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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 or otherwise dominant religion. Members of all the various faiths in the country are allowed to worship freely.

Suriname is an ethnically and religiously diverse nation, with a tradition of religious tolerance. Slightly over one-third of the population traces its ancestry to the Indian subcontinent, another third is of African descent, nearly another third claims Indonesian ancestry and there are smaller percentages of the population that claim Chinese, Amerindian, Portuguese, Lebanese, and Dutch ancestry. Religious diversity in the country closely parallels the ethnic diversity of the population.

According to government statistics, 45 percent of the population is Christian (23 percent Roman Catholic, 16 percent Moravian, and 6 percent other denominations such as Lutheran, Dutch reformed and the Evangelical Churches), 27 percent is Hindu, 20 percent Muslim, 6 percent follow native religions, and 2 percent claim no faith.

There are no restrictions on foreign missionary workers.

A large number of faiths, including U.S. based church groups, have established missionary programs throughout the country. It is estimated that nearly 90 percent of the American missionaries are affiliated with the Baptist Church, with a small percentage of followers of the Mormon Church also present. There are several chapters of Freemasons and Druids. In addition to U.S. based groups, there are international groups such as the World Islamic Call Society and the Baha'i Faith. Aside from the standard requirement for an entry visa, missionary workers face no special governmental restrictions. The Government, which plans to develop the interior, has encouraged and, where possible, supported the various groups without showing special preference to any one group in particular.

The governmental educational system subsidizes to a small extent a number of public elementary and secondary schools established and managed by the various religious faiths. While the teachers at the schools are civil servants, and the schools are considered public schools, religious groups provide all funding with the exception of teachers' salaries and a small maintenance stipend. When the country was not yet independent of Dutch rule, religious schools were run only by the Roman Catholic Church. However, since independence in 1975, a number of Hindu, Muslim, and other religious schools have opened.

The Government has encouraged cooperation among the various ethnic groups by, for example, declaring the most important holidays of the major religions to be national holidays.

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 the country's various religious communities are amicable. Most citizens, especially those living in Paramaribo, celebrate the religious holidays of other groups to varying extents.

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: 11-09-1999