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2007 Report on International Religious Freedom - Malta

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Publication Date 14 September 2007
Cite as United States Department of State, 2007 Report on International Religious Freedom - Malta, 14 September 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/46ee678a55.html [accessed 23 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. The Constitution establishes Roman Catholicism as the state religion.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report, and government policy continued to contribute to the generally free practice of religion.

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious beliefs or practice.

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 is an archipelago, consisting of three inhabited islands in the Mediterranean Sea, and has an area of 122 square miles. Its population is 400,000. The overwhelming majority of citizens (an estimated 95 percent as of 2004) are Roman Catholic, and approximately 53 percent (2005 estimate) attend Sunday services regularly. All or almost all of the country's political leaders are practicing Roman Catholics. The country joined the European Union in 2004, and the Government supported the failed effort to include a reference to "Europe's Christian heritage" in the European Constitution.

Most congregants at the local Protestant churches are not citizens but rather include some of the many British retirees who live in the country or vacationers from other countries. Of the Protestant churches, the Church of England has a congregation of approximately 270 members; the united congregations of the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches number 120, and the Evangelical Church of Germany has approximately 70 members. Groups that constitute less than 5 percent of the population include a union of 16 groups of evangelical churches comprising Pentecostal and other nondenominational churches, Jehovah's Witnesses, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Bible Baptist Church, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Zen Buddhism, and the Baha'i Faith. There is a Jewish congregation with an estimated one hundred members. There is one mosque and a Muslim primary school. Of the estimated 3,000 Muslims, approximately 2,250 are foreigners, 600 are naturalized citizens, and 150 are native-born citizens. An estimated 2 percent of the population does not formally practice any religion, including professed atheists.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. The Government at all levels sought to protect this right in full and did not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

The Constitution establishes Roman Catholicism as the state religion and declares that the authorities of the Catholic Church have "the duty and the right to teach which principles are right and which are wrong." Divorce is not available in the country. However, the state generally recognizes divorces of individuals domiciled abroad who have undergone divorce proceedings in a competent court.

The Government and the Catholic Church participated in a foundation which financed Catholic schools and provided free tuition in those schools.

The Government subsidized children living in church-sponsored residential homes.

To promote tolerance, school curriculums include studies in human rights, ethnic relations, and cultural diversity as part of values education. Religious groups are not required to be licensed or registered.

There is one Muslim private school with approximately 120 students. Work continued on a projected 500-grave Muslim cemetery that began in 2005.

There are six holy days that are also national holidays: the Motherhood of Our Lady, St. Paul's Shipwreck, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, the Assumption, and Christmas Day.

All religious organizations have similar legal rights. Religious organizations can own property including buildings, and their ministers can perform marriages and other functions. While religious instruction in Catholicism is compulsory in all state schools, the Constitution establishes the right not to receive this instruction if the student or parent or guardian objects, and this right was respected in practice.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Government policy and practice contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

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.

Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.

The Catholic Church makes its presence and its influence felt in everyday life; however, non-Catholics, including converts from Catholicism, do not face legal or societal discrimination. Relations between the Catholic Church and non-Catholic religious groups are characterized by respect and cooperation. Practitioners of non-Catholic religious groups proselytize freely and openly.

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. The Embassy's private discussions with government officials and its informational programs for the public consistently emphasize basic human rights including freedom of religion.

Through a variety of public affairs programs, the Embassy continued to work with different sectors of society, including religious groups, to promote interfaith dialogue, religious freedom, and tolerance. Initiatives included increased outreach to the local chapter of the World Islamic Call Society and other members of the Muslim community, including Muslim students enrolled at the University of Malta. The Embassy also had regular contact with the Jewish community.

Released on September 14, 2007

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