International Religious Freedom Report 2007
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

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

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

Underlying tensions between the Hindu majority and Christian and Muslim minorities persisted; however, members of each group worshipped without hindrance.

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 718 square miles and a population of 1.2 million. In the 2000 census, an estimated 50 percent of the population claimed to be Hindu, 32 percent Christian, and 17 percent Muslim. Less than 1 percent claimed to be atheist, agnostic, or of another religious group. There are no official figures for those who actively practice their faith, but there are estimates that the figure is approximately 60 percent for all religious groups.

Seventy-three percent of Christians are Roman Catholic. The remaining 27 percent are members of the following groups: Seventh-day Adventist, Assembly of God, Christian Tamil, Church of England, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Evangelical, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Sunnis account for more than 90 percent of Muslims; a minority are Shi'a.

On the main island, the north is more Hindu, and the center more Catholic. There are also large populations of Muslims and Catholics in the main cities of Port Louis, Quatre Bornes, and Curepipe. Most mosques and churches are concentrated in these areas. The island of Rodrigues, with a population of 36,000, is 92 percent Catholic.

The country is a small island nation, and its ethnic groups, known as "communal groups," are tightly knit. Intermarriage is not common, although the most recent census indicated that it is increasing. There is a strong correlation between religious affiliation and ethnicity. Citizens of Indian ethnicity usually are Hindu or Muslim. Those of Chinese ancestry generally practice both Buddhism and Catholicism. Creoles and citizens of European descent usually are Catholic.

Foreign missionary groups operate in the country.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. The Government at all levels sought to protect this right in full and did not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. There is no state religion.

In March 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that a mosque could not use loudspeakers for the daily calls to prayer, in accordance with the Noise Prevention Regulations (see Section III).

Religious organizations that were present prior to independence, such as the Catholic Church, Church of England, Presbyterian Church, Seventh-day Adventists, Hindus, and Muslims, are recognized in a parliamentary decree. These groups also receive an annual lump-sum payment from the Ministry of Finance based upon the number of adherents as determined by the census. Newer religious organizations (which must have a minimum of seven members) were registered by the Registrar of Associations and were recognized as legal entities with tax-exempt privileges. The Government was not known to have refused registration to any group.

Foreign missionary groups were allowed to operate on a case-by-case basis. Although there are no government regulations restricting their presence or limiting their proselytizing activities, groups must obtain both a resident permit and a work permit for each missionary. The Prime Minister's Office is the final authority on issuance of these required documents to missionaries. While there are no explicit limits on the ability of missionaries to operate, there are limits on the number of missionaries permitted to obtain the requisite visas and work permits. During the reporting period, 226 missionaries from various religious groups applied for residence permits. Eleven were rejected. Of the 215 applicants who received permits, 49 were new cases, and 166 were renewals.

National holidays are representative of the multireligious, multiethnic population. Hindu (Maha Shivratree, Ganesh Chathurthi, and Divali), Tamil (Thaipoosam Cavadee, and Ougadi), Christian (Christmas and All Saints' Day), and Muslim (Eid al-Fitr) holy days are national holidays.

The Ministry of Arts and Culture is responsible for promoting cultural interaction among different cultural groups within the country and sponsored events aimed at fostering cultural programs that included religious components.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

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

In March 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that a mosque in a residential area of Quatre Bornes could not use loudspeakers for the daily calls to prayer in accordance with the Noise Prevention Regulations. This led to fervent public objections by some representatives of the Muslim community, as the judgment was interpreted by a segment of the Muslim community as an infringement on their right to practice their religion. Tensions were alleviated when the plaintiff and the mosque compromised on an acceptable decibel level for the use of loudspeakers.

Due to the predominance of Hindu citizens in the upper echelons of the civil service, some minorities, usually Creoles and Muslims, alleged that they were prevented from reaching positions in the higher levels of government

While some Creole political groups alleged that Christian Creoles received unjust treatment from the police, there was no evidence that this was based on religious differences. Observers believed that such incidents likely were a result largely of ethnic differences, since the police force was predominantly Indo-Mauritian and because fact that Creoles tended to live in poorer areas, where crime was more prevalent.

Foreign missionaries sometimes were prohibited from residing in the country beyond 5 years (which would permit them to seek citizenship). Religious organizations were permitted to bring new missionaries to replace them; however, groups sometimes encountered bureaucratic obstacles in obtaining work permits and residence visas for replacements. This occasionally prevented such organizations from replacing departing missionaries in a timely fashion.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

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 Abuses and Discrimination

Occasional tensions between the Hindu majority and Christian and Muslim minorities persisted; however, no violent confrontations occurred during the period covered by this report.

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.

[This is a mobile copy of Mauritius]