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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom:
Mozambique

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

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.

Both government policy and the generally amicable relationship among religions in society contribute to the free practice of religion. However, the Constitution bans religious denomination-based political parties as threats to national unity.

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 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 1989 Law on Religious Freedom 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.

In late 1998, there was disagreement in the National Assembly over declaring Muslim holy days as official holidays, an issue that surfaces periodically. Muslim holidays shift with lunar cycles, complicating their calendar placement. The issue was resolved in practice when the Government instructed employers to grant liberal leave to both Christian and Muslim employees to observe their respective religious holidays, in addition to scheduled national holidays.

Religious Demography

According to the National Institute of Statistics, half of the population of 16 to 17 million 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 animism or traditional indigenous religions. Of the approximately 8 million persons who do 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 age 35 increasing rapidly.

There are 394 distinct denominations of religions registered with the Department of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Justice. Among Muslims, only a generic "Islamic" community (Sunni) and the Ismaili community are registered. Among Christians, the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Greek Orthodox Churches are registered along with Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Congregational, Seventh-Day Adventist, Mormon, Nazarene, and Jehovah's Witnesses groups, as well as scores of evangelical, apostolic, and Pentecostal churches. Jewish, Hindu, and Baha'i communities also are registered, and constitute small minorities. Many citizens consider the Baha'i Faith to be a "new religion." Many of these communities draw members from across ethnic, political, 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, e.g. a first job, a school examination, a swearing-in, etc., 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 are themselves nominal Christians or Muslims--in search of good luck, healing, and solutions to problems.

The Government routinely grants visas and residence permits to foreign missionaries. Dozens of foreign missionary and evangelical groups operate freely in the country, representing numerous Protestant denominations along with 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.

The Constitution gives religious groups the right to own and acquire assets, and these institutions are allowed by law to own and operate schools. Religious instruction in public schools is strictly prohibited.

While virtually all places of worship nationalized by the State in 1977 have been returned to the respective religious organizations, the Catholic Church and certain Muslim communities complained that some other properties such as schools, health centers, and residences unjustly remained in state hands, and continued to press for the return of such properties. Government sources stated that the majority of property was returned, with a few cases still being examined on an individual basis, including two properties in Maputo. In 1982 the Ministry of Justice founded the Directorate for Religious Affairs to address the issue of the return of church properties. Provincial governments have the final responsibility for establishing a process for property restoration. The return of church property is perhaps most problematic when the facility is currently in use as a public school, health clinic, or police station, as funds for construction of new facilities are in short supply.

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

Governmental Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The law governing political parties specifically forbids religious parties from organizing, and any party from sponsoring religious propaganda. In late 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 so far has tolerated PIMO's activities, although it has criticized the group. PIMO and some members of the legislature argued that the Movimento Islamico, a parliamentary caucus of Muslims from the ruling Frelimo party, was itself tantamount to a religious party.

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.

In February 1999, police detained a Pakistani imam for questioning in connection with the criminal investigation of the murder and decapitation of a young black man. The imam was arrested, released, and later taken back into custody. The widely reported case went to the Supreme Court, which released the imam in January 2000, clearing him of the charges. He has since departed the country. Two men accused of perpetrating the murder remain in prison.

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

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

The 3-year-old Forum of Religions, 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. In response to disastrous flooding in February and March 2000, numerous religious communities jointly contributed to flood relief efforts. Religiously based charities were active in flood relief activities, providing monetary donations, food, and clothing.

In early 2000, civil society and the media highlighted religious aspects of draft Family Law legislation. Debate focused on the need for legal recognition of religious and common law marriages, as only civil marriages are legal at present. Under the proposed law, polygamous marriages would not be recognized, although the law would offer protection to the widows and children of polygamous unions. Several leaders within the Islamic community oppose the proposal for not recognizing polygamy. On the other hand, approximately 50 Muslim women staged a public protest against polygamy in early May 2000. Some Islamic groups oppose a section of the law that would raise the legal age of marriage to 16 for both men and women. However, several Christian religious groups have proposed higher minimum ages for marriage, such as 18 or even 20 years of age.

There have recently been allegations of misconduct within the Anglican Church. According to press reports in April 2000, the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Niassa was investigated by the Church for diverting roughly $30,000 (500 million Meticais). Detractors also have accused the Anglican Church of practicing tribal favoritism in appointing church leaders.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

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

Embassy staff seeks contact with religious groups of all faiths. During an embassy field mission to Beira, the second largest city, the Ambassador met with eight leaders of the Muslim community to discuss various issues. The Ambassador acted as mediator in a case where an American missionary distributed religious tracts inside a mosque during Ramadan. The imam of the mosque threatened a lawsuit against the missionary for trespassing; the Ambassador was able to intercede and defuse the situation. No charges were filed against the missionary, who was free to continue his distribution of religious materials outside of the mosque.

During the period covered by this report, the Ambassador met periodically with Catholic, Protestant, and Islamic leaders. The Embassy also has frequent contact with National Assembly deputies of various religious faiths.

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