U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999 - Republic of the Congo

Section I. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution (Fundamental Act) provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. There is no official state religion.

Approximately half of the country's 2.6 million citizens are Christian; of these about 90 percent are Roman Catholic.

There is a small Muslim community estimated at 25,000 to 50,000 persons, most of who are immigrants from North and West Africa who work in commerce in urban centers.

The remainder of the population is practitioners of traditional indigenous religions, belongs to various messianic groups, or practices no religion at all. A small minority of the Christian community practices Kimbanguism, a syncretist movement that originated in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. While retaining many elements of Christianity, Kimbanguism also recognizes its founder (Simon Kimbangu) as a prophet and incorporates African traditional beliefs, such as ancestor worship. Mystical or messianic practices (especially among the ethnic Lari population in the Pool region) have been associated with opposition political movements, including the current armed insurrection in the south.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.

There were no reports of religious detainees or prisoners.

There were no reports of the forced religious conversion of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section II. Societal Attitudes

There are generally amicable relations among the various religious communities. All organized religious groups are represented in a joint ecumenical council, which meets regularly.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses issues of religious freedom with a broad cross-section of society (including church leaders, government officials, and members of civil society) in the context of its overall promotion of human rights.

The Annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom describes the status of religious freedom in each foreign country, and government policies violating religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals, and U.S. policies to promote religious freedom around the world. It is submitted in compliance with P.L. 105-292 (105th Congress) and is cited as the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

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