not include any discussion of either Nazism or the Holocaust.

In March, Roberto Jefferson, leader of the Brazilian Labor Party, posted on Instagram, “Baal, Satanic deity, Canaanites and Jews sacrificed children to receive their sympathy.  Today, history repeats itself.”  CONIB said in a statement that Jefferson’s post constituted “a crime of racism, with an increased penalty for having been committed through a social network.”  For an unrelated matter in August, authorities charged Jefferson with belonging to a criminal organization opposing democracy.  He remained in jail, pending trial through the end of year.

In Maranhao State, Afro-Brazilian religious institutions and activists working to counter religious intolerance, together with the public defender, the state prosecutor, and the Order of Attorneys in Maranhao, met in July to discuss strategies to end attacks on terreiros.  According to the State Secretariat for Racial Equality, terreiros, including the Pai Lindomar Temple, had suffered increasingly frequent attacks for several years, despite military police presence in the Anjo da Guarda neighborhood where the temple was located in the state’s capital of Sao Luis.  For example, on average there were five complaints of religious intolerance per year, but in two months of 2021, four complaints of intolerance were filed.

In June, the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Public Ministry of Santa Catarina State (MPSC) shelved an investigation into possible illegal acts by history professor Wandercy Pugliesi.  In 2020, the Liberal Party pressured Pugliesi to step down as a candidate for a local town council election in Pomerode due to his association with neo-Nazi symbols and for not being ideologically aligned with the party.  Pugliesi had a large, tiled swastika symbol in his personal pool and named his son Adolf; police seized Nazi-related materials from him in 1994.  In June, Pugliesi’s lawyers requested that the Public Prosecutor’s Office shelve the case after Pugliesi provided photos showing that the symbol in the swimming pool had been removed.  In September, a member of the Superior Council of the MPSC requested that the Center for Confronting Racial Crimes and Intolerance study the case prior to shelving it.  According to media, while there was no firm timeline for the study, upon completion the MPSC’s Superior Council would consider the results of the study and whether to recommence the investigation.

In August, federal police launched Operation White Rose, a reference to the historical White Rose anti-Nazi movement in World War II Germany, to address crimes of discrimination or prejudice based on race, color, ethnicity, religion, or national origin, as well as the placement of Nazi symbols.  Documents in a database of Safernet Brazil – an NGO that promotes human rights on social networks and monitors radical websites – provided the basis for an operation against a man who made discriminatory comments against categories of individuals that included Jews and Catholics.  According to press reports, the man also displayed Nazi symbols, declared himself to be a Nazi, and disseminated content related to antisemitism and idolatry of Nazism and fascism, with the intention of inciting violence.

During the year, civil police and the Public Ministry initiated Operation Bergon (named after a French nun who helped rescue Jewish children during World War II) to investigate the spread of hatred and threats of violence on social media, including against Jews.  In December, civil police and prosecutors launched a series of actions, serving four arrest warrants and 31 search and seizure warrants across the states of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Norte, Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio do Sul.

The NGO Center for Articulation of Marginalized Populations reported Afro-Brazilian victims of religious intolerance in the state of Rio de Janeiro continued to view police and the judiciary as being indifferent, in general, to attacks on Afro-Brazilian places of worship.  It cited what it said was a lack of investigations and arrests in these cases and that offenders were rarely held accountable.

In April, the STF declared unconstitutional a 2015 Amazonas State law requiring schools and libraries to keep at least one copy of the Bible in their collections on the grounds that it violated the principles of state secularism.  Following the ruling, some postings on social media stated the STF had banned the Bible from schools and public libraries, allegations that the government said were false.

In September, acting Rio State Governor Claudio Castro declared the Terreiro de Gomeia (Gomeia Temple) in Duque de Caxias an historical and cultural heritage site.  Candomble followers founded the Gomeia Temple in the 1950s.  The declaration emphasized the value of Afro-Brazilian religious practices.

On January 21, municipalities around the country commemorated the National Day to Combat Religious Intolerance.  In Rio Grande do Sul, civil police distributed an educational booklet on religious intolerance, including information on what encompasses crimes of religious intolerance and how to report incidents.

On May 25, the Sao Paulo Secretary of Justice, through the Inter-Religious Forum for a Culture of Peace and Freedom of Faith, promoted a webinar in partnership with UNESCO to discuss freedom of religion as an integral effort to promote peace and tolerance in the country and worldwide.  The event included representatives from a variety of faiths including Afro-Brazilian religions, Islam, and Judaism.

In May, Sao Paulo Legislative Assembly Caucus of Religious Freedom representatives held a Sao Paulo State Religious Freedom Week, a series of 16 webinars to promote freedom of religion and tolerance, with the participation of various civil society groups.  Assembly deputy Damaris Moura, who led the promotion for the week’s events, said, “Defending religious freedom for all is a fundamental right constitutionally guaranteed, but still with practical problems.  Therefore, it is always necessary to alert, raise awareness, and prevent.”  The President of the Legislative Assembly, deputy Carlao Pignatari, defined religious freedom as “freedom to profess any religion [and to] hold services and [practice]  traditions related to beliefs,” and he emphasized that religious beliefs should not have “direct influence on the formulation of public policies.”  Approximately 1,000 persons attended the opening event of the week, held at the Legislative Assembly.

The State Secretariat of Human Rights in Espirito Santo State organized a State Week of Combating Religious Intolerance from January 18 to 21.  Programming included a virtual educational campaign on the secretariat’s website, a roundtable on religious intolerance with inmates from the Linhares Detention and Rehabilitation Center, and two seminars on religious intolerance that included speakers representing Catholicism, Protestantism, and Afro-Brazilian religions as well as the State Council for the Promotion of Racial Equality.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Although only approximately 2 percent of the population were followers of Afro-Brazilian religions, a disproportionate number of cases registered by the human rights hotline involved victims who were practitioners of Afro-Brazilian religions. Media reported multiple incidents in which individuals and groups destroyed terreiros and sacred objects.

In January, an unidentified man broke into an Umbanda temple in Duque de Caxias, Baixada Fluminense, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, and set a fire and destroyed sacred religious objects.  According to the temple’s priest, Maria Antonia dos Santos, the man said his pastor had instructed him to break “all the demons he could find in the temple.”  The suspect was arrested the same day and sent to a psychiatric hospital after police concluded he was suffering a mental health crisis.  The leaders of the temple organized a fundraising campaign and rebuilt the temple, which was rededicated in May.

In February, unidentified men set fire to a food stand of Candomble priestess and street vendor Maria Enoia de Sousa, known as Mae Enoia, in Macae, southern Rio de Janeiro State.  The priestess had reportedly been harassed since November 2020, when she had begun selling acaraje, a regional dish associated with practitioners of Afro-Brazilian faiths.  According to media reports, when she attempted to file a police report, the police precinct said she needed to pay a fee of 700 to 800 reais ($120-$140) to conduct the investigation.  Police investigated the case, with monitoring by the CCIR, through year’s end.

In February, Gleidson Lima, an evangelical Christian pastor and leader of the Tenda dos Milagres Church, destroyed Afro-Brazilian sacred objects and offerings in the neighborhood of Belford Roxo, part of the greater metropolitan area of the city of Rio de Janeiro.  A video posted on the internet following the attack showed the pastor stating he was breaking the objects “in the name of Jesus.”  Police indicted Lima on February 24 on charges of religious intolerance, and a trial date was pending at year’s end.

In March, media reported that an unidentified, apparently intoxicated man destroyed a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows in a Catholic church in Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro State.  According to Father Lucas Thadeu, who witnessed the incident, the man broke the statue after declaring that due to his religion he did not like religious images.   Police were investigating at year’s end.

According to media in May, four individuals entered the Nossa Senhora dos Remedios Parish in Osasco, Sao Paulo, and destroyed seven religious images, plus flower vases, and toilets, saying they did so “in the name of Jesus.”  After reviewing security camera footage in June, the Secretariat of Public Security detained four suspects, including two minors.  Police indicted the two adults for the crimes of religious intolerance and “vilification of images” (the mistreatment or disrespect of objects) and took the minors to the Childhood and Youth Court.  Authorities released all the suspects after their hearings to await the outcome of the investigation, which according to media reports, the Ocasco police investigation continued through year’s end.

According to press reports, on December 3, police arrested and charged a man with aggravated theft and arson for the November 26 arson of the Shia Imam Ali Mosque in Ponta Grossa, in Parana State.  The man broke into and set fire to the husseiniya (Shia congregation hall), dirtied the kitchen walls, destroyed masbahas (prayer beads), and set fire to five volumes of the Quran.  The individual confessed to the crime, which carries a possible sentence of up to 14 years in prison.  In response to the attack, Parana Governor Carlos Massa Ratinho Junior stated his support for the mosque, stating, “We will not tolerate any criminal acts, especially those of religious intolerance, like what happened at the mosque, in Ponta Grossa,” and he pledged civil police would conduct a full investigation.

In December, a group of preschool students visited Xica Manicongo, the urban quilombo (a historical community founded by formerly enslaved persons) in the municipality of Niteroi in Rio de Janeiro State, to watch a cultural performance.  Afterward, individuals virtually attacked the participating school on social media.  Commenters conflated the quilombo with an Afro-Brazilian terreiro in the city, with posts using offensive language and criticizing the school administrators for permitting the visit.  In response, Niteroi’s municipal Secretary of Education defended the children’s participation in the event, explaining that schools have “autonomy to develop activities that defend freedom of expression and the antiracist education agenda.”  The secretary’s statement also reiterated that these activities were supported by laws that promote the culture and history of Afro-Brazilian peoples.  In response to the municipality’s clarification, many persons expressed support for the school’s position and the visit.

In February, followers of Afro-Brazilian religions in Maceio, Alagoas State, paid homage to Tia Marcelina, a temple leader whom security forces beat in 1912.  According to the Municipal Foundation for Cultural Action, the objective of the event, which included singing, instrumental music, and the hanging of a banner, was to remember the power and ancestry of the day in history and to renew what the foundation termed the fight against “religious racism.”

In July, former Mundial Supermarket employee Rafael Oliveira denounced the chain for religious intolerance, stating supermarket management verbally harassed, and ultimately fired him when he wore a protective facemask containing an image of the orixa ogun, an Afro-Brazilian deity.  According to Oliveira, other Mundial employees in the northern Rio de Janeiro State city of Ramos wore facemasks in support of other religions and sports teams without reprimand, while a manager told Oliveira to change his mask.  In the three weeks thereafter, the supermarket transferred Oliveira five times and changed his hours eight times before terminating his employment.  The supermarket chain stated that “it does not condone any act of discrimination or religious intolerance and respects all beliefs,” and said Oliveira’s dismissal was not related to discrimination.

