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Afghanistan

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 37.5 million (midyear 2021).  According to Pew Forum data from 2009, Sunni Muslims constitute approximately 80-85 percent of the population, and Shia make up approximately 10-15 percent.

According to religious community leaders, the Shia population, approximately 90 percent of whom are ethnic Hazaras, is predominantly Jaafari, but also includes Ismailis.  Other religious groups, mainly Hindus, Sikhs, Baha’is, and Christians, together constitute less than 0.3 percent of the population.  According to Sikh leaders, there are fewer than 150 members of the Sikh and Hindu communities remaining in the country, compared with an estimated 400 at the start of the year and 1,300 in 2017.  Most members of the Sikh and Hindu communities are in Kabul, with smaller numbers in Ghazni and other provinces.  Hindu community leaders estimate there are fewer than 50 remaining Hindus, all male and primarily businessmen with families in other countries.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim community in the country numbers in the hundreds.  Reliable estimates of the Baha’i and Christian communities are not available.  There are small numbers of practitioners of other religions.  There are no known Jews in the country, following the departure of the country’s last known remaining Jew after the Taliban takeover.

Hazaras live predominantly in the central and western provinces as well as in Kabul; Ismaili Muslims live mainly in Kabul and in the central and northern provinces.  Followers of the Baha’i Faith live predominantly in Kabul, with a small community in Kandahar.  Ahmadi Muslims largely live in Kabul.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Religion and ethnicity in the country were often closely linked.  Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, and other non-Muslim minorities reported continued harassment from Muslims, although Hindus and Sikhs stated that prior to the Taliban takeover, they continued to be able to publicly practice their religions.

According to international sources, Baha’is and Christians lived in constant fear of exposure and were reluctant to reveal their religious identities to anyone.  According to some sources, converts to Christianity and individuals studying Christianity reported receiving threats, including death threats, from family members opposed to their interest in Christianity.  They said fears of violent societal repression had further increased since the Taliban takeover.

According to Christians and Ahmadi Muslims, members of their groups continued to worship only in private to avoid societal discrimination and persecution, including harassment from neighbors and coworkers.  They also said that following the Taliban takeover in August, relatives and neighbors who were aware of their identities were more likely to treat them harshly or report them to the Taliban, whether out of self-preservation or to curry favor with the Taliban.

Prior to the Taliban takeover, women of several different faiths, including Sunni and Shia Islam, continued to report harassment from local Muslim religious leaders over their attire.  Clerics in numerous provinces preached that woman must wear modest dress and that the faithful should publicly enforce a strict implementation of sharia law.  As a result, some women said they continued to wear burqas or other modest dress in public in rural areas and in some districts in urban areas, including in Kabul, before the Taliban takeover, in contrast to other more secure, Ghani administration-controlled areas, where women said they felt comfortable not wearing what they considered conservative clothing.  Almost all women reported wearing some form of head covering.  Some women said they did so by personal choice, but many said they did so due to societal pressure and a desire to avoid harassment and to increase their security in public.  Prior to the Taliban takeover, observers said local Muslim religious leaders continued their efforts to limit social activities, such as concerts, considered by the religious leaders to be inconsistent with Islamic doctrine.  Following the Taliban takeover, media reported instances of local Muslim religious leaders becoming more prohibitive of such activities.

Prior to the Taliban takeover, Ahmadiyya Muslims said they did not proselytize due to fear of persecution.  Ahmadiyya Muslims reported an increasing need to conceal their identity to avoid unwanted attention in public and their intent to depart the country permanently if there was a peace agreement with the Taliban.  Before the Taliban takeover of Kabul, members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community said they were able to intermittently perform weekly congregational prayer at a nondescript location in Kabul.  According to international Ahmadiyya Muslim organizations with close ties to Ahmadi Muslims in the country, following the Taliban takeover, fear of persecution by the Taliban and its sympathizers had driven community members to refrain from worship at their center in Kabul.  Approximately 100 Ahmadi Muslims departed the country in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover.  As of year’s end, hundreds remained in country.  Ahmadi Muslims said they received direct as well as indirect threats against their safety in the form of notes, telephone messages, and other