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

Released by the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington, DC, September 9, 1999


Section I. Freedom of Religion

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

Religious groups must register and obtain authorization from the Ministry of Interior. In January 1998, an organization widely perceived to be affiliated with the Reverend Sun Myung Moon was refused registration, apparently due to concerns about its use of mind-control practices.

Most of the population of roughly 14 million persons is nominally Christian, of which an estimated 4.5 million are Roman Catholics, 3.5 million are Protestants belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (mostly from Fianarantsoa North), 2 million are Lutherans (mostly from Fianarantsoa South), and less than 1 million are Anglicans (mostly in Antananarivo and Toamasina). The next-largest religious group comprises followers of traditional indigenous beliefs centered on ancestor worship. Muslims constitute probably slightly less than an estimated 10 percent of the population (concentrated in the north and northwest); they include ethnic Malagasy as well as most of the ethnic Indians who immigrated within the past century. There are a few Hindus among the Indians.

Foreign missionary groups operate freely, including Catholics, Protestants of various denominations, and Mormons.

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

Relations among religious communities are generally amicable. Some ethnic Malagasy voice resentment against the ethnic Indian community, but this is primarily due to perceptions that the relative prosperity of the ethnic Indian community is due to the corruption of government officials and the economic exploitation of ethnic Malagasy customers. Since October 1998, there have been isolated instances of looting directed at members of the ethnic Indian community, but they appeared to be prompted by personal antagonisms and the desire for economic gain through theft, rather than religious motives.

Within the ethnic Indian community there have been instances of kidnaping for ransom, but with no apparent religious motive.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the overall context of the promotion of human rights.

[End of Document]

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Revised last: 10-09-1999