In July, Afro-Brazilian religious leaders met with officials from Bahia State’s Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality to discuss a series of attacks against Terreiro Icimimo, a 104-year-old site recognized by the Bahia State government as a cultural heritage site.  That same month, unidentified men had broken into the temple and destroyed sacred objects and outdoor ceremonial spaces.  According to a representative for the terreiro, authorities had not indicted or arrested any suspects by year’s end.

In August, representatives of Afro-Brazilian religions in Pernambuco State, under the coordination of the Pernambuco Terreiros Walk Network (ACTPE), which unites the state’s terreiros to combat racism and religious prejudice, held a demonstration against acts of religious intolerance.  During the event, the representatives announced they had filed a complaint with the Public Ministry of Pernambuco through the State Secretariat for Social Defense against an evangelical Protestant pastor for having maligned Afro-Brazilian religions.  On social networks, Pastor Aijalon Berto of the Evangelical Church Dunamis (meaning power) objected to artistic graffiti panels installed near the Abolition Museum that depicted Afro-Brazilian cultural and religious symbols, saying these were associated with evil and Satan.  In the video, the pastor stated, “Entities referred to in Candomble are witchcraft.”  Civil police said they were investigating the case.  In November, the ACTPE held a second march in conjunction with the start of the country’s Month of Black Consciousness to mark the fight against racism and religious intolerance.  Local and state political leaders spoke alongside Afro-Brazilian religious leaders, calling for respect on a daily basis.

Media continued to report on cases of Candomble practitioners being expelled from the community and being prohibited from wearing the white clothing that is generally used by adherents of the Candomble faith in the area controlled by a criminal group self-identifying as evangelical.  Alvaro Malaqunas Santa Rosa, known as Peixao, who, according to media in 2020, had joined forces with a militia group to expand influence over a group of five favelas (informal housing settlements) to establish what came to be known as the “Complex of Israel” in northern Rio de Janeiro, continued to avoid arrest despite police operations targeting his drug trafficking operation.  As a child, Peixao followed his mother’s Umbanda practices but later converted to evangelical Christianity.

Media continued to report on cases of evangelical Christian missionaries traveling to isolated and recently contacted indigenous communities to proselytize.  Indigenous organizations said these actions violated indigenous peoples’ constitutional right to maintain their cultural heritage and sacred practices and threatened their safety.  In September, STF Minister Luis Roberto Barroso reaffirmed a 2020 court decision that prevented the entry of third parties, including members of religious groups, into areas in which isolated indigenous peoples were living to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

An August report published by Globo using data obtained through the Access to Information Law showed that in the first five months of the year, federal police investigated 36 cases entailing violations of the country’s laws against the use of symbols to publicize Nazism, a rate Globo estimated was on track to be only slightly fewer than the 110 cases opened in all of 2020.  In 2020, the highest number of cases was opened in the southeast of the country, particularly in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro States, with 27 and 23 cases, respectively.  The data did not include the states of Mato Grosso do Sul, Rondonia, and Tocantins.

FISESP’s annual Antisemitism Report recorded 57 incidents and allegations of antisemitism in the country from January to July, compared with 149 incidents and allegations during the same period in 2020.  FISESP also reported a total of 92 incidents at year’s end.  The report was based on a range of sources, including traditional media, social media, and reports from branch offices of the organization.  The survey reported a variety of activities including sightings of swastikas and other antisemitic graffiti, antisemitic hand gestures, and the sale of Nazi artifacts.  FISESP attributed the drop in recorded cases to difficulties collecting data during COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, when local FISESP branches were closed.

From the end of 2020 to May, neo-Nazi cells grew from 349 to 530, according to anthropologist Adriana Magalhaes Dias at the Sao Paulo State University of Campinas.  The cells were most prevalent in the south and southeast regions, with 301 and 193 identified, respectively.  Dias also mapped cells in the midwest (18) and northeast (13).  According to Dias, a neo-Nazi cell was a group of at least three persons inspired by the Nazism in Europe in the 20th century.

According to press reports, on March 12, the federal police raided the Pentecostal Generation Jesus Christ Church in the city of Rio de Janeiro to seize literature and antisemitic materials related to a 2020 video broadcast of the church’s leader, evangelical Pastor Tupirani da Hora Lores, praying with congregants for another Holocaust.  He said, “Massacre the Jews, God, hit them with your sword, for they have left God, they have left the nation.”  The police raid supported a cybercrimes police investigation of the pastor for inciting practitioners to discriminate against Jews through his in-person and online sermons.  In August, press reported that despite the police investigation, the pastor continued to make offensive comments.

Neo-Nazi groups maintained an active presence online.  The National Cyber Crime Reporting Center, operated by Safernet Brazil, recorded for the second year in a row an increase in complaints about internet content supporting Nazism.  During the year, Safernet Brazil stated it received 14,476 reports of neo-Nazi content online, a 60.7 percent increase compared with 2020 and the highest number registered since 2010.  The reports included 894 different webpages, of which 318 were removed by TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter because of content defined as illegal and pro-Nazi.

There continued to be reports of private entities and individuals inciting violence against or engaging in verbal harassment of religious minorities on social media and in the press.  As of August, the Israelite Federation of the State of Rio de Janeiro reported that it had confirmed 10 cases of antisemitism in Rio de Janeiro.  The number of reports of crimes of intolerance – racial, religious, or related to sexual orientation or gender identity – registered by the ombudsman’s office of the Sao Paulo Department of State between January-July represented a 24.5 percent increase compared with the same period in 2020.  During this period, 311 reports were registered, compared with 248 during the same period in 2020.

In June, the Federal Public Ministry indicted a man in the First Federal Criminal Court of Sao Paulo for incitement of Nazism on a Russian online social network in 2015.  Authorities accused the man, who had a history of involvement with neo-Nazi groups, of being responsible for a webpage containing neo-Nazi symbols and photos referencing Adolf Hitler, with faces covered by emojis.  Identified through police cooperation between Brazil and Russia, the man confessed to the authorship of the publications.  The Public Ministry said the man would be prosecuted for inciting discrimination and prejudice based on race, color, religion, or nationality and if found guilty, would be subject to a fine, up to five years in prison, or both.

According to media, on August 7, an unidentified individual or individuals scattered antisemitic pamphlets on the sidewalks and streets of Rio de Janeiro’s Barra de Tijuca neighborhood that stated, “Jews, impulsive accumulators of gold, diamonds, and dollars.”  Rio de Janeiro civil police said they were investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

According to press reports, on August 23, unidentified men online posted pornographic images and antisemitic messages during a virtual Jewish ceremony organized by the Israelite Religious Association in Rio de Janeiro.  Hackers threatened the participants by posting messages such as, “We will burn all synagogues” and “Death to Jews.”  Organizers suspended the event until a new link could be sent to the participants.  Rio de Janeiro police were investigating the case at year’s end. 

In November, journalist Jose Carlos Bernardi, working for Jovem Pan, one of the country’s largest broadcasters, stated that Brazil could attain economic development enjoyed by Germany “only by attacking Jews.  If we kill a gazillion Jews and appropriate their economic power, then Brazil will get rich.  That’s what happened with Germany after the war.”  The journalist and network later apologized for the remarks, following public complaints.

According to FAMBRAS, anti-Muslim messages on the internet, mostly associating Islam with terrorism and spreading messages of hate against Muslim representatives and their religious symbols, continued.  In March, according to FAMBRAS legal advisor Mohamed Charanek, the Court of Justice in Brasilia ordered the removal from social media of all material associating Islam with terrorism posted by a group self-identifying as the “Conservative Party,” a group seeking recognition as a political party.  The court fined the group 10,000 reais ($1,800).

The Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights’ National Secretariat of Human Rights received 581 reports of religious intolerance via the nationwide Dial 100 Human Rights hotline during the year, compared with 566 in 2020.

The Rio de Janeiro Civil Police Office for Racial Crimes and Crimes of Intolerance (DECRADI) reported receiving 78 reports of religious intolerance during the year.  According to the Chief of Police and head of DECRADI, authorities had indicted nine persons on charges of religious intolerance.  The State Secretariat for Human Rights in Rio de Janeiro reported 51 instances of religious intolerance between January and July, compared with 26 instances during the same period in 2020.  Afro-Brazilian religious groups experienced the greatest number of occurrences, with harassment, discrimination, and destruction of religious temples reported regularly.

According to the Bahia State Secretariat of Racial Equality, there were 19 instances of religious intolerance in the state between January and July, compared with eight instances in the comparable period in 2020.

On January 21, in celebration of the Brazilian National Day Against Religious Intolerance, Temple Ile Axe Abassade Ogum organized a tribute to the late Candomble priest Mother Gilda, who experienced verbal abuse involving religious intolerance during her lifetime.  The ceremony took place at Parque do Abaete, in Salvador, Bahia State, the site of a bust of the religious leader.

Bahia State University (UNEB) organized an online event entitled “Religion, (in)Tolerance, and Respect” to celebrate the January 21 National Day to Combat Religious Intolerance.  The UNEB event focused on the growth of religious diversity in the country and how religious intolerance could lead to discrimination and aggression when members of one religious group did not recognize the religious freedom of other religious groups.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

During the year, embassy officials assisted the government’s efforts to address the spread of hatred and threats of violence against religious groups, including by providing information leading to the launch of Operation Bergon.

On January 29, the embassy organized a virtual roundtable with government, legal experts, and interfaith and religious leaders on the legal instruments available in the country to promote tolerance and inclusion.  Panelists included a federal prosecutor, a professor from the University of Chicago, Professor Vania Maria da Silva Soares from the Interfaith Forum in Sao Paulo, and Ali El Zoghbi, vice president of the Muslim Federation of Associations in Brazil in Sao Paulo.

On August 8, the Consul General in Sao Paulo met with representatives of Jewish organizations, including CONIB, CONIB-Sao Paulo, Albert Einstein Hospital, and the Harmony Club, a social and cultural club maintained by the Jewish community of Sao Paulo, to discuss further engagement in support of religious freedom.  On October 22, the Consul General in Rio de Janeiro visited the Museum of the Republic to meet with Afro-Brazilian leaders, activists, priests, prosecutors, and lawmakers involved in the religious freedom and tolerance movement for Afro-Brazilian religious communities.  During the visit, the Consul General toured the “Free Our Sacred” exhibit, which included more than 500 artifacts seized from Afro-Brazilian religious communities during police raids between 1890 and 1945.  On December 22, the Consul General in Sao Paulo met with the Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Cardinal Odilo Scherer, to discuss interfaith dialogue, the impact of COVID-19 on religious groups, and human rights in the country.

