International Religious Freedom Report 2003
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion; however, the Constitution bans religious denomination-based political parties as threats to national unity.

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

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has a total area of 308,642 square miles, and its population is approximately 17 million. According to the National Institute of Statistics, half of the population does not profess to practice a religion or creed; however, scholars at local universities assert that virtually all persons recognize or practice some form of traditional indigenous religion. Of the approximately 8 million persons who profess a recognized religion, 24 percent are Roman Catholic, 22 percent are Protestant, and 20 percent are Muslim. Many Muslim clerics disagree with this statistic, claiming that Islam is the country's majority religion.

Religious communities are dispersed throughout the country. The northern provinces and the coastal strip are most strongly Muslim, Catholics predominate in the central provinces, and Protestants are most numerous in the southern region. Government sources note that evangelical Christians represent the fastest growing religious group, with the number of young adherents under the age of 35 increasing rapidly.

There are over 500 distinct denominations of religions and 107 religious organizations registered with the Department of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Justice (see Section II). Among Muslims only a generic "Islamic" community (Sunni) and the Ismaili community (of non-Indian origin) are registered. Among Christians the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Greek Orthodox Churches are registered along with Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Congregational, Seventh-day Adventist, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Nazarene, and Jehovah's Witnesses groups, as well as many other evangelical, apostolic, and Pentecostal churches. The Zion Christian Church, the largest of the African Independent Churches in the country, also has a large number of adherents. Jewish, Hindu, and Baha'i communities are registered and constitute small minorities. Religious communities tend to draw members from across ethnic, political, economic, and racial lines.

Traditional indigenous practices and rituals are present in most Christian churches, including Catholic churches, and in most Muslim worship. For example, members of these faiths commonly travel to the graves of ancestors to say special prayers for rain. Similarly Christians and Muslims continue to practice a ritual of preparation or inauguration at the time of important events (for example, before a first job, a school examination, or a swearing-in) by offering prayers and spilling beverages on the ground to please ancestors. Some Christians and Muslims consult "curandeiros," traditional healers or spiritualists--some of whom themselves are nominal Christians or Muslims--in search of good luck, healing, and solutions to problems.

Dozens of foreign missionary and evangelical groups operate freely in the country, representing numerous Protestant denominations, as well as the Summer Institute of Languages Bible Translators and the Tabligh Islamic Call Mission. Muslim missionaries from South Africa have established Islamic schools (madrassas) in many cities and towns of the northern provinces and provide scholarships for students from the south to study in South Africa.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides that all citizens have the freedom to practice or not to practice a religion and gives religious denominations the right to pursue their religious aims freely, and the Government generally respects these rights in practice. The Government at all levels strives to protect this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. The Government does not favor a particular religion, nor is there a state or dominant religion.

The law requires religious institutions and missionary organizations to register with the Ministry of Justice, reveal their principal source of funds, and provide the names of at least 500 followers in good standing. No particular benefits or privileges are associated with the registration process, and there were no reports that the Government refused to register any religious group during the period covered by this report. The Christian Council reports that not all religious groups register, but unregistered groups worship unhindered by the Government.

There are no national holidays that are religious in nature, but the Government has a liberal leave policy to permit religious observance.

The Government routinely grants visas and residence permits to foreign missionaries. Like all foreigners residing in the country, missionaries face a somewhat burdensome process in gaining legal residency; however, they conduct activities without government interference throughout the country.

The Constitution gives religious groups the right to own and acquire assets, and these institutions are allowed by law to own and operate schools. There are increasing numbers of religious schools in operation. The Islamic community constructed a primary and secondary school for 1,000 students in Maputo and has established a small college in Nampula; the primary school began operating in 2003 and the secondary school in 2002. A Sudanese organization registered with the Ministry of Education provides funding for two secondary schools in Nampula and Gaza. The Kuwaiti-based Africa Muslim Agency is constructing a new facility in Maputo for administration and for the accommodation of students receiving scholarships to study abroad. The Catholic University has educational facilities in Beira, Nampula, and Cuamba, and has opened a new facility in Pemba. Religious instruction in public schools is prohibited strictly.

A conference of bishops, including Catholic and Anglican members, meets regularly and consults with the President of the Republic.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion; however, the law governing political parties specifically forbids religious parties from organizing and any party from sponsoring religious propaganda. In 1998 the Independent Party of Mozambique (PIMO), a predominantly Muslim group without representation in Parliament, began arguing for the right of political parties to base their activities on religious principles. The Government has tolerated such activities, and PIMO remains a minor political party.

Most places of worship nationalized by the Government have been returned to the respective religious organizations; however, the Catholic Church and certain Muslim communities claimed that some other properties such as schools, health centers, and residences unjustly remain in state hands and continued to request their return. The Directorate for Religious Affairs is mandated to address the issue of the return of church properties. Government sources stated that the majority of properties were returned, with a few cases still being examined on an individual basis, including two cases in Maputo that remained unresolved by the end of the period covered by this report. Return of the properties often is delayed due to the need to construct new facilities, particularly schools and health clinics. Provincial governments have the final responsibility for establishing a process for property restoration. The Papal Nunciatura indicates that properties are generally returned in poor condition, due to the lack of government resources.

The Islamic community has completed construction of a Grand Mosque in downtown Maputo. The Government previously had refused to grant permission for new mosques to be built in the center of major cities. Services are being held at the mosque; however, formal inauguration of the mosque remained pending at the end of the period covered by this report. The Hindu temple in Maputo, which was inaugurated in May 2002, is the first official Hindu temple in the country in 80 years.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

Relations among communities of different faiths generally are amicable, especially at the grassroots level. The black and Indian Islamic communities tend to remain separate; however, there were no reports of conflict. The mostly Indian Muslim communities have assisted financially the poorer black Islamic mosques.

The 5-year-old Inter-Religious Forum, an organization for social and disaster relief composed of members of the Christian Council of Mozambique, the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Muslim, Baha'i, and Jewish communities, is an example of interfaith cooperation. The goal of the forum is to offer collective assistance to the needy, without regard to creed. During the floods of 2000 and 2001, numerous religious communities jointly contributed to flood relief efforts. They officially established themselves as an organization in March, after at least a year of relative inactivity. During the period covered by this report, the forum conducted limited campaigns to promote HIV/AID prevention.

The Catholic Church played a leading role in brokering the 1992 Rome Peace Accords between the Frelimo Government and Renamo opposition party coalition. Since that time, it has continued to encourage the evolution of the political system.

The National Assembly debated legislative proposals for a revision of the family law during the period covered by this report. Consensus was reached to set the legal age for marriage at 16 years of age, or 14 with parental consent. A parliamentary committee is preparing further revisions for debate on introducing recognition of religious marriage ceremonies by the Government.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. U.S. Government actions in support of religious freedom have involved a variety of demarches on human rights matters to the Government. The Ambassador and Embassy officials also held several meetings with representatives of faith-based NGOs, Catholic bishops, the Papal Nunciatura, and numerous American missionaries. The Ambassador also participated in a round-table discussion in Pemba with Muslim religious and civil society leaders. Relations were strengthened with the Islamic University in Nampula and its Vice Rector.

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