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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 conscience for all persons and recognizes no official religion; the Government respects this right in practice.

All religious groups must be registered with the Ministry of Education and Worship, but the Government imposes no controls on these groups and many informal churches exist.

Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, but all persons are free to worship as they choose. The Catholic Church is involved in politics at the fringe, mostly in socio-economic matters, and does not support any particular political party. The Church freely criticizes the Government. There are active Catholic, mainline Protestant, evangelical Christian, Jewish (both Orthodox and Reform congregations), Mormon, Muslim, and Baha'i communities in the country. There also are sizable Mennonite communities, whose members originally came to the country in order to escape religious persecution. These communities came to the country in several waves between 1880 and 1950.

The Government is secular. Most government officials are Christian. The Government does not take any particular steps to promote interfaith understanding. Adherence to a particular creed confers no legal advantage or disadvantage, and foreign and local missionaries proselytize freely.

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

While there is no large-scale ecumenical movement in the country, all religious groups freely exercise their beliefs in a largely tolerant environment. The Catholic Church often performs Mass for government functions, Protestant and evangelical churches engage in marches and prayer vigils, and the Jewish community holds a large public menorah lighting every year for Hannukah.

Section III. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Embassy discusses religious freedom with the Government in the overall context of the promotion of human rights. The U.S. Ambassador and embassy officials meet regularly with representatives of different religious groups.

[End of Document]

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Revised last: 11-09-1999