International Religious Freedom Report 2005
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.

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

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

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 290,586 square miles, and its population is approximately 10 million. According to a 2000 census, approximately 87 percent of the population is Christian; 1 percent is Muslim or Hindu; 7 percent adheres to other faiths, including indigenous faiths; and 5 percent did not report its religion.

The majority of indigenous persons, throughout the country, are either Roman Catholic or Protestant; however, many Christians hold some traditional beliefs as well. In recent years, there has been an upsurge of new Pentecostal churches, commonly known as evangelical churches, which have attracted many young persons into their ranks.

Muslims are concentrated in areas where citizens of Asian origin have settled, primarily along the railroad line from Lusaka to Livingstone, in Chipata, and in other parts of the eastern province. Most Asian-origin citizens are Muslim, although Hindus constitute a sizable percentage. A small minority of indigenous persons is also Muslim.

Foreign missionary groups present include Roman Catholic, Anglican, other mainstream and evangelical churches, and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right 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. Article 19 of the Constitution provides freedom of thought and religion to all citizens, freedom to change religion or belief, and freedom to manifest and propagate religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance. Statutes provide effective remedies for the violation of religious freedom. These provisions are enforced in a rigorous and nondiscriminatory fashion.

The Oasis Forum--composed of the Law Association of Zambia, the Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) Coordinating Committee, the Zambia Episcopal Conference, the Christian Council of Zambia, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia--continued to be active during the period covered by this report. There also continued to be reports that members of the Government criticized the Oasis Forum over the latter's stance on the constitutional review process and the mode of adoption of a new Constitution. In spite of rebukes by government officials of church leaders for taking a stand on political issues, churches continued to freely and vocally criticize the Government, organize activities, and mobilize public opinion. On February 13, the country's Roman Catholic bishops called for the adoption of a new constitution and a new electoral law before the next general election in 2006. On February 19, reacting to this call, President Mwanawasa accused church leaders of "confusing people" and warned priests against political activism. President Mwanawasa subsequently retracted his statement and apologized to the church.

Although a 1996 amendment to the Constitution declared the country a Christian nation, the Government generally respects the right of all faiths to worship freely. The proposed draft of the new Constitution does not include the Christian nation provision. Religion instruction is provided for Christians in public schools, but not Muslims.

The following holy days are considered national holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Christmas.

There are governmental controls that require the registration of religious groups. The Government approves without discrimination all applications for registration from religious groups. There were no reports that the Government rejected any religious groups that attempted to register. To be eligible for registration, groups must have a unique name, possess a constitution consistent with the country's laws, and display compatibility with the peace, welfare, and good order of the country. Unregistered religious groups are not allowed to operate. Violators can face a fine and imprisonment for up to 7 years.

There were no reports that foreign missionary groups faced any special requirements or restrictions beyond those imposed on other foreigners.

The Government requires religious instruction in public schools. Such instruction is conducted in both the Catholic and Protestant traditions and students from other faiths are usually excused from religious instruction. Instruction in Islam and other faiths is not available in public schools; however, it is conducted in private schools owned and controlled by those faiths. Parents can also homeschool their children.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

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.

Abuses by Terrorist Organizations

There were no reported abuses targeted at specific religions by terrorist organizations during the period covered by this report.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

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

Leaders of various ecumenical movements, such as the Zambia Episcopal Conference, the Christian Council of Zambia, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, hold regular meetings to promote mutual understanding and interfaith dialogue and to discuss national issues.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

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

The Ambassador and other U.S. diplomats met with representatives from Hindu, Muslim, Baha'i, and Christian organizations to foster interreligious dialogue. The Ambassador appeared on national television on numerous occasions with religious leaders and met frequently with leaders of the Muslim community.

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