Cabo Verde

Executive Summary

The constitution and other laws protect the right of individuals to choose, practice, profess, and change their religion.  The law provides for freedom of religion and worship and provides for equal rights in accordance with the constitution and international law.  The law requires religious groups to prove they have 500 members before they may register formally as such and accords registered groups certain rights and privileges.  Under a concordat with the Holy See, the government recognizes the legal status of the Catholic Church and Catholic marriages under civil law.  All of the country’s prisons suspended activities, including religious assistance such as visits from clergy, during the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although they gradually resumed some assistance at the end of the year.  In October, the Ministry of Justice held a four-day National Meeting on Social Reintegration (of former inmates) with representatives of major religious groups.  In November, President Jose Maria Neves met with Church of the Nazarene General Superintendent Eugenio Duarte, originally from Cabo Verde, to discuss the role of the Church in Cabo Verdean society.  In July and August, the responsible government minister met with representatives of multiple Christian denominations to underscore the government’s stated interest in contributing to the development of the social projects of those institutions.

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

In meetings with government officials, the Ambassador stressed the importance of religious tolerance.  In December, the Ambassador underscored the significance of religious freedom during a gathering of senior officials and Cabo Verdeans of Jewish descent to commemorate the Cabo Verde Jewish Heritage Project.  The embassy partnered with civil society groups, including those with close ties to religious organizations, to support programs of mutual interest, such as strengthening laws that prohibit discrimination on a number of bases, including religion.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 589,000 (midyear 2021).  The preliminary 2020 national census showed a total population of 498,000.  According to the 2010 national census, the most recent to report population by religious grouping, 77 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, 10 percent Protestant, 2 percent Muslim, and 11 percent does not identify with any religion.  The second largest Christian denomination is the Church of the Nazarene.  Other Christian denominations include Seventh-day Adventists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), Assemblies of God, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, Independent Baptists, and other Pentecostal and evangelical Christian groups.  There are small Baha’i and Jewish communities.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution states freedom of conscience, religion, and worship are inviolable and protects the right of individuals to choose, practice, profess, and change their religion and to interpret their religious beliefs for themselves.  It provides for the separation of religion and state and prohibits the state from imposing religious beliefs and practices on individuals.  It prohibits political parties from adopting names associated with specific religious groups.  The constitution prohibits ridiculing religious symbols or practices.

Violations of religious freedom are crimes subject to penalties of between three months and three years in prison.  These may include discrimination against individuals for their expressed religion or lack thereof, violations of the freedom of and from religious education, denial of religious assistance in hospitals and prisons, denial of free speech to religious organizations, threats against places of worship, and violations of conscientious objection within the bounds of the law.

The law codifies the constitution’s religious freedom provisions by providing for equal rights and guarantees for all religions in accordance with the constitution and international law.  The law separates religion and state but allows the government to sign agreements with religious entities on matters of public interest.  Specific sections of the law guarantee the protection of religious heritage, the right to religious education, freedom of organization of religious groups, and the free exercise of religious functions and worship.

A concordat between the government and the Holy See recognizes the legal status of the Catholic Church and its right to carry out its apostolic mission freely.  The concordat further recognizes Catholic marriages under civil law and the right of Catholics to carry out religious observances on Sundays, and it specifies a number of Catholic holidays as public holidays.  It protects places of worship and other Catholic properties and provides for religious educational institutions, charitable activities, and pastoral work in the military, hospitals, and penal institutions.  The concordat exempts Church revenues and properties used in religious and nonprofit activities from taxes and makes contributions to the Church tax deductible.

The law requires all associations, whether religious or secular, to register with the Ministry of Justice.  To register, a religious group must submit a copy of its charter and statutes signed by its members.  Failure to register can impinge on a religious group’s ability to conduct such activities as importing supplies, purchasing land, and constructing places of worship.  Registration provides additional benefits, including exemptions from national, regional, and local taxes and fees.  Registered religious groups may receive exemptions from taxes and fees in connection with places of worship or other buildings intended for religious purposes, activities with exclusively religious purposes, institutions and seminaries intended for religious education or training of religious leaders, goods purchased for religious purposes, and distribution of publications with information on places of worship.  Legally registered churches and religious groups may use broadcast time on public radio and television at their own expense.  The law requires religious groups to obtain the notarized signatures of 500 members before they may begin any activities related to developing their presence in the country.  Failure to present the required signatures prevents religious groups from completing their formal registration process and obtaining tax-exempt status and protections to property and presence in the country.

The law permits conscientious objection to mandatory military service on religious grounds.

According to the law, recognized churches and religious communities or organizations may apply for and obtain authorization to provide moral and religious education in public schools.  Such education is optional, not required.  By law, the government is to ensure necessary conditions to provide moral and religious education in schools without discrimination.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

All of the country’s prisons suspended activities, including religious assistance such as visits from clergy, during the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, although some inmates communicated with religious communities through letters.  Prisons gradually resumed some assistance at the end of the year with support from representatives of several religious groups.  The Ministry of Justice reported that it held a four-day National Meeting on Social Reintegration (of former inmates) in October with representatives of all major religious groups, partners in the implementation of the 2022 National Plan for Social Reintegration.

In November, newly inaugurated President Neves met with a visiting delegation from the Church of the Nazarene led by U.S.-based General Superintendent Duarte, originally from Cabo Verde, to discuss the role of the Church in Cabo Verdean society.  In July and August, Minister of the Presidency and Parliamentary Affairs Filomena Goncalves, who was also responsible for relations with religious groups, met with Catholic, Nazarene, and Seventh-day Adventist representatives to underscore the government’s stated interest in maintaining ties and contributing to development of the social projects of these institutions.  In December, Prime Minister Correia e Silva visited social projects, including preschools, supported by the Nazarene Church.  He announced that the government would meet with leaders from other religious groups in the coming months as part of the new government program “MAIS – Mobilization to Accelerate Social Inclusion” to combat poverty and provide assistance to vulnerable communities.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

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

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

In meetings with government officials, the Ambassador stressed the importance of religious tolerance.  In December, the Ambassador underscored the significance of religious freedom and tolerance during a gathering he hosted of senior officials and Cabo Verdeans of Jewish descent to celebrate the success of the Cabo Verde Jewish Heritage Project.  The embassy partnered with civil society groups, including those with close ties to religious organizations, to support programs of mutual interest, such as strengthening laws which prohibit discrimination on a number of bases, including religion.  An embassy series of videos on social media promoting English language reading featured children’s books highlighting a variety of faiths and religious traditions.

Equatorial Guinea

Executive Summary

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and worship and prohibits political parties based on religious affiliation.  The law states there is no national religion, but by decree and practice, the government gives preference to the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformed Church of Equatorial Guinea, which are the largest religious groups and the only ones not required to register their organization or activities with the Ministry of Justice, Religious Affairs, and Penitentiary Institutions (MJRAPI).  In February, the MJRAPI applied a new regulation on faith-based institutions that requires all evangelical Christian missionaries and leaders to submit a theological certificate (educational credentials or proof of their religious qualifications) in order for their religious groups to continue operating in the country.  According to an evangelical leader, the new regulation was intended to restrict unregistered evangelical institutions.  Evangelical Christians continued to report that residency permits were prohibitively expensive, leading some missionaries to risk the consequences of not obtaining or renewing their permits.

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

The Ambassador met with government officials, including the MJRAPI minister, to discuss the importance of religious freedom and respect for human rights.  Embassy staff members met with the Catholic Archbishop of Malabo, the presidents of the evangelical Christian and Pentecostal communities, and members of the Muslim and Baha’i communities to discuss their experiences as minority religious groups and religious tolerance in the country.  With the Christian leaders, embassy officials also discussed the new certificate requirement.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 857,000 (midyear 2021).  The most recent local census, conducted in 2015, estimates the total population at 1.2 million.  According to the most recent government estimate from 2015, 88 percent of the population is Roman Catholic and 5 percent Protestant.  Many Christians reportedly practice some aspects of traditional indigenous religions as well.  Two percent of the population is Muslim, mainly Sunni, according to the 2015 census.  Most of the Muslim population consists of expatriates from West Africa.  The remaining 5 percent adhere to animism, the Baha’i Faith, Judaism, or other beliefs.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and worship and prohibits political parties based on religious affiliation.  The law states there is no national religion and individuals are free to change religions.  By law, Christians converting to Islam are permitted to add Muslim names to their Christian names on their official documents.

Neither the Catholic Church nor the Protestant Reformed Church of Equatorial Guinea, the two largest religious groups in the country, are required to register with the MJRAPI.  The only religious group to receive state funding for operating educational institutions is the Catholic Church.

Some longstanding religious groups, such as Methodists, Muslims, and Baha’is, hold permanent government authorizations and are not required to renew their registrations with the MJRAPI.  Newer groups and denominations may be required to renew their registration annually.  To register, religious groups at the congregational level must submit a written application to the MJRAPI director general of religious affairs.  Groups seeking to register must supply detailed information about the leadership (e.g., curriculum vitae) and membership of the group, construction plans for religious buildings, property ownership documents, accreditations, and a mission statement from the religious organization’s headquarters, and must pay a fee of 500,000 Central African francs (CFA francs) ($860).  The director general of religious affairs adjudicates these applications and may order an inspection by the MJRAPI before processing.  The government may fine or shut down unregistered groups.  The law requires a permit for door-to-door proselytizing.

An MJRAPI decree specifies that any religious activities taking place outside the hours of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. or outside of registered places of worship require preauthorization from the ministry.  The decree prohibits religious acts or preaching within private residences if those acts involve persons who do not live there.  Foreign religious representatives or authorities must obtain advance permission from the MJRAPI to lead or speak at religious activities, but such permission is not required simply to attend services.  The MJRAPI permission is usually granted for the duration of the foreign religious representative’s visit to the country.  The decree exempts the Catholic Church.

The government recognizes official documents issued by authorized religious groups, such as birth certificates and marriage certificates.

The constitution states individuals are free to study religion in schools and may not be forced to study a faith other than their own.  Catholic religious classes are part of the public school curriculum, but such study may be replaced by non-Catholic religious study or by a recess with a note from a leader of another religious group.

There are several Catholic schools.  Protestant groups, including the Reformed Church, Seventh-day Adventists, Assemblies of God, Methodists, Baptists, and other Christians, operate primary and secondary schools.  These schools must be registered with the government and fulfill standard curriculum requirements.

Most foreigners, including foreign evangelical Christian missionaries, are required to obtain residency permits to remain in the country.  Catholic missionaries are exempt from the residency permit requirement.

By law, the National Day of Prayer, usually celebrated on the first Sunday in April, is an annual event.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.v

Government Practices

In February, the MJRAPI applied a new regulation requiring all evangelical Christian missionaries and leaders, including those previously approved, to submit their theological certificates (i.e., educational credentials or proof of their religious qualifications) as a requirement for their religious groups to continue operating in the country.  This resulted in the dissolution of several unregistered evangelical Christian groups, which, according to sources, at least one evangelical leader believed was the underlying intent of the new rule.  Some evangelical Christian leaders said privately that the new regulation discriminated against them, since it was not applied to all religious groups.  Government officials said the new regulation had been imposed because many evangelical Christian churches had been involved in community scandals or were not respecting the norms for religious practice established by the MJRAPI.  The new regulation did not apply to the Catholic Church or the Reformed Church.

