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U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2006 - Zambia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 15 September 2006
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2006 - Zambia , 15 September 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/450fb0a829.html [accessed 26 July 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.

International Religious Freedom Report 2006

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, September 15, 2006. Covers the period from July 1, 2005, to June 30, 2006.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice.

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

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

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 has an area of 290,586 square miles, and its population is approximately ten million. According to a 2000 census, approximately 87 percent of the population was Christian; 1 percent was Muslim or Hindu; 7 percent adhered to other faiths, including indigenous faiths; and 5 percent did not report their religion.

The majority of indigenous persons were either Roman Catholic or Protestant; however, many Christians held some traditional beliefs as well. In recent years, there has been an upsurge of new Pentecostal churches, commonly known as evangelical churches, which have attracted many young persons into their ranks.

Muslims were concentrated in areas where citizens of Asian origin have settled, primarily along the railroad line from Lusaka to Livingstone, in Chipata, and in other parts of Eastern Province. Many Asian-origin citizens were Muslim, although Hindus constituted a sizable percentage of this group as well. A small minority of indigenous persons was also Muslim.

Foreign missionary groups present included Catholic, Anglican, other mainstream and evangelical churches, and Jehovah's Witnesses.

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. Article 19 of the constitution provides freedom of thought and religion to all citizens, freedom to change religion or belief, and freedom to manifest and propagate religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice, and observance. Statutes provide effective remedies for the violation of religious freedom. These provisions are enforced in a rigorous and nondiscriminatory fashion.

The Oasis Forum – composed of the Law Association of Zambia, the Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) Coordinating Committee, the Zambia Episcopal Conference, the Christian Council of Zambia, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia – continued to be active during the period covered by this report. The Government criticized the Oasis Forum over its stance on the constitutional review process and the mode of adoption of a new constitution. In spite of rebukes by government officials of church leaders for taking a stand on political issues, churches continued to freely and vocally criticize the Government, organize activities, and mobilize public opinion.

Although a 1996 amendment to the constitution declared the country a Christian nation, the Government generally respects the right of all faiths to worship freely. In its final report on constitutional reform released on December 29, 2005, the Constitution Review Commission recommended that the constitution retain the declaration that Zambia is a Christian nation, subject to approval by a constituent assembly and national referendum. Religious instruction is provided for Christians in public schools but not for Muslims.

The following holy days are considered national holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Christmas.

There are governmental controls that require the registration of religious groups. The Government approves without discrimination all applications for registration from religious groups. There were no reports that the Government rejected any religious groups that attempted to register. To be eligible for registration, groups must have a unique name, possess a constitution consistent with the country's laws, and display compatibility with the peace, welfare, and good order of the country. Unregistered religious groups are not allowed to operate. Violators can face a fine and imprisonment for up to seven years.

Although the Government routinely allows religious groups to register, in March 2006, Foreign Minister Ronnie Shikapwasha stated publicly that the Government would begin the practice of consulting with the Council of Churches in Zambia before it registers church groups. The foreign minister's statement came in the wake of a controversy involving the Universal Church of God, which the Government deregistered in December after Lusaka residents rioted in response to allegations that church members were engaged in satanic practices. In January 2006 the High Court overturned the Government's deregistration order, allowing the Church to continue operations pending judicial review. The Government nevertheless deported the Church's two Brazilian pastors in February, citing security concerns. The Church continues to operate in the country and has petitioned the High Court to find the Government in contempt for violating the order staying proceedings against the church. At the end of the period covered by this report, the High Court had not ruled on the Church's petition.

There were no reports that foreign missionary groups faced any special requirements or restrictions beyond those imposed on other foreigners.

The Government requires religious instruction in public schools. Such instruction is conducted in both the Catholic and Protestant traditions, and students from other faiths are usually excused from religious instruction. Instruction in Islam and other faiths is not available in public schools; however, it is conducted in private schools owned and controlled by those faiths. Parents can also homeschool their children.

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

The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom.

Leaders of various ecumenical movements, such as the Zambia Episcopal Conference, the Christian Council of Zambia, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, hold regular meetings to promote mutual understanding and interfaith dialogue and to discuss national issues.

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.

Embassy officials met with a wide spectrum of religious representatives to promote interreligious dialogue and collaboration on several issues. The mission supported interdenominational efforts to increase HIV/AIDS awareness. The U.S. government hosted a religious pastor for a three-week International Visitor program on religion and the community. The mission focused on outreach to the Muslim community, meeting with groups of Muslim women, providing Internet training, and hosting interactive discussions between American and Zambian Muslims, including a digital video conference between Zambian Muslim women and a well-known American Muslim woman writer and speaker. Mission staff also visited a Muslim girls orphanage and school to conduct outreach and discuss future programs.

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