Some religious groups stated the government indirectly violated religious freedom when conducting law-enforcement actions. On several occasions, joint teams of police, immigration, and registrar of societies’ personnel interrupted prayer services of various religious groups in Lusaka and Copperbelt Provinces in search of illegal immigrants and to halt suspected illicit activities, such as drug smuggling. In August authorities raided 25 churches in Kitwe, apprehending several suspected illegal immigrants. In July another joint team interrupted congregants of the Free Pentecost Assemblies in Kabwata while conducting investigations into suspected illegal activities, such as abduction and sexual abuse. After concluding its investigation, the government stated it had determined these activities had occurred and banned the church. The Independent Churches of Zambia, an association of religious groups, criticized the ban, suggesting that authorities should distinguish between innocent church members and suspected criminals within a given congregation.
In September media reported the registrar of societies closed the Tower of Hope church in Lusaka for failing to register. During the year, police warned members of civil society organizations to avoid using churches to hold prayer services to press the government to release a new draft constitution. Police said that civil society’s use of religious facilities was a misuse of churches and, therefore warranted the application of the Public Order Act – a colonial-era law that regulates public gatherings. Many church leaders criticized the action, noting that places of worship were not covered under the act. In Kabwe in April, police attempted to stop an Oasis Forum prayer meeting on the constitution, stating participants did not have a permit to assemble under the Public Order Act. After participants explained the purpose of the meeting, however, police left, instructing them to finish the meeting within a short time. Using the act as justification, police attempted to halt people from attending a prayer service in Choma in May.
The government and religious leaders during the year discussed how to reduce activities in churches that were illegal under the penal code, such as sexual abuse, drug smuggling, and immigration violations. The Independent Churches of Zambia urged the government to create measures that better enforced registration requirements in order to avoid illegal activity within churches.
The government’s Independent Broadcast Authority (IBA) did not reissue broadcast permits for some Muslim radio broadcasters, whose permits it revoked in 2013.
On December 30, the Bank of Zambia announced it had launched financial guidelines for Islamic banking. Muslim leaders praised the move, saying it increased access to financial systems for many Muslims, who sought banking options compliant with Islamic law. They stated the system was open to non-Muslims as well as Muslims.
The proposed final draft of the new national constitution, which had not been adopted at year’s end, rejected a suggestion to move language deeming Zambia a Christian nation from the preamble to the bill of rights section. Both Christian and non-Christian leaders stated that including this language in the bill of rights could have led to discrimination against non-Christian faiths, despite provisions elsewhere in the draft constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion and of conscience.