During the year, the government increased the price of registration of religious groups from 100,000 to 500,000 CFA francs ($170 to $860), and some religious groups were granted exceptions by the government and allowed to reregister every two years instead of annually.

While the government continued routinely to grant permission for religious groups to hold activities outside of places of worship, with the exception of private homes, it usually denied permits to hold activities outside of the prescribed hours of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., according to religious leaders.  Authorities permitted all religious groups, including a small number of Baha’i and Jewish groups, to hold services as long as they finished before 9 p.m. and did not disturb the peace.  Evangelical Christian groups stated they continued to hold activities in places of worship outside the prescribed hours with no repercussions.

Evangelical Christians continued to report that residency permits (which are separate from group registration permits) were prohibitively expensive at 400,000 CFA francs ($690) for a two-year period, leading some missionaries to risk the consequences of not obtaining or renewing their permits.  Local police reportedly enforced the requirement with threats of deportation and requested a small bribe as an alternative.  There were no deportations reported.  While the residency permit fee for foreign missionaries was the same as for all other foreigners, if the missionary coordinated with the MJRAPI and was part of a religious group present in the country since independence, a residency permit could be obtained for free, provided applicants could prove their missionary status, meet the new requirement to submit a theological certificate, and pass the requisite security checks.  Catholic missionaries did not require residency permits to remain in the country.

Catholic masses remained a normal part of all major ceremonial functions and were held, for example, on Independence Day (October 12) and the President’s Birthday holiday (June 5).  Catholic leaders were the only religious leaders to regularly meet publicly with the highest-level government officials.  Catholic and Reformed Church leaders were often seated in preferred locations at official functions.

Some non-Catholics who worked for the government continued to report that their supervisors strongly encouraged participation in religious activities related to their government positions, including attending Catholic masses.  Government officials stated that it was expected that they attend major events such as the President’s Birthday Mass at nearby Catholic churches.

The government again did not allow the Muslim community to celebrate Eid al-Adha in Malabo Stadium due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

The National Day of Prayer celebration was again held online due to the pandemic.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

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

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

The Ambassador met with government officials, including the MJRAPI minister, to discuss the importance of religious freedom, efforts to promote religious tolerance, and respect for human rights

Embassy officials also spoke with the Catholic Archbishop of Malabo, evangelical Christian pastors, Protestant leaders, and representatives of the Muslim and Baha’i communities for their insights, as well as to discuss the need to promote mutual understanding, tolerance, and respect for all religious groups, especially for minority religious groups.

Renovation of the Batete Catholic Church – a project developed in 2019 with funding from the embassy, a U.S. oil company, and the national government – continued to be delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guinea-Bissau

Executive Summary

The constitution establishes the separation of religion and state and the responsibility of the state to respect and protect legally recognized religious groups.  It states that all citizens are equal under the law, with the same rights and obligations irrespective of their religion, and it recognizes the freedom of religious groups to teach their faith.  In April, President Umaro Sissoco Embalo discontinued the government’s prior practice of providing financial support for food following Ramadan.  In May, local police injured village protesters in the Bafata region while attempting to enforce a day of prayer established by a regional government authority.  In July, the Ministry of Public Administration set a prayer date for Eid al-Adha and declared the date to be a national holiday.  Some religious leaders said they regarded this action as government interference in Islamic affairs.  Some Islamic and Christian religious leaders commented on a Pentecostal church they believed to be promoting division, intolerance, and disrespect toward other religions.  The government took no action against the church, although a Muslim leader said he reported his concerns about it to the Prime Minister and Interior Minister.

Religious leaders consistently stated that different ethnic and religious groups were still mostly respectful and tolerant of one another throughout the country.  Some religious leaders, however, expressed concern regarding the spread of what they deemed religious extremism.  A nongovernmental organization (NGO) highlighted the growth in the number of cases involving persons accused of witchcraft.  It cited 50 known cases since 2019, including six in 2021 in which the accused person was killed.  Religious leaders consistently identified better education as the most important factor in limiting the spread of religious extremism.

There is no permanent U.S. diplomatic presence in the country.  The United States directs its engagement in the country from the U.S. embassy in Dakar, Senegal.  In October, a visiting official from the Guinea-Bissau Liaison Office at the U.S. embassy in Dakar met separately with Muslim and Christian religious leaders in Bissau to discuss issues of tolerance and coexistence and their concern regarding the spread of religious extremism.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 2.0 million (midyear 2021).  Estimates of the religious composition of the population vary widely, but according to the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project (2020), approximately 46 percent are Muslim, 31 percent follow indigenous religious practices, and 19 percent are Christian.  Groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and those unaffiliated with any religious group.

The Fula (Peuhl or Fulani) and Mandinka (Malinke) ethnic groups are the most numerous followers of Islam.  Muslims generally live in the north and northeast, and most Muslims are Sunni; Shia communities exist as well.  Adherents of indigenous religious beliefs generally live in all but the northern parts of the country.  The Christian population, including Roman Catholics and Protestants, is primarily drawn from the Pepel, Manjaco, and Balanta ethnic groups and is concentrated in Bissau and along the coast.  Catholics represent more than half of the Christian population, while Brazilian Protestant and other Protestant denominations maintain a significant number of congregations and missions throughout the country.  Large numbers of Muslims and Christians hold indigenous beliefs as well.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution stipulates the state shall be separate from religious institutions and shall respect and protect legally recognized religious groups, whose activities shall be subject to the law.  It holds freedom of conscience and religion as inviolable, even if the state declares a state of siege, and provides for freedom of worship so long as it does not violate the fundamental principles cited in the constitution.  It establishes that all citizens are equal under the law, with the same rights and obligations, irrespective of their religion.  Political parties and labor unions are barred from affiliating with a particular religious group.  The constitution recognizes the freedom of religious groups to teach their faith.

The government requires religious groups to obtain licenses.  The formal process, which is not often followed, entails providing the name, location, type, and size of the organization to the Ministry of Justice.  Under the law, religious groups are recognized as associations and benefit from tax exemptions.

In accordance with the constitution, religious instruction is not permitted in public schools.  The Ministry of Education enforces this prohibition.  There are some private schools operated by religious groups.  Private schools must meet government-approved curriculum standards and receive Ministry of Education validation in order to grant nationally recognized diplomas or completion certificates.  The government-approved curriculum standards require a broader base of conventional subjects, such as science and the Portuguese language, rather than a more limited curriculum of Arabic and Quranic studies, as offered in some Islamic schools.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of Special Adviser Luis Olivera Sanca on April 12, President Embalo said the government would no longer support the Muslim community with its traditional offering of rice and sugar during Ramadan.  He indicated that Ramadan fasting was not included in the secular state’s budget.  Multiple religious leaders said that the President’s position was unexpected and not popular within the Muslim community.

A religious leader reported that the Governor of Bafata declared a specific date in May following Ramadan to be a prayer day.  All villages within the region reportedly complied except for the village of Contuboel, whose religious leaders selected a different date to conduct prayers.  Local police forces intervened and clashed with youth from Contuboel, who disagreed with the date decreed by the governor.  The religious leader reported that police injured multiple persons.  Referring to the same incident, a news outlet reported that local police physically abused some inhabitants of a Bafata village when they tried to pray prior to the date proscribed by authorities.  A few religious leaders said this was an isolated incident that was unlikely to occur again.

On July 13, the Ministry of Public Administration set the recitation of Eid al-Adha prayers for July 21 and declared that date a national holiday.  A government spokesperson said the date was set after consultations with several Muslim religious organizations, including the National Union of the Imams of Guinea-Bissau.  However, some religious leaders said they regarded the action as government interference in Islamic affairs.  One religious leader said it was acceptable for the government to set the holiday but not to tell persons when to pray.

In October, some religious leaders said the government had not done enough to combat the threat of extremism.  One Muslim leader said that a small but growing percentage of fundamentalist mosques and schools led by Quranic teachers financed by Islamists operating outside the country were potential incubators of radicalism that promoted ideas conflicting with the more moderate beliefs and traditions commonly found in most mosques in the country.  Another Muslim leader said the government had failed to implement its declaration to transform Arabic-only schools into conventional schools of mixed education that would also include the teaching of Portuguese and secular subjects and provide students with a broader knowledge base to allow them to integrate into society.

Multiple Muslim and Catholic leaders said in October that an independent Pentecostal church, Igreja Assembleia de Deus, promoted division, intolerance, and disrespect toward other religions.  One Muslim leader said he reported his concerns about the church to national authorities but that the government took no action.  Religious leaders said this particular church attempted to provoke youth and destabilize peaceful relationships through broadcasts on Radio Luz, which is affiliated with Igreja Assembleia de Deus.  Radio Luz accused other churches, for example, of being satanic or not adhering to the Bible.  To maintain harmony in the religious community, the former Catholic bishop of Bissau encouraged the church to cease its behavior and its radio broadcasts.  Religious leaders said the church continued to foment discord and discontent even after the bishop’s intervention.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The NGO Human Rights League Guinea-Bissau (HRL) highlighted 50 reported instances of persons being accused of witchcraft since 2019.  Of those, 20 resulted in deaths, with six killings reported in 2021, according to HRL.  An HRL representative said that the trend during the past three years represented a substantial increase in cases and that there was a significant overlap between witchcraft and indigenous religious beliefs.  HRL conducted research to determine why persons were being accused of witchcraft, and it promoted a campaign with religious leaders and village chiefs focused on training and capacity building.  HRL also indicated that it was trying to raise awareness within the government, which had not introduced legislation related to witchcraft.

HRL indicated that its three main objectives included training qualified individuals who can train others to resist various forms of religious radicalization, gathering information to identify signs of religious extremism, and promoting a large conference in Bissau on the issue.  HRL further indicated that its local office was partnering on these initiatives with Chatham House in England and the Timbuktu Institute (African Center for Peace Studies) in Senegal.

Other religious leaders said that different ethnic and religious groups were still mostly respectful and tolerant of one another throughout the country.  Some religious leaders, however, expressed concern regarding the spread of religious extremism.  They identified education as the key mitigating factor to combat the spread of religious extremism, which they believed was a particular risk when young students traveled abroad and were exposed to what they said was a more radical practice of Islam.  One leader stated that children must be taught at a young age to build a strong base of traditional beliefs before being tempted to go abroad, where their beliefs may be easily manipulated.  This leader also emphasized the need to educate youth in modern schools, with a focus on teaching values that promote social and religious peace.  Another individual assessed that Islamic schools offered only Arabic and Quranic studies, many of them connected to newly constructed mosques, and left students isolated from the rest of society.  In response, he noted that his organization built a network of 12 conventional schools offering a government-approved curriculum.

