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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom:
Swaziland

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

There are no formal constitutional provisions for freedom of religion; however, the Government respects freedom of religion 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

There are no formal constitutional provisions for freedom of religion; however, the Government respects freedom of religion in practice. The Government at all levels generally protects this right in full, and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

Followers of all religious faiths are free to worship without government interference or restriction. The ongoing constitutional review process is expected to address the issue of freedom of religion.

New religious groups or churches are expected to register with the Government upon organizing in the country. To be considered organized a religious group or church must demonstrate either possession of substantial cash reserves or financial support from outside religious groups with established ties to Western or Eastern religions. For indigenous religious groups or churches, authorities consider demonstration of a proper building, a pastor or religious leader, and a congregation as sufficient to grant organized status. However, there is no law describing the organizational requirements of a religious group or church. While organized churches are exempt from paying taxes, they are not considered tax-deductible charities. All religions are unofficially recognized.

Religious Demography

Christianity is the dominant religion, with the Anglican and Methodist Churches strongly represented. A large Roman Catholic presence, including churches, schools, and other infrastructure, still flourishes. Zionism (a local term for this religion) is a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship and is the prominent religion in rural areas. Followers of Islam and the Baha'i Faith generally are located in urban areas. It is estimated that the population is 40 percent Zionist, 20 percent Roman Catholic, and 10 percent Islamic, with the remaining 30 percent divided between Anglican, Methodist, Baha'i, Mormon, Jewish, and other beliefs.

Missionaries inspired much of the country's early development and still play a role in rural development. Missionaries are mostly Western Christians, including Baptists, Mormons, evangelicals, and other Christians. Baha'is are the most active non-Christian missionaries. While the Government primarily observes Christian holidays, the monarchy (and by extension the Government) supports many religious activities in addition to Easter and Christmas. For example, the royal family often attends public evangelical programs.

Portions of the capital city are zoned specifically for church buildings of all denominations. Those religious groups that wish to construct new buildings may purchase a plot and apply for the required building permits. Any religion with the financial means may build a place of worship.

The Government neither restricts nor formally promotes interfaith dialog, and it does not provide formal mechanisms for religions to reconcile differences. Churches have access to the courts as private entities.

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

Religious diversity is respected. Five different denominations maintain adjoining properties peacefully. There was no public conflict among faiths during the period covered by this report.

The Christian churches are well organized and are divided into three groups: the Council of Churches, the League of Churches, and the Conference of Churches. Each of these bodies represent the full spectrum of Christian denominations in the country and primarily concern themselves with producing common statements on political issues, sharing radio production facilities, or engaging in common rural development and missionary strategies. The various churches belong to these organizations for the collective benefits derived from such unity. Each organization has strong opinions, and they do not always speak with one voice. However, on several occasions, they have come together to address common issues.

Beginning in 1996, the different denominations came together in a series of meetings to discuss whether the churches should speak out publicly about the political situation in the country and about the drafting of the country's third constitution.

Further, the Council of Churches, along with the National Democratic Institute (an American nongovernmental organization) hosted a conference in May 2000 on constitutional issues. Freedom of religion in the country was not an issue during the conference.

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. The Embassy maintains contact and good relations with the various religious organizations.

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