International Religious Freedom Report 2004
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 during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion; however, the Constitution bans religious denomination-based political parties as threats to national unity.

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 a total area of 308,642 square miles, and its population is approximately 18 million. According to the National Institute of Statistics, half of the population 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 traditional indigenous religion. Of the approximately 8 million persons who 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 the age of 35 increasing rapidly.

There are over 500 distinct religious denominations and 107 religious organizations registered with the Department of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Justice (see Section II). Among Muslims only a generic "Islamic" community (Sunni) and the Ismaili community (of non-Indian origin) are registered. Among Christians the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Greek Orthodox Churches are registered along with Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Congregational, Seventh-day Adventist, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Nazarene, and Jehovah's Witnesses groups, as well as many other evangelical, apostolic, and Pentecostal churches. The Zion Christian Church, the largest of the African Independent Churches in the country, also has a large number of adherents. Jewish, Hindu, and Baha'i communities are registered and constitute small minorities. Religious communities tend to draw members from across ethnic, political, economic, 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 (for example, before a first job, a school examination, or a swearing-in) by offering prayers and pouring beverages on the ground to please ancestors. Some Christians and Muslims consult "curandeiros," traditional healers or spiritualists—some of whom themselves are nominal Christians or Muslims—in search of good luck, healing, and solutions to problems.

Dozens of foreign missionary and evangelical groups operate freely in the country, representing numerous Protestant denominations, as well as 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 and provide scholarships for students from the south to study in South Africa.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

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. The Government generally respects these rights 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. The Government does not favor a particular religion, nor is there a state or dominant religion.

The law 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, and there were no reports that the Government refused to register any religious group during the period covered by this report. The Christian Council reports that not all religious groups register, but unregistered groups worship unhindered by the Government.

There are no national holidays that are religious in nature, but the Government has a liberal leave policy to permit religious observance.

The Government routinely grants visas and residence permits to foreign missionaries. As is the case for all foreigners residing in the country, missionaries face a somewhat burdensome process in gaining legal residency; however, they conduct activities without government interference throughout the country.

The Constitution gives religious groups the right to own and acquire assets, and these institutions are allowed by law to own and operate schools. There are increasing numbers of religious schools in operation. The Islamic community constructed a primary and secondary school for 1,000 students in Maputo and has established a small college in Nampula; the primary school began operating in 2003 and the secondary school in 2002. A Sudanese organization registered with the Ministry of Education provides funding for two secondary schools in Nampula and Gaza. The Kuwaiti-based Africa Muslim Agency finished construction of a new facility in Maputo for administration and for the accommodation of students receiving scholarships to study abroad. It also financed several Islamic schools in Nampula Province. The Catholic University has educational facilities in Beira, Nampula, and Cuamba, and has opened a new facility in Pemba. Religious instruction in public schools is prohibited strictly.

A conference of bishops, including Catholic and Anglican members, meets regularly and consults with the President. Throughout the period covered by this report, these groups freely held seminars and produced pastoral letters. There has been increased engagement by religious leaders on issues such as HIV/AIDS and trafficking in persons. Activities and positions were reported by the press without restriction.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion; however, the law governing political parties specifically forbids religious parties from organizing and any party from sponsoring religious propaganda. The Independent Party of Mozambique (PIMO), a predominantly Muslim group without representation in Parliament, took positions based on religious principles, advocated behavior based on Muslim principles, and criticized the government for corruption. The Government thus far has tolerated PIMO's activities, and PIMO remained a minor political party. PIMO won three seats in the November 2003 municipal elections, all in predominantly Muslim municipalities in the northern part of the country. Since its inception, PIMO has not yet been able to achieve the 5 percent of national votes required to obtain a seat in the National Assembly.

Most places of worship nationalized by the Government have been returned to the respective religious organizations; however, the Catholic Church and certain Muslim communities claimed that some other properties such as schools, health centers, and residences unjustly remain in state hands and continued to request their return. The Directorate for Religious Affairs is mandated by the Council of Ministers to address the issue of the return of church properties. Government sources stated that the majority of properties were returned, with a few cases still being examined on an individual basis, including two cases in Maputo that remained unresolved by the end of the period covered by this report. Return of the properties often is delayed due to the need to construct new facilities, particularly schools and health clinics. Provincial governments have the final responsibility for establishing a process for property restoration. The Papal Nunciatura indicated that properties are generally returned in poor condition, due to the lack of government resources.

The Islamic community completed construction of a Grand Mosque in downtown Maputo in early 2003, although the Government previously had refused to grant permission for new mosques to be built in the center of major cities. The mosque was formally inaugurated later in the year, and religious services are now being held there. The Hindu temple in Maputo, which was inaugurated in May 2002, was the country's first official Hindu temple in 80 years.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

Abuses of Religious Freedom

A Brazilian missionary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Doraci Edinger, was murdered in the province of Nampula in February. There is no evidence that the murder was based on the missionary's religious affiliation.

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

Relations among communities of different faiths generally were amicable, especially at the grassroots level. The black and Indian Islamic communities tended to remain separate; however, there were no reports of conflict, and, furthermore, the mostly Indian Muslim communities have also provided financial assistance to the poorer, black Islamic mosques.

The 6-year-old Inter-Religious Forum, 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, serves as an example of interfaith cooperation. The goal of the forum is to offer collective assistance to the needy, without regard to creed. During the floods of 2000 and 2001, numerous religious communities jointly contributed to flood relief efforts. They officially established themselves as an organization in March 2002, after at least a year of relative inactivity. During the period covered by this report, the forum conducted limited campaigns to promote HIV/AIDS prevention.

The Catholic Church played a leading role in brokering the 1992 Rome Peace Accords between the FRELIMO Government and RENAMO opposition party coalition. Since that time, it has continued to encourage the evolution of the political system.

Two prominent Christian figures, Reverend Jamisse Taimo and Reverend Arao Litsuri, chaired the last two National Elections Commissions, in 1999 and 2003. The Vice President of the Mozambican Islamic Council is a member of Agenda 2025, the Government's national development strategy.

On December 9, 2003, the National Assembly passed a new Family Law, which would replace the colonial-era Civic Code and bring the law into line with equality provisions in the Constitution. However, the law was returned to the National Assembly for revisions due to apparent incompatibilities with Constitutional provisions covering marriage. The new law, if accepted, would raise the marriage age to 18 for both sexes, eliminate husbands' de facto status as heads of families, and legalize civil, religious, and common law unions. The law would end legal recognition of polygynous marriages and make them illegal, although women in polygynous marriages currently are granted full marital and inheritance rights.

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. U.S. Government actions in support of religious freedom have involved a variety of presentations on human rights matters to the Government. The Ambassador and Embassy officials also held several meetings with representatives of faith-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), Catholic bishops, the Papal Nunciatura, and numerous U.S. missionaries.

Relations were strengthened with the Mussa Bin Bique University in Nampula, where an "American Corner" was inaugurated in 2002. The American Corner provides the general public with access to information about the United States through book collections and other media, and local programming. In October 2003, the Ambassador hosted a luncheon with Muslim community leaders. In May the Embassy supported a weeklong workshop on capacity building for HIV/AIDS activists affiliated with local churches. The workshop brought together 30 activists from churches in the Maputo region and included officials from the Ministry of Health and an activist from a local NGO. Sessions included remarks by the Ambassador and a videotape on HIV/AIDS.