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Zimbabwe international religious freedom report - July-Dec 2010
US Department of State
September 13, 2011

http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,,,ZWE,,4e734c530,0.html

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The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally enforced these protections.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period; however, in certain instances, government officials harassed religious leaders who were critical of government policies, or individuals who spoke out against human rights abuses committed by the government, and organized public rallies centering on social and political issues. Generally the government employed these tactics to maintain a stronghold in politically contested areas. As talk of elections in 2011 intensified during the reporting period, there were more reports of police using the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) as a pretext to prevent or disrupt rallies. Taking sides in an internal dispute between factions of the Anglican Church, the government arrested, harassed, and prevented church attendance by Anglican clergy and parishioners of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA).

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Indigenous religious groups and mainstream Christian churches maintained their differences primarily over doctrinal issues. There were no reported cases of direct confrontation or hostility between the two groups in the reporting period.

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom with the government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 150,760 square miles and a population of 12million. According to the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), 84 percent of the population is Christian, primarily Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Methodist. In its 2004 census, the EFZ estimated there were four million Catholics; five million evangelicals and Pentecostals; two million Anglicans, Methodists, and Presbyterians; and more than one million members of apostolic groups. There are a significant number of independent Pentecostal and syncretic African churches. While the country is overwhelmingly Christian, the majority of the population also believes, to varying degrees, in indigenous religions. Religious leaders reported a continued increase in adherence to indigenous religious practices, often simultaneously with the practice of formalized Christianity.

Muslims account for 1 percent of the population and are primarily immigrants of Mozambican and Malawian descent who came to the country as farm laborers. The Muslim population is concentrated in rural areas, where Muslim-led humanitarian efforts were often organized, and also in some high-density suburbs. The remainder of the population includes small numbers of practitioners of Greek Orthodoxy, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Bahai faith.

Political elites tended to be associated with one of the established Christian mainline or Pentecostal churches. Some apostolic groups have taken a political position in support of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). The groups' political significance was especially strong in the ZANU-PF political strongholds of Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, and Manicaland provinces.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

Please refer to Appendix C in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for the status of the government's acceptance of international legal standards http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/appendices/index.htm.

The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally enforced these protections. The constitution protects the right of individuals to choose and change their religion as well as to privately or publicly manifest and propagate their religion through worship, teaching, practice, and observance. Most if not all official state gatherings and functions included nondenominational Christian prayers.

The Criminal Codification and Reform Act criminalizes any practice "commonly associated with witchcraft," but only if that practice is intended to cause harm. It also criminalizes witch hunts, imposes criminal penalties for falsely accusing others of witchcraft, and rejects the killing of a witch as a defense for murder. Attacks on individuals in witchcraft-related cases appeared to be prosecuted under laws for assault, murder, or other crimes. In practice the government did not detain or prosecute persons for allegedly practicing witchcraft. A few cases of witchcraft were brought to trial and prosecuted under laws on indecency.

The 2002 Public Order and Security Act (POSA) restricts freedoms of assembly, expression, and association. Although not specifically aimed at religious activities, the government invoked the act to interfere with religious and civil society groups organizing public prayer rallies. While POSA exempted religious activities and events, influential persons in the government viewed any public gathering that is critical of ZANU-PF as political.

The government did not require religious groups to register; however, religious organizations that operated schools or medical facilities were required to register those institutions with the appropriate ministry regulating their activities. Religious institutions may apply for tax-exempt status and duty-free privileges with the customs department, which generally granted these requests.

The Ministry of Education sets curricula for public primary and secondary schools. Many public secondary schools included a religious education course that focused on Christian religious groups and covered other religious groups, emphasizing the need for religious tolerance. School assemblies and functions routinely opened and closed with Christian prayer. Most public universities offered degrees in Christian religious study and theology. World religions were incorporated in the curriculum.

The country has a long history of Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Salvation Army, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Seventh-day Adventist churches building and operating primary and secondary schools. The United Methodist Church, Catholic Church, and Seventh-day Adventist Church all operated private universities. The government did not regulate religious education in private schools but played a role in approving employment of headmasters and teachers. Since independence, there has been a proliferation of evangelical basic education schools. Christian schools, the majority of which are Catholic, constituted one-third of all schools. Islamic, Hindu, and Jewish primary and secondary schools were also in major urban areas such as Harare and Bulawayo.

The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Easter and Christmas.

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