U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2004 - Zambia

Released by the U.S. Department of State Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor on September 15, 2004, covers the period from July 1, 2003, to June 30, 2004.

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects 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 a total area of 290,586 square miles, and its population is approximately 10 million. According to a 2000 census, approximately 87 percent of the population is Christian; 1 percent is either Muslim or Hindu; 7 percent adheres to other faiths, including indigenous faiths; and 5 percent did not report its religion.

The majority of indigenous persons, spread throughout the country, are either Roman Catholic or Protestant; however, many Christians hold 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 are concentrated in parts of the country where citizens of Asian origin have settled, primarily along the railroad line from Lusaka to Livingstone, in Chipata, and in other parts of the eastern province. Most citizens of Asian origin are Muslim, although Hindus constitute a sizable percentage. A small minority of indigenous persons is also Muslim.

Foreign missionary groups operate in the country and include the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, a range of mainstream and evangelical churches, and the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. Article 19 of the constitution guarantees 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. The Government at all levels strives to protect this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. Statutes provide effective remedies for the violation of religious freedom. These provisions are enforced in a rigorous and nondiscriminatory fashion.

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 and there were no reports that the Government provided preferential treatment to Christians.

The following religious holidays are considered national holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Christmas. The observance of these holidays does not negatively affect any religious group.

There are governmental controls that require the registration of religious groups. The Government approves all applications for registration from religious groups without discrimination. There were no reports that the Government rejected any religious groups that attempted to register or obtain licenses. To be eligible for registration, groups must exist, 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 in the country under penalty of law. Violators can face a fine and imprisonment for up to 7 years.

There were no reports that foreign missionary groups faced any special requirements or restrictions, beyond those experienced by other foreigners residing in Zambia.

The Government requires religious instruction in public schools. Such instruction is conducted in the dominant Christian religion and students from other faiths are usually excused from religious instruction. Religious instruction in Islam and other faiths 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.

The Oasis Forum – composed of the Law Association of Zambia, NGO Coordinating Committee, Zambia Episcopal Conference, Christian Council of Zambia, and Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia – continued to be active during the period covered by this report. There also continued to be reports that members of the Government criticized the Oasis Forum over the latter's stance on the constitutional review process and the mode of adoption of a new Constitution. In spite of rebukes from government officials against church leaders for taking a stand on political issues, the churches continued to freely and vocally criticize the Government, organize activities, and mobilize public opinion.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees.

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.

In July 2003, police in Lusaka raided an Islamic school and arrested the operators for unlawful confinement and child abuse; boys between the ages of 4 and 10 endured harsh conditions while studying Arabic and Islam at the school. The following week, police raided two similar Islamic schools in the Lusaka area. In November 2003, the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped the original charges, although new charges of interfering with justice were lodged. The High Court subsequently ordered the deportation of one of the operators. An appeal of the deportation order was pending in May.

Abuses by Terrorist Organizations

There were no reported abuses targeted at specific religions by terrorist organizations during the period covered by this report.

Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom

On February 3, Zambian President Mwanawasa spoke at the Makeni Islamic Community's Eid Al-Adha celebration. Mwanawasa urged the Muslim community to participate actively in the country's economic and political life, reiterated that all religions are welcome in the country, and stressed that the Constitution provides for freedom of worship.

Section III. Societal Attitudes

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.

The Ambassador and other U.S. diplomats met with representatives from Hindu, Muslim, Baha'i, and Christian organizations to foster inter-religious dialogue and collaboration on issues such as HIV/AIDS. The Ambassador appeared on national television on numerous occasions with religious leaders and met frequently with leaders of the Muslim community. The Ambassador also participated in a march with a large interdenominational group, organized by members of the Seventh Day Adventist church, to rally support for the fight against HIV-AIDS. In addition, the U.S. Government hosted a local Islamic scholar during a 3-week International Visitors Program.


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