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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom:
Malawi

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
U.S. Department of State, September 5, 2000
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MALAWI

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

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.

Both government policy and the generally amicable relationship among religions in society contribute to the free practice of religion.

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. Government Policies on Freedom of Religion

Legal/Policy Framework

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

There are no separate requirements for recognition of different religions, but religious groups must register with the Government. There were no reports that the Government refused to register any religious groups.

Religious Demography

More than 70 percent of the population are Christian. Among the Christian denominations, the largest are the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian (Church of Central Africa Presbyterian--CCAP) Churches, with smaller numbers of Anglicans, Baptists, evangelicals, and Seventh-Day Adventists. There is a substantial Muslim minority totaling approximately 20 percent of the population. Most Muslims are Sunni. There are also Hindus, Baha'is, and followers of traditional indigenous religions. Atheism is negligible.

Foreign missionaries experienced occasional delays in renewing employment permits, despite the Government's revision of its policy and procedures on temporary employment permits in 1997; however, this appeared to be the result of bureaucratic inefficiency rather than a deliberate government policy against foreign missionaries. Missionaries and charitable workers pay lower fees for employment permits than do other professionals.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners.

Forced Religious Conversion of Minor U.S. Citizens

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

Section II. Societal Attitudes

There are generally amicable relations between the various religious communities. There is no societal discrimination against members of religious minorities.

There have been active efforts to foster cooperation between religious groups. For example, the Public Affairs Committee, which is involved prominently in promoting civic education and human rights, includes representatives of various churches and mosques.

Some opposition politicians and clerics have raised Islam as a political issue. Citing the President's adherence to Islam, his contact with Islamic countries such as Libya and Sudan, and the building of new mosques, some opposition politicians and clerics have accused the ruling party of attempting to "Islamicize" the country. An attempt by the Government in early 2000 to replace "bible knowledge" in the school curriculum with the more universal "moral and religious education" course has met with widespread criticism from Christian leaders. When the President suspended the introduction of the new curriculum and returned "bible knowledge" to the curriculum, he was rebuked by Muslim leaders. In an isolated incident in April 2000, Muslims and Christians clashed over the efforts of an evangelical preacher to promote an audiotape comparing the Bible and the Koran. Muslims find the tape provocative and blasphemous, and the issue remains an open point of contention between followers of the two religions.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the overall context of the promotion of human rights. Representatives of the Embassy have frequent contact with leaders and members of all religious communities in the country.

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