Some religious groups expressed concern about law-enforcement actions by joint teams of police, immigration, and registrar of societies’ personnel. The groups said officials of these agencies interrupted some prayer services in Lusaka and Copperbelt Provinces in search of illegal immigrants and drugs. The groups reported the number of actions was lower than the previous year. Among these actions was an April 5 raid of a church in Lusaka during Easter celebrations, which resulted in the arrest of 153 suspected illegal immigrants.
In March the Ministry of Home Affairs warned it would ban all unregistered churches. Home Affairs spokesperson Moses Suwali said only about 1,000 churches were registered with the registrar of societies. Suwali also announced the government would continue to carry out random inspections to ensure church compliance with registration requirements. Suwali said the government had banned some churches in Lusaka’s Chibolya Township earlier in the year, due to noncompliance with registration laws.
Religious groups reported that during the year, the government carried out a study to allow broader inclusivity of diverse faiths in the religious education curriculum but had not published the findings.
The government’s Independent Broadcast Authority (IBA), in consultation with a Muslim leadership organization, decided not to reissue broadcast permits for some Muslim radio broadcasters not related to that organization, whose permits it had revoked in 2013.
In June opposition National Revolution Party leader Cosmo Mumba advocated compulsory voter registration for Jehovah’s Witnesses during the scheduled national voter registration exercise. Mumba, who attributed low voter turnout to Jehovah’s Witnesses’ nonparticipation in politics, also asked the government to compel Witnesses to sing the national anthem as a sign of patriotism. The government did not respond to Mumba.
During his address to the National Assembly on September 18, President Lungu declared October 18 a “day of national prayer, fasting, and reconciliation.” Some religious organizations expressed concern the president’s declaration breached the separation of church and state and boycotted the events of the day. Reinforcing the declaration, the government ordered closures of all bars and suspended entertainment events on October 18. In addition, the president also commissioned the construction of a national church building on October 25, further attracting criticism from prominent religious groups, which argued that the state had no place building churches. The Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), one of the three church mother bodies, argued the government building a Christian church discriminated against Muslims and other non-Christian groups. Several other religious leaders expressed the same sentiment. President Lungu held a national prayer meeting on December 29, which featured only selected clergy and drew criticism from traditional Christian leaders.
In January Muslim leaders supported the Bank of Zambia’s December 2014 move to establish guidelines for Islamic banking, saying it increased access to the financial system for Muslims, who sought banking options compliant with Islamic law. Muslim leaders stated the system was open to non-Muslims as well as Muslims.
While debating the proposed final draft of the new national constitution in December, parliament rejected a suggestion to move language deeming the country a Christian nation from the preamble to the bill of rights section. Both Christian and non-Christian leaders agreed that including this language in the bill of rights could lead to discrimination against non-Christian faiths, despite provisions elsewhere in the draft constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion and of conscience. Some religious groups also said the clause in the existing constitution’s preamble stating the country was a “Christian nation” excluded them.