One Muslim leader noted instances which, he said, highlighted religious tolerance, including examples of Muslim families who sent their sons to live with Christian families, in some cases for multiple years.  In these instances, the Muslim sons continued to practice Islam while learning about a different culture and religion.  The Muslim leader also said there were examples of children who attended conventional schools of different faiths while continuing to practice their own religion.  The interim Bishop of Bissau indicated that Catholic schools accepted all students who met the basic criterion of having moral values.  He said the Catholic Church wanted to provide an opportunity for all children to gain an education and to respect the values of different faiths.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

There is no permanent U.S. diplomatic presence in the country.  The United States directs its engagement there from the U.S. embassy in Dakar, Senegal.  In October, a member of the Guinea-Bissau Liaison Office of the embassy in Dakar met with multiple Islamic and Catholic religious leaders in Bissau to discuss issues of tolerance and coexistence and their concern regarding the spread of religious extremism.  Locally employed staff based in Bissau and three American diplomats based at the embassy in Dakar maintained contact with multiple religious leaders, staff, and adherents throughout the year.

Mozambique

Executive Summary

The constitution provides for the right to practice freely or not to practice religion and prohibits discrimination based on religion.  These and other rights may temporarily be suspended or restricted only in the event of a declaration of a state of war, siege, or emergency.  The constitution prohibits political parties from using names or symbols associated with religious groups.  Religious groups have the right to organize, worship, and operate schools.  According to local organizations, as an Islamic State-affiliated terrorist group, ISIS-Mozambique (ISIS-M) intensified attacks in Cabo Delgado Province, residents in the province who because of their appearance were identified as Muslim continued to face risk of sometimes arbitrary detention by police and armed forces.  Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), news media outlets, and human rights organizations continued to strongly criticize the government’s response as exacerbating existing grievances among historically marginalized majority-Muslim populations.  The government’s COVID-19 preventive measures limited religious services for significant parts of the year, restricted the size of gatherings, and at times prohibited services.  Government officials reported that numerous religious leaders contravened the restrictions, including seven evangelical Christian religious leaders who were detained in June for holding in-person services.

As in previous years, conflict in Cabo Delgado continued, with ISIS-M occupying entire communities and burning religious and government structures.  Regional forces deployed to Cabo Delgado in August conducted joint operations with Mozambican forces that resecured significant towns and roads by the end of the year with a marked decrease in violence.  Media reports indicated that ISIS-M targeted both Muslim and Christian communities.  Muslim and Christian leaders condemned violence as a means of political change, and Muslim leaders emphasized that religious-based violence that invoked Islam was inconsistent with tenets of the faith.

The U.S. Ambassador discussed the continuing attacks in Cabo Delgado with President Filipe Nyusi, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Defense, the Minister of the Interior, and other high-level officials.  Among other messages, he noted the continued need to engage partners from the religious community to effectively address the ongoing violence.  The Ambassador and embassy officers discussed the importance of religious tolerance to promote peace and security with leaders and representatives of religious groups and local civil society organizations.  The U.S. government continued to implement and fund activities in Cabo Delgado to improve faith-based community resilience and work with religious leaders to counter extremist messaging related to religion.  The Ambassador and a senior embassy official hosted virtual iftars with religious and community leaders in Maputo and Cabo Delgado as part of the embassy’s outreach to the Muslim community.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 30.9 million (midyear 2021).  According to 2020 data from the National Statistics Institute, 27 percent of citizens are Catholic, 19 percent Muslim, 17 percent evangelical or Pentecostal Christian, 16 percent Zionist Christian, 2 percent Anglican, and less than 5 percent Jewish, Hindu, and Baha’i.  The remaining 14 percent claim no religious affiliation.  A significant portion of the population adheres to syncretic indigenous religious beliefs, a category not included in government census figures, characterized by a combination of African traditional practices and aspects of either Christianity or Islam.  Because of the unreliability of census data, Muslim leaders continued to state that their community accounts for 25-30 percent of the total population, a statistic frequently reported in the press.  The Muslim population is concentrated in the northern part of the country.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution defines the country as a secular state.  It prohibits religious discrimination, provides for the right of citizens to practice or not practice a religion, and stipulates that no individual may be deprived of his or her rights because of religious faith or practice.  Political parties are constitutionally prohibited from using names or symbols associated with religious groups.  The constitution protects places of worship and the right of religious groups to organize, worship, and pursue their religious objectives freely and to acquire assets in pursuit of those objectives.  The constitution recognizes the right of conscientious objection to military service for religious reasons.  These and other rights may temporarily be suspended or restricted only in the event of a declaration of a state of war, siege, or emergency, in accordance with the terms of the constitution.

The law requires all NGOs to register with the Ministry of Justice, Constitutional, and Religious Affairs.  Under the law, “religious organizations” are charities or humanitarian organizations, while “religious groups” refer to particular denominations.  Religious groups register at the denominational level or congregational level if they are unaffiliated.  Religious groups and organizations register by submitting an application, providing identity documents of their local leaders, and presenting documentation of declared ties to any international religious group or organization.  There are no penalties for failure to register; however, religious groups and organizations must show evidence of registration to open bank accounts, file for exemption of customs duties for imported goods, or submit visa applications for visiting foreign members.

An accord between the national government and the Holy See governs the Catholic Church’s rights and responsibilities in the country.  The agreement recognizes the Catholic Church as a legal personality and recognizes the Church’s exclusive right “to regulate ecclesiastical life and to nominate people for ecclesiastical posts.”  The agreement requires Catholic Church representatives to register with the government to benefit from the Church’s status.  The accord also gives the Catholic Church the exclusive right to create, modify, or eliminate ecclesiastical boundaries; however, it stipulates that ecclesiastical territories must report to a Church authority in the country.

The law permits religious organizations to own and operate schools.  The law forbids religious instruction in public schools.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

During the year, violent attacks against government forces and civilian populations that began in 2017 continued in the northeastern districts of Cabo Delgado Province, primarily perpetrated by the terrorist group ISIS-M.  In an attempt to control the situation and stem the tide of violence, police continued the practice of arbitrarily arresting some individuals because they appeared to be Muslim by their clothing or facial hair, according to national Islamic organizations and other media reports.  Some government officials, observers, and administrators at camps for internally displaced persons noted that because the attacks occurred in a Muslim-majority area, many civilian victims were Muslim as well.

Some NGOs, news media outlets, and human rights organizations continued to strongly criticize the government’s response, including arbitrary arrests and detentions, as exacerbating existing grievances of the historically marginalized Muslim-majority populations.  During the year, the provincial and district affiliates of the Islamic Council in Cabo Delgado engaged with government counterparts and Catholic counterparts to improve understanding and limit the detention of Muslim individuals unconnected to the insurgency.  This engagement included acting as a mediator between families and government or law enforcement officers.

ISIS-M publicly pledged allegiance to ISIS in June 2019 and claimed responsibility for more than 30 attacks since then.  According to analysts, young men returning from studying Islamic teachings abroad following a more “austere” form of Islam than historically practiced in the country helped contribute to the radicalization of youth.

Reporting on the attacks in Cabo Delgado remained limited and was often characterized as unreliable due to a strong security force presence, electricity and cell network blackouts, and government restrictions on independent journalists’ access to affected areas.

On September 7 and 12, the national police detained two groups belonging to an unidentified religious group in Tete Province.  Police, who initially detained the individuals for violating COVID-19 prevention measures, said they were investigating whether the groups were linked to the insurgency in Cabo Delgado.

Muslim leaders also expressed concern regarding the growing humanitarian crisis in Cabo Delgado, with conflict and natural disasters displacing nearly 800,000 persons since 2017.

For significant periods of the year, the government suspended all religious services, among other public and private gatherings, pursuant to a state of public calamity (SOPC) order issued to prevent the spread of COVID-19, although restrictions relaxed intermittently to permit small gatherings.  Officials from the Ministry of Justice, Constitutional, and Religious Affairs reported working with religious leaders on adherence to COVID-19 preventive measures but said that many groups contravened measures throughout the year.  Observers stated that SOPC religious enforcement was not targeted against a particular religion but was enforced across all religious groups.  Local media reported that several religious leaders were arrested and fined for violating the SOPC, including seven evangelical leaders who were detained on June 25 for holding in-person services in Nampula.

Parliament continued to consider a draft law on religious practices first proposed by the Ministry of Justice, Constitutional, and Religious Affairs in 2019 to update a preindependence law.  Religious leaders noted that they had an opportunity to discuss and provide input into the draft law.

On February 11, the Vatican announced the transfer to Brazil of Bishop Luis Fernando Lisboa, then the Bishop of Pemba in Cabo Delgado Province.  Media reported that Lisboa was an outspoken advocate for the people of Cabo Delgado, including persons displaced by terrorist attacks.  After his transfer, Lisboa stated that he received threats after criticizing the Mozambican government’s response to the terrorist attacks.  The new Bishop of Pemba, Antonio Juliasse Ferreira Sandramo, also spoke publicly regarding the lack of security in Cabo Delgado.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Although ISIS-M fighters said they targeted Christians and Christian villages, reporters and local aid workers stated that in practice they made little distinction among their victims.  Media reports also indicated that ISIS-M targeted both Muslim and Christian communities.  They occupied entire communities and burned religious and government structures, including during a multiday attack on the town of Palma in March.  Regional forces deployed to Cabo Delgado in August 2021 conducted joint operations with government forces that resecured significant towns and roads by the end of the year with a marked decrease in violence, according to government officials.  The number of persons displaced by the conflict numbered nearly 800,000 by the end of the year, an approximately tenfold increase over 2020.

Prominent Muslim leaders continued to condemn the attacks in the northern part of the country, stating that the strict version of Islam preached by those allegedly responsible was not in line with the country’s traditional Islamic culture and practice.  For example, Provincial Delegate of the Islamic Council in Nampula Sheikh Abdulmagid Antonio told local media in June that religion should promote lasting and effective peace and that “no religion incites violence and intolerance.”

Civil society and religious organizations conducted outreach to promote religious tolerance during the year.  An interfaith group of leaders continued efforts to provide food to needy families during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Through an interfaith network established in November 2020, a coalition of religious groups from the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado, Nampula, and Niassa, including the Islamic Council of Mozambique and the Catholic Church, continued coordinating assistance to support displaced civilian populations affected by the violence and to discuss resolution of the crisis.

During a May 7 interfaith gathering, religious leaders said that terrorism in Cabo Delgado was linked to politics of exclusion, poverty, injustice, and oppression, rather than religion.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

The Ambassador engaged President Nyusi, Minister of Defense Jaime Neto, Minister of Justice Helena Kida, Minister of Interior Amade Miquidade, counterparts in other diplomatic missions and multilateral organizations, and other senior officials on the escalating violence in the northern region.  Among other messages, he noted the continued need to engage partners from the religious community to effectively address the violence.  Embassy officers engaged parliamentarians and ministry officials to ensure the draft law on religious practices, pending since 2019, permitted religious groups with few members to register and continue practicing legally.

