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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.

Members of all faiths are allowed to worship freely. There is no state or otherwise dominant religion and the Government practices no form of religious favoritism or discrimination.

The country is a very diverse nation, both religiously and ethnically. Nearly half the population traces its ancestry to the Indian subcontinent, while more than one-third is of African descent. These two major ethnicities, along with smaller groups of native South Americans and persons of European and Chinese descent, practice a wide variety of religions.

Approximately 50 percent of the population are either practicing or nominal Christians (roughly one-third are Anglicans, one-quarter are Roman Catholics, and 15 percent are Pentecostals. There are smaller percentages of Baptists, Methodists, Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses). Practicing or nominal Hindus constitute roughly 41 percent of the population, while Sunni Muslims constitute about 9 percent. Although not included in official figures, substantial numbers of the population practice Rastafarianism and/or a traditional Caribbean religion known locally as "Obeah," either apart from or in conjunction with the practice of other faiths. Members of all ethnic groups are well represented in all religions, with two exceptions: almost all Hindus are Indo-Guyanese, while nearly all Rastafarians are Afro-Guyanese. There are a wide variety of foreign missionaries in the country, and there are no restrictions on foreign religious proselytizing.

The Government has promoted cooperation among religious communities as a means of addressing long-standing racial tensions.

Until 1979 almost all elementary and high schools in the country were run by church-affiliated organizations. In 1979 the Government effectively banned such schools, declaring that all schools would come under government control and requiring that all children attend public, non-denominational schools. However, beginning in the late 1980's, these provisions were relaxed. Both public and religiously-affiliated schools now exist, and parents are free to send their children to the schools of their choice without sanction or restriction. The Government makes no requirements regarding religion for any official or non-official purposes.

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 between the country's diverse religious communities are amicable. Although significant problems exist between the country's two main ethnic groups, religious leaders have worked together frequently to attempt to bridge these gaps.

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