Muslim groups and some journalists reported the national police detained Muslims without just cause during July. According to the reports, members of the national police temporarily detained more than 50 Muslims in Bengo, Bie, and Cabinda provinces. Members of the Muslim community said they suspected this was in response to attempts by Muslims to congregate for religious services. All detainees were released after a few hours. The national police did not confirm the detentions.
The government’s requirements for religious groups to apply and obtain legal status made it difficult for some unrecognized religious groups to function freely as religious organizations and discouraged unrecognized groups from seeking recognition. Religious groups not recognized by the state were allowed to operate nonetheless, but faced operational and organizational challenges such as the denial of permits to hold public religious activities or the inability to rent venues for events. The state, which continued to recognize 83 religious groups, has not registered a new religious group since 2004, when it established the current registration requirements. No religious groups applied to register during the year.
Some members of the Muslim community believed the high threshold for obtaining legal status combined with the fact that the majority of recognized religious organizations were Christian indicated that the government opposed recognizing other religious groups. The government did not recognize any Muslim groups. The Bahai Faith and the Global Messianic Church were the only two non-Christian organizations legally registered.
The National Institute for Religious Affairs did not have legal jurisdiction over unrecognized religious groups but took steps to identify their locations and leadership in a stated effort to start a dialogue in the near future.
On September 26, government officials closed and demolished the Al-huda mosque in Viana, Luanda Province. According to Muslim leaders, the national police and officials from the provincial government said the mosque did not have the proper permit to operate as a place of worship.
The government identified more than 1,200 religious groups operating without legal status. Some of these groups had a national organizational structure and operated schools and medical facilities throughout the country. The government indicated some unrecognized religious groups had long-standing working relationships with provincial governments even though they were not legally recognized by the state.
The government extended the mandate of the interministerial Commission on Religious Affairs through the end of the year. The commission and the National Institute for Religious Affairs were working on a comprehensive study on the state of religion in the country.
In November the government launched a study in Cabinda, Uige, Luanda, and Zaire provinces of the practice among some local groups of accusing children of witchcraft. According to the government, the project included an educational component that respected traditional religious practices while encouraging greater protections for children. A task force established by the Ministry of Culture continued its efforts to combat and reduce accusations of child witchcraft.