Through a series of outreach initiatives, the Ambassador and embassy officers discussed the importance of religious tolerance to promote peace and security with leaders and representatives of religious groups and local civil society organizations.

The embassy concluded its support of a faith-based project in Cabo Delgado led by the Islamic Council of Mozambique designed to strengthen community ties, foster resilience, and develop locally based strategies to combat violent extremism.

Throughout the year, the embassy partnered with religious leaders to provide youth vulnerable to violent extremism in coastal Nampula Province with messages from credible and influential religious voices to counter violent extremism.  The embassy and its partners disseminated the videos and audio recordings through social media and local and provincial radio stations and hosted youth listener clubs.

The embassy again engaged in digital outreach on social media during Ramadan and Eid al-Adha, welcoming continued engagement to achieve shared goals and commending the resilience of Muslims in the country in finding creative ways to celebrate during the pandemic.  In addition, the Ambassador and a senior embassy official hosted virtual iftars with religious and community leaders in Maputo and Cabo Delgado during Ramadan to engage religious and young community leaders and discuss the impact of the Cabo Delgado crisis on the Muslim community.

The embassy discussed LGBTQI+ inclusion, among other topics, with the Christian Council of Mozambique, which represents 24 church denominations and promotes tolerance and inclusivity.  In November, the embassy nominated council president Felicidade Chirinda for the International Women of Courage Award.

Portugal

Executive Summary

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and worship and prohibits discrimination based on religion.  According to the most recent data, in 2020 the government granted citizenship to 20,892 descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled during the Inquisition and rejected 163 applicants; 54,160 applications remained pending at year’s end.  On April 5, the Holocaust Museum opened in Porto, the first of its kind in the country.  On June 22, the National Day of Religious Freedom and Interreligious Dialogue, President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa presided at a conference on the 20th anniversary of the country’s religious freedom law at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, promoted by the Religious Freedom Commission (CLR) and the High Commission for Migration (ACM).  On October 29, the government entered into an agreement with the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) to relocate the center’s headquarters from Vienna to Lisbon.  Many religious groups opposed legislation passed by parliament decriminalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.  The President vetoed the legislation, effectively deferring any further consideration until 2022.

In January, the producers of the Big Brother television reality show removed a contestant after evidence emerged of him repeatedly performing Nazi salutes in the presence of fellow contestants.  In February, public officials criticized Rodrigo Sousa Castro, a retired colonel who helped lead the country’s 1974 revolution, after he tweeted, “Jews, since they dominate global finance, bought and possess all the [COVID-19] vaccines they want.  It’s a kind of historical revenge.”  On October 28, media reported that a Middle Eastern grocery store in Lisbon was vandalized with graffiti and religious images that were painted on the store’s windows.

U.S. embassy officials maintained regular contact with government officials from the ACM and representatives of the CLR to discuss the importance of mutual respect and understanding among religious communities and the integration of immigrants, many of whom belonged to minority religious groups.  In February and March, the embassy sponsored interfaith dialogues, initially with leaders of the three major faiths and then with leaders of three smaller religious groups.  Discussions included how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their communities, religious freedom, societal tolerance of migrants, the effect of the rise of far-right political parties in the country on religious groups, and interfaith programs and events.  On April 29, the Charge d’Affaires visited the Holocaust Museum of Porto to underscore U.S. condemnation of human rights abuses and to present a congratulatory video message by the U.S. Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 10.3 million (midyear 2021).  According to the most recent census for which results are available (from 2011), 81 percent of the population older than age 15 is Roman Catholic.  Other religious groups, each constituting less than 1 percent of the population, include Orthodox Christians and various Protestant and other Christian denominations, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Lutheran Church of Portugal, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), Church of God of the Seventh Day, New Apostolic Church, and the Portuguese Evangelical Methodist Church.  Other religious groups include Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, Taoists, Zoroastrians, and Baha’is.  In the census, 6.8 percent of the population said it does not belong to any religious group, and 8.2 percent did not answer the question.  According to the census, nonevangelical Protestants number more than 75,000.  The Muslim community estimates there are approximately 60,000 Muslims, of whom 50,000 are Sunni and 10,000 Shia, including Ismaili Shia.  There are more than 56,000 members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, most of whom are immigrants from Eastern Europe, primarily from Ukraine, and the Church of Jesus Christ estimates it has 45,000 members.  There are more than 163,000 members of other Christian groups, including other evangelical Christians, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, other Protestants, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The Jewish community leadership estimates the resident Jewish population is approximately 2,000, with half residing in the greater Lisbon area.

According to a survey published by the Pew Research Center in 2018, 77 percent of the population identifies as Roman Catholic, 4 percent as Protestant, and 4 percent as “other,” while 15 percent are religiously unaffiliated, a group that includes individuals who identify as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.”

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, including freedom of worship, which may not be violated even if the government declares a state of emergency.  It states no one shall be privileged, prejudiced, persecuted, or deprived of rights or exempted from civic obligations or duties because of religious beliefs or practices.  The constitution states authorities may not question individuals about their religious convictions or observance, except to gather statistical information that does not identify individuals, and individuals may not be prejudiced by refusal to reply.  Churches and religious communities are independent from the state and have the freedom to determine their own organization and perform their own activities and worship.  The constitution affords each religious community the freedom to teach its religion and use its own media to disseminate public information about its activities.  It bars political parties from using names directly associated with, or symbols that may be confused with, those of religious groups.  The constitution and law recognize the right to conscientious objection to military service, including on religious grounds; they require conscientious objectors to perform equivalent alternative civilian service.

The CLR is an independent, consultative body to parliament and the government, established by law.  Its members include two representatives of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (Roman Catholic); three religious representatives appointed by the Ministry of Justice from the Evangelical Alliance, Islamic Community of Lisbon, and Jewish Community of Lisbon; and five laypersons, three of whom are affiliated with the Ismaili Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist communities.  The Council of Ministers appoints its president.  The CLR reviews and takes a position on all matters relating to the application of the law on religious freedom, including proposed amendments.  The CLR alerts the relevant authorities, including the President, parliament, and others in the government, to cases involving religious freedom and discrimination, such as restrictions or prohibitions on the right to assembly or the holding of religious services, destruction or desecration of religious property, assaults on members and clergy of religious groups, incitement of religious discord, hate speech, and violations of the rights of foreign missionaries.

The 2021-2025 national plan to combat racism and discrimination revised the criminal code and expanded the grounds for protection.  An August 2020 law lists and defines the objectives, priorities, and general criminal policy and priority guidelines for 2020-22.  It further establishes crimes motivated by racial, religious, or sexual discrimination as crimes of priority prevention.  Additionally, it acknowledges the internet as the predominant vehicle of communication associated with hate crimes and prioritizes cybercrime prevention and investigation.

The CLR may file formal complaints at the national level with the ombudsman, an official position created by the constitution and supplemental legislation to defend the rights and freedoms of individual citizens, and at the international level with the European Court of Human Rights.  The ombudsman has no legal enforcement authority but is obligated to address complaints and provide an alternative remedy for dispute resolution.

Religious groups may be organized in a variety of forms that have national, regional, or local character.  A denomination may choose to organize as one national church or religious community or as several regional or local churches or religious communities.  An international church or religious community may establish a representative organization of its adherents separate from the branch of the church or religious community existing in the country.  A registered church or religious community may create subsidiary or affiliated organizations, such as associations, foundations, or federations.

All religious groups with an organized presence in the country may apply for registration with the registrar of religious corporate bodies in the Ministry of Justice.  The requirements include providing the organization’s official name, which must be distinguishable from all other religious corporate bodies in the country; the organizing documents of the church or religious community associated with the group applying for registration; the address of the organization’s registered main office in the country; a statement of the group’s religious purposes; documentation of the organization’s assets; information on the organization’s formation, composition, rules, and activities; provisions for dissolution of the organization; and the appointment method and powers of the organization’s representatives.  Subsidiary or affiliated organizations included in the parent group’s application are also registered; if not included, they must register separately.  The ministry may reject a registration application if it fails to meet legal requirements, includes false documentation, or violates the constitutional right of religious freedom.  If the ministry rejects an application, religious groups may appeal to the CLR within 30 days of receiving the ministry’s decision.

Religious groups may register as religious corporations and receive tax-exempt status.  Registered groups receive the right to minister in prisons, hospitals, and military facilities; provide religious teaching in public schools; access broadcasting time on public television and radio; and receive national recognition of religious holidays.  The government certifies religious ministers, who receive all the benefits of the social security system.  According to the law, chaplaincies for military services, prisons, and hospitals are state-funded positions open to all registered religious groups, although chaplains are predominantly Catholic.  A taxpayer may allocate 5 percent of income tax payments to any registered religious group.

Religious groups may also register as unincorporated associations or private corporations, which allows them to receive the same benefits granted to religious corporations.  The process for registering as unincorporated associations or private corporations involves the same procedures as for religious corporations.  There are no practical differences between associations and private corporations; the different categories distinguish the groups’ internal administration.  Unregistered religious groups are not subject to penalties and may practice their religion but do not receive the benefits associated with registration.

By law, religious groups registered in the country for at least 30 years or internationally recognized for 60 years may obtain a higher registration status of “religion settled in the country.”  There are more than 800 registered groups with this status.  To show they are established, religious groups must demonstrate an “organized social presence” for the required length of time.  These groups receive government subsidies based on the number of their members; may conclude “mutual interest” agreements with the state on issues such as education, culture, or other forms of cooperation; and may celebrate marriages that are recognized by the state legal system.  The government has mutual interest agreements with Jewish and Islamic religious bodies and a concordat with the Holy See that serves the same function for the Catholic Church.

Public secondary schools offer an optional survey course on world religions taught by lay teachers.  Optional religious instruction is available at government expense if at least 10 students attend the class.  Religious groups are responsible for designing the curriculum of the religious classes and providing and training the teachers.  Private schools are required to offer the same curriculum as public schools but may provide instruction in any religion at their expense.  All schools, public and private, are required to accommodate the religious practices of students, including rescheduling tests if necessary.

The law prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of religion and requires reasonable accommodation of employees’ religious practices.  According to the labor code, employees are allowed to take leave on their Sabbath and religious holidays, even if these are not nationally observed.

The ACM, an independent government body operating under the guidelines of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, has a statutory obligation to advocate for religious tolerance, including the “promotion of dialogue, innovation, and intercultural and interreligious education” and “combating all forms of discrimination based on color, nationality, ethnic origin, or religion.”

The law provides for the naturalization of Jewish descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from the country in the 15th and 16th centuries.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

The government reported that in 2020, the latest available data, it approved the naturalization of 20,892 descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from the country during the Inquisition and rejected 163 applications of 34,000 new applications submitted.  Since the beginning of the program in 2015, the government reported receiving 86,557 applications, of which it approved 32,192 and rejected 273; 54,160 applications remained pending at year’s end.  Israel, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, and Morocco had the greatest number of applicants.

