U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999 - Guinea-Bissau

Section I. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government – both before and since the outbreak of civil conflict in June 1998 – respect this right in practice. There is no state religion.

The Government requires that religious groups be licensed; however, no applications have been refused. There are no recent reports that any applications have been made.

About half the population follows traditional indigenous religious practices. Approximately 45 percent of the population are Muslim and about 5 percent are Christian. There are few atheists. The Muslim population is concentrated in the Fula and Mandinka ethnic groups, and Muslims generally live in the north and northeast. Christians are concentrated in Bissau and other large towns. Practitioners of traditional religions inhabit the rest of the country.

Christians belong to a number of denominations, including Roman Catholic and various Protestant denominations. Missionaries from numerous Christian denominations have long been active. Muslims generally adhere to a tolerant "African-style" Islam.

All religions were tolerated prior to the outbreak of civil conflict in June 1998, and there have been no reports of discrimination based on religious belief since that time. Historically, political affiliation has not been related directly to ethnic or religious affiliation. Members of all major faiths are represented in the Interim Government that was inaugurated in February 1999, in the National Assembly, and in the military junta that led the rebellion against President Joao Vieira.

Numerous foreign missionary groups have long operated in country without restriction. While many missionaries left following the June 1998 conflict, others stayed and continue to operate unmolested.

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

There were no indications that either the Government or rebel forces attempted to interfere with religious freedom following the outbreak of fighting.

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

Relations between the various religious communities are generally amicable. Society is tolerant on religious matters.

There have been no reports of significant ecumenical movements or activities to promote greater mutual understanding and tolerance.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

There has been no official U.S. presence in country since June 1998.

Note: The U.S. Embassy suspended operations on June 14, 1998 in the midst of heavy fighting in Bissau that resulted from a rebellion by military units, and all official U.S. personnel in the country were evacuated. As of June 1999, the Embassy remains closed and no official U.S. personnel are stationed in the country. Official U.S. personnel made occasional brief visits to Bissau in early 1999. Sources of information about the situation of religious believers and other circumstances inside Guinea-Bissau are very limited.

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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