The government imposed restrictions that affected members of minority religious groups.
The high membership threshold for religious groups to acquire legal status restricted registration. The government continued to recognize 83 registered religious groups, but did not register any new groups. The government last registered a new group in 2004 before the current law on religion came into effect. The groups recognized before the 2004 law were not required to meet the 100,000-member threshold. More than 1,000 organizations have applied unsuccessfully for legal recognition since 1991. The government has not granted legal status to any Muslim groups. Over 2,000 organizations reportedly continued to operate without legal status. The government generally permitted these organizations to exist, function, and grow without legal recognition. In November, however, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights announced it had dismissed the applications for recognition from 194 different religious organizations for failing to comply with the legal requirements of registration. It did not provide further detail about the nature of the requirements that the organizations had failed to meet. The large majority of these organizations were Christian churches of various denominations, but also included the Islamic Community of Angola (CISA), one of the leading Muslim organizations.
In May the minister of culture stated that President dos Santos had created an inter-ministerial commission to look into the proliferation of what the minister called “sects” (referring to religious groups outside of the Christian groups traditionally present in the country) and their links to illegal immigrants. The government often associated Muslims with illegal immigration in the press and in official communications with the diplomatic corps. In September the government organized a workshop in Luanda to discuss concerns about the reported proliferation of these nontraditional religious groups and their beliefs. One of the workshop’s primary objectives was to evaluate the relationship of these groups to illegal immigration.
Government agencies, religious groups, and civil society organizations continued campaigns against indigenous religious practices involving shamans, animal sacrifices, or “witchcraft.” The stated goal of these campaigns was to discourage abusive practices that included willful neglect or physical abuse, particularly of women, children, and the elderly. It was unclear whether the campaigns also intended to discourage indigenous religious practices more generally. According to the National Institute for Religious Affairs, cases of abusive practices continued to decrease in number due to the campaigns and government directives.
Although government officials asserted the government protected religious groups without legal status and did not have a policy to close mosques or other Islamic facilities, leaders of the Muslim community reported greater levels of government harassment than in past years, mostly in the form of police closing or demolishing “illegal” mosques. In September the leader of CISA stated that the government had closed or destroyed at least nine mosques throughout the country during the year. He said that when members of the Muslim community asked for an explanation the authorities cited “superior orders” and sometimes simply flashed a piece of paper. He stated the authorities never allowed community leaders to keep a copy of the orders or, in most cases, even read them.
Luanda police destroyed a mosque in the Zango neighborhood of Luanda in October. According to official government statements, the local Islamic community had illegally acquired the land on which they had built the mosque. According to CISA, the Islamic community legally acquired the land in 2008, began construction in 2010, and finished the mosque during the year. Police first informed the mosque leaders of the illegality of the mosque on September 26 and arrived to destroy it on October 3.
Muslim group leaders stated Muslims could not practice Islam freely because the government did not recognize Islam and selectively intervened to close mosques, schools, and community centers. The leader of CISA said the government neither granted nor denied requests for permission to build mosques. He stated this indecision was not due to bureaucracy, but a purposeful attempt to keep Muslim communities in a state of limbo where they were unable to construct new mosques without fear that they would be demolished. The government stated it had no specific policy aimed at demolishing or closing mosques.
In January the government suspended the license of the Universal Church of the Reign of God for 60 days because of a stampede during the church’s New Year’s Eve gathering that killed 16 people and injured 120. Officials estimated the church allowed more than 200,000 followers to attend the service in a stadium with an occupancy capacity of only 50,000. Authorities permitted the church to resume services at the end of March. In October local authorities closed a church in Kuando Kubango Province. The government stated the unlicensed church was operating out of people’s homes and illicitly collecting or laundering money.