Most prisons, state and private hospitals, and military services designated Catholic priests to provide chaplaincy services, but these positions were open to clergy of all religious groups.

The ACM continued to hold monthly online meetings with religious groups to consult on issues such as coordination for broader representation of religious groups in chaplaincies as needed, organization of interreligious youth events, and contributions to preparing and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 25th of April Revolution, set to take place in 2024.  According to the ACM, groups often sought financial assistance from the ACM for conferences and other events.

Parliament twice approved versions of legislation decriminalizing euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.  In March, President Rebelo de Sousa vetoed the first law, calling it unconstitutional.  Parliament rejected public efforts for a referendum on the issue and approved a second version of the legislation on November 5, which the President vetoed on November 29.  Efforts to decriminalize euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide were opposed throughout the year by a wide range of religious groups, including those represented in the ACM’s Interfaith Working Group and the Association of Portuguese Catholic Doctors.  Surveys showed that nearly 60 percent of citizens supported such decriminalization.

The Ministry of Culture continued implementation of its policy adopted in October 2020 that the ruins of the 12th century Almoravid Mosque discovered in a refurbishment and restoration project of the cloister of Lisbon Cathedral would remain on their original site.  Given the patrimonial value of the ruins, the Ministry of Culture, in dialogue with the Patriarchate of Lisbon, took steps to conserve, display, and integrate the ruins into the renovation of the Lisbon Cathedral.  Researchers and the directors of archaeological work on the site said the mosque, which includes baths, schools, the mosque of the dead – where funeral ceremonies were held – and other structures, was unique to the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco.

On March 9, President Rebelo de Sousa met in Porto with the president of the Islamic Cultural Center, Abdul Rehman Manga, and participated in an interfaith ceremony attended by members of Porto’s Muslim and Jewish communities and a representative of the Catholic Church, among others.  Manga characterized the President’s gesture as “a great blessing” and a call for all Portuguese to unite, “regardless of their religion, even if they do not practice any religion.”  Bishop Jose Ornelas, president of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference, said, “It is a very significant gesture for a president to say, upon taking office, that bridges must be built… for the good of this country and the world.”  This interfaith celebration in Porto was similar to another held at the Lisbon Mosque in 2016, on the first day of the President´s term.

A new Holocaust Museum in Porto opened on April 5, organized by members of the city’s Jewish community.  The museum, the first of its kind in the country, includes a reproduction of Auschwitz barracks, photographs, video footage, a memorial with the names of victims, an eternal flame, theater, conference room, and study center.  The museum’s activities include teaching, professional training for educators, promoting exhibitions, and supporting research.  On September 20, it conducted a seminar for teachers that was attended by Holocaust survivors and representatives from other Holocaust museums around the world.  Porto’s Jewish community archives on refugees in the city includes official documents, testimonies, letters, hundreds of individual records, and two Torah scrolls from survivors, previously on loan to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., all of which form part of the new museum’s permanent collection.

On April 13, the beginning of Ramadan, Minister of Foreign Affairs Augusto Santos Silva tweeted his wish for “peace and grace to all Muslims around the world,” adding, “May this holy month be a time of hope, tolerance, and reflection.  Together, we’ll work to overcome conflict, injustice, and prejudice.”

On June 22, the National Day of Religious Freedom and Interreligious Dialogue, President Rebelo de Sousa presided over the opening session of a conference on the 20th anniversary of the country’s religious freedom law at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, promoted by the CLR and the ACM.  Representatives of different religious groups also attended.  CLR chair Jose Vera Jardim opened the session, which included readings by young persons and a minute of silence honoring those who have defended religious freedom.  Minister of Justice Francisca Van Dunem gave remarks and delivered messages from the late former president Jorge Sampaio and the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, D. Manuel Clemente.  The conference highlighted the progress of religious acceptance in the country since the Law on Religious Freedom came into effect 20 years ago.  President Rebelo de Sousa remarked that it is necessary to go further in the “promotion of fraternal integration of believers and nonbelievers” as well as among believers of various faiths, “without monopolies of the truth.”

On October 19-20, Lisbon hosted the 3rd European Policy Dialogue Forum on Refugees and Migrants, which focused on ways in which religious organizations, policymakers, and recent arrivals to Europe could encourage the participation of refugees and migrants in developing more inclusive societies in Europe.  Topics included how interfaith and intercultural dialogue supports migrant integration, refugee and migrant participation in political life and democratic processes, and countering hate speech by strengthening cross-sector collaboration among religious leaders and policymakers.

In a ceremony on October 29, the government signed an agreement with KAICIID to relocate the center’s headquarters from Vienna to Lisbon.  Diplomatic representatives from Saudi Arabia, Austria, Spain, the Holy See, and representatives of various religious groups attended the ceremony.

State-run television channel RTP continued half-hour religious programming five days a week and a separate weekly half-hour program, with segments for both written by registered religious groups.

The country is a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In January, Helder Teixera, a contestant on the television reality show Big Brother, was removed for repeatedly and “jokingly” making Nazi salutes off-air in front of other contestants.  Other contestants asked Teixera to stop his actions, but he continued to mimic the Nazi salute.  The show’s producers later played for Teixera and the contestants a video of a Holocaust Jewish survivor talking about the persecution Jews and other minorities, including Roma and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex community, faced during World War II.

Rodrigo Sousa Castro, a retired colonel who helped lead the country’s 1974 revolution, tweeted on February 7, “Jews, since they dominate global finance, bought and possess all the [COVID-19] vaccines they want.  It’s a kind of historical revenge.  And I won’t say anything more or the Zionist bulldogs will jump.”  In response, the Israeli ambassador to Portugal tweeted, “As a proud Zionist bulldog, I can promise that if Israel develops a cure for COVID-19, Colonel Sousa e Castro will have access to it if needed.”  Numerous public officials immediately criticized Sousa Castro, including representatives of the Lisbon and Porto Jewish communities, the Portuguese Association for Israel, and the Social Democratic Party, which introduced a draft resolution in parliament on February 9 that read, in part, “Portugal is seeing the propagation of antisemitic discourse with serious implications.”  To be an advocate of the 1974 revolution, it added, “means to honor its values.”  Sousa Castro later deleted the tweet, stating he had committed an error by making a “generalization” that was not correct and was “abusive,” adding, “Many will have the right to have been offended.”

On October 28, the managers of the Zaytouna Middle Eastern grocery store in Lisbon posted an image on their social media site of graffiti on the store’s windows depicting a patriarchal cross linked to Christian religious movements and a phrase that associates Islam with terrorism.  They said the vandalism represented “a threat to us and to our customers of different nationalities.”  The store, which opened in 2018, was “born from a friendship between Palestine and Portugal and a great desire to share cultures… making it what it is today:  a place of tolerance, diversity, and bonds.”  The managers said that since hate speech is a crime, they filed a complaint with authorities, adding that although this type of act was uncommon in the country, “It must be combatted and denounced.”

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

Embassy officials spoke regularly with ACM officials to discuss the importance of mutual respect and understanding among religious communities and the integration of immigrants, many of whom belonged to minority religious groups.  The embassy also continued regular discussions throughout the year with the CLR leadership on various issues, including their views on the legalization of euthanasia by parliament.

Embassy leadership and other embassy representatives continued to discuss issues of religious tolerance and encouraged continued interfaith collaboration and dialogue with representatives of religious groups, including the Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Orthodox, and Jewish communities.

On February 18, the embassy organized an interfaith dialogue with Mahomed Iqbal of the Muslim Community, Father Peter Stilwell of the Roman Catholic Church, and Jose Carp of the Jewish Community.  Among other topics, the leaders discussed religious freedom issues such as the effect of the government’s COVID-19 pandemic mitigation measures on their religious services and communities, societal tolerance of migrants, the effect on religious groups of the growing influence of the populist right-wing party Chega!, and interfaith programs and events.On March 11, the embassy organized a second interfaith dialogue with three other religious leaders, Kirit Bachu of the Hindu Community, Joaquim Moreira of the Church of Jesus Christ, and Fernando Soares Loja of the Evangelical Church.  The leaders at both events described the cooperative efforts between the government and their groups in establishing COVID-19 guidelines related to their religious practices and in adjusting those guidelines as circumstances changed.

On April 29, the Charge d’Affaires visited the Holocaust Museum of Porto, where she underscored U.S. condemnation of atrocities and human rights abuses and reiterated a commitment to uphold and protect diversity of all religious beliefs and the rights of nonbelievers.  The Charge d’Affaires also presented a congratulatory video message by the U.S. Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues that coincided with the U.S. Senate passage of a resolution honoring the memory and actions of Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who saved thousands of lives during the Holocaust.

On November 22, the embassy hosted an event with religious leaders from the country’s Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Church of Jesus Christ, and evangelical communities.  Discussion included how religious communities were dealing with the pandemic, including government restrictions on religious services, youth interfaith summer camps sponsored by the ACM, religious tolerance in the country, and the opportunity for religious groups to engage in activities during the Year of Action after the Summit for Democracy in December.

Sao Tome and Principe

Executive Summary

The constitution and the law on religious freedom provide for freedom of religion and worship and equality for all, irrespective of religious belief, and assure judicial protection to all religious denominations.  Both the constitution and the religious freedom law grant religious groups autonomy and the right to teach their religion.  Religious groups must register with the government.  From the outset of the pandemic, religious leaders supported government COVID-19 awareness campaigns and used television and radio messages in support of prevention measures.  The government invited religious leaders to listening sessions prior to deciding on preventive measures to be adopted.

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

U.S. embassy local staff based in Sao Tome met with government officials in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Justice, Public Administration, and Human Rights and with religious leaders to encourage continued respect for religious freedom.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 214,000 (midyear 2021).  The Roman Catholic Bishop’s Office estimates approximately 50 percent of the population is Roman Catholic; previous estimates put the Catholic percentage of the population as high as 85 percent.  The Catholic Bishop’s Office said the decrease was due to persons leaving the Catholic Church for other religious beliefs, but government COVID-19 protocols that limited church service attendance to between 33 and 50 percent of capacity made it difficult to estimate the Catholic percentage of the population.  The last official census of religious beliefs was in 2012.  In 2019, the Catholic Bishop’s Office estimated the population was approximately 12 percent Protestant and less than 2 percent Muslim.  Protestant groups include Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, Evangelic Assembly of Christ, Universal Church of Christ, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, Thokoist Church, Manna Church (of Portuguese origin), and others.  The number of Muslims has increased over the past two decades due to an influx of migrants from Lebanon, Nigeria, Cameroon, and other African countries.  Some Christians and Muslims also adhere to aspects of indigenous beliefs.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution establishes a secular state and provides for freedom of conscience, religion, and worship.  It provides for equality of rights and obligations irrespective of religious belief or practice and for freedom of religious groups to teach their faith and to organize themselves and their worship activities.  According to the constitution, these rights are to be interpreted in harmony with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and may be restricted only in cases envisaged in the constitution or suspended during a state of emergency or siege declared according to the terms of the constitution and law.  A 1971 religious freedom law acknowledges and ensures religious freedom for all and judicial protection for religious denominations.  According to the law, the state does not profess any religion and ensures that its relations with religious organizations are based on the separation of religion and state.  The law also stresses that all religious denominations are entitled to equal treatment.  There are no laws regulating hate crimes or hate speech related to religion.

Religious groups must register with the government.  If a religious group does not register, the group is subject to fines and possible expulsion if it is a foreign religious group.  To register, a group must send a letter requesting authorization to the Ministry of Justice, Public Administration, and Human Rights.  Once the group obtains authorization, it must submit the following documents to a notary public:  the ministry’s approval letter; the group’s statutes; the minutes or report from a meeting attended by at least 500 representatives of the group and signed by its president and secretary; copies of the national identity cards of those who attended this meeting; a list of board members; and a certificate from the Registrar’s Office attesting that no existing organization has the same name.  After a payment of 1,000 dobras ($46) for notarial fees, an announcement is published in the government gazette, and the group may then operate fully as a registered group.  Once registered, a religious group does not need to register again.  Registered religious groups receive the same benefits, such as tax exemptions, as registered nonprofit organizations.

Religious education exists in the official curriculum but is not required.  There were no reports of religious education being provided in public schools.  There are two schools run by religious groups, one Catholic and the other Seventh-day Adventist.  The Ministry of Education provides oversight on the curricula of religious schools, and both schools are open to church members and nonmembers.  They provide a general education, as well as a religious education.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

During the year, the government did not receive any registration requests for new religious groups.

Government decisions on COVID-19 prevention measures were taken in coordination with religious leaders.  The government invited religious leaders to listening sessions prior to deciding on preventive measures to be adopted.  Other than limiting church services to a maximum of one-half capacity, with services held on alternate days, there were no reports of significant government actions affecting religious freedom.  The churches accepted these restrictions.  From the outset of the pandemic, religious leaders supported government COVID-19 awareness campaigns and used television and radio messages in support of prevention measures.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

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

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

There is no permanent U.S. diplomatic presence in the country.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and limited flights, U.S. embassy staff in Gabon, which handles U.S. relations with Sao Tome and Principe, reduced visits to the country.  Embassy local-based staff in Sao Tome engaged in meetings and telephone calls with religious leaders and government officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice, Public Administration, and Human Rights to encourage continued respect for religious freedom.

Timor-Leste

Executive Summary

The constitution provides for freedom of conscience and worship and of religious instruction.  There is no official state religion, although Catholicism is the predominant religion.  Religious organizations may register with the government under the regulations provided for nonprofit corporate bodies.  Religious minority groups continued to report instances in which civil servants rejected marriage and birth certificates issued by religious organizations other than the Roman Catholic Church.  Muslim religious leaders continued to express concerns about discriminatory practices in civil service hiring.  As part of its annual budget, the government allocated $15 million for distribution among the country’s three Catholic dioceses, in line with the terms of its concordat with the Holy See.  Non-Catholic groups reported tensions regarding unequal allocation of government funds, since non-Catholic religious groups needed to apply for funding from a separate source instead of receiving a dedicated budget allocation.  In October, the multireligious Asosiasaun Turizmu Relijiouzu Timor-Leste (ATR-TL), or Faith-based Tourism Association, launched and received a $110,000 grant from the government to support its work.  Government leaders continued to meet with religious leaders as part of the government’s broader engagement with civil society.

Members of minority religious groups, including from the Muslim and Protestant communities, generally reported there was religious tolerance in the country.  However, some noted continuing strong societal pressure for individuals to remain in the Catholic Church, particularly from family or community members.

U.S. embassy officials engaged regularly on religious freedom issues with government officials, including from the Office of the Prime Minister on issues including discrimination in civil service hiring, recognition of religious minority documentation, and budget allocations to minority religious groups.  The embassy continued to fund programs to promote religious freedom and the preservation of religious sites.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 1.4 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2015 census, 97.6 percent of the population is Catholic, approximately 2 percent Protestant, and less than 1 percent Muslim.  Protestant denominations include the Assemblies of God, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Christian Vision Church.  There are also several small nondenominational Protestant congregations.  Many citizens retain animistic beliefs and practices along with their monotheistic religious affiliation.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of conscience, religion, and worship, and specifies, “Religious denominations are separated from the State.”  It also prohibits discrimination based on religious beliefs and provides for both the right to conscientious objection and freedom to teach any religion.  The constitution protects freedom of religion in the event of a declaration of a state of siege or state of emergency.

There is no official state religion; however, the constitution commends the Catholic Church for its participation in the country’s liberation efforts.  A concordat between the government and the Holy See establishes a legal framework for cooperation, grants the Catholic Church autonomy in establishing and running schools, provides tax benefits, safeguards the Church’s historical and cultural heritage, and acknowledges the right of its foreign missionaries to serve in the country.

The law criminalizes religious or racial discrimination.  Members of groups organized to incite or encourage discrimination based on race or religion face imprisonment of between four and 12 years.  Those who through written or other social communication means spread ideas with the intent to incite racial or religious discrimination or encourage or provoke violence against a person or group of people based on race, color, ethnic origin, or religion may be punished with imprisonment from two to eight years.

Religious organizations that conduct religious services but do not engage in other activities do not need to register with the government and may obtain tax-exempt status from the Ministry of Finance.  Religious organizations seeking to open private schools or provide other community services must submit articles of association and other relevant documentation to register as nonprofit corporate bodies through the Ministry of Justice’s National Directorate for Registry and Notary Services (DNRN).  The law requires a separate registration with the Ministry of Interior for associations with primarily foreign members, including religious organizations, which must submit their articles of incorporation, proof they have the means to carry out their activities, and the name of a designated representative.  To receive a tax identification number, organizations must register first with the Ministry of Justice and then bring that registration to the Service for Registration and Verification of Businesses, the business registration agency.  The DNRN then issues a certificate and legally charters the organization.

The Ministry of Education classifies religious study as an elective subject in public schools.  Most schools in the country are public, although the Catholic Church also operates private schools.  Non-Catholic students may attend Catholic schools.  Religious classes are compulsory in private Catholic schools.

A chaplain who is Catholic and a citizen may serve in the armed forces.  The law states, “Foreigners cannot provide religious assistance to the defense and security forces, except in cases of absolute need and urgency.”  Foreign citizen missionaries and non-missionary religious officials are exempt from paying normal residence and visa fees.  Visa regulations are the same for all foreign religious workers, regardless of religious affiliation.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

Muslim and Protestant religious minority leaders again reported that notaries public rejected marriage and birth certificates from religious organizations other than the Catholic Church when submitted as supporting documentation required by individuals registering for schools and for other official acts.  The leaders stated this occurred on an ad hoc rather than systematic basis, and authorities resolved the incidents by addressing them with the notarial office director.

The notary service issued birth certificates to minority religious community members, but not marriage certificates, according to the president of the National Islamic Council.  Members of non-Catholic religious groups had the option to marry in a civil ceremony witnessed by a notary public, according to a Ministry of Justice official.  Registrations of births and marriages with the government continued to be available, but civil registration rates remained relatively low in comparison to registration for religious certificates.  Protestant and Muslim leaders continued to engage the Offices of the President and Prime Minister as well as parliament to recognize non-Catholic certificates.  In November 2020, Minister of Justice Manuel Carceres da Costa presented options to the Council of Ministers to amend the civil code to register all forms of marriages recognized by the law, including those of non-Catholic religious groups.  These proposed revisions remained pending approval by the Council of Ministers at year’s end.

Muslim religious leaders continued to express concerns about discriminatory practices in civil service hiring.  They said some Muslim job candidates whose names might be identified with their religion experienced discrimination during the screening process.

As part of its annual budget, the Office of the Prime Minister allocated $15 million to the Catholic Episcopal Conference of Timor-Leste for distribution among the country’s three Catholic dioceses.  The terms of the concordat with the Holy See governed the allocations.  The direct budget allocations to the Catholic Church again caused some tension with non-Catholic religious groups, according to minority religious leaders, who said the funding significantly favored the Catholic Church, since non-Catholic religious groups needed to apply for funding from a separate source instead of receiving a dedicated budget allocation.  Catholics and all other religious groups could apply, along with other organizations, for part of a separate $6 million government fund set aside for civil society organizations during the year.

In September, the Civil Society Support Office under the Prime Minister’s office signed a $110,000 grant agreement with ATR-TL, the newly established, multireligious association launched in October, to conduct a nondenominational nationwide survey of faith-based tourism assets and to promote hospitality and tour guide training for young people.  The Civil Society Support Office also provided a $250,000 grant to the Muslim community in September to support their religious activities and education.  A Protestant church received nearly $170,000 in grant money to build a church in Viqueque while a separate Protestant church received more than $67,000 to construct a church on Atauro island.

National holidays include several Catholic and Islamic holidays.  On Eid al-Adha, President Francisco Guterres Lu Olo offered congratulations to the Muslim community and used the opportunity to encourage the Muslim community in this celebration to continue to uphold the values of “solidarity, generosity, and charity” to their “vulnerable compatriots.”  He stated these values were important to national and social cohesion to bring the citizenry together as one.

The government continued to consult religious leaders as part of broader engagement with civil society, including on the impact of COVID-19-related restrictions on religious activities.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Leaders of the Catholic Church and Protestant and Muslim communities reported continued positive cooperation and relations among religious groups.  An interfaith group continued working to identify religious tourism sites and to raise awareness of these sites’ religious and historical significance.  On October 12, the anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s visit to the country in 1989, the group launched the ATR-TL with an event at Dili Cathedral to promote tourism to religious sites and advance religious tolerance.

Members of minority religious groups, including from the Muslim and Protestant communities, generally reported there was religious tolerance in the country.  However, some said strong societal pressure for individuals to remain in the Catholic Church persisted.  Some minority religious group leaders stated that family and community members criticized their members because of their religious beliefs.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

Embassy officials engaged regularly on religious issues with government officials, including from the Office of the Prime Minister, addressing concerns such as discrimination in civil service hiring, recognition of religious minority documentation, and budget allocations to different minority groups.  The Ambassador met with religious and social leaders, including the Archbishop of Dili, the Imam of Dili, the late Bishop of Baucau, and Protestant leaders, among others.

The embassy continued to fund programs to promote religious freedom and the preservation of religious sites.  For example, U.S. government programs continued to support a public-private partnership to attract investment to maintain Cristo Rei, a famous statue of Jesus located in Dili.  It also continued to support the registration, capacity building, and launch of ATR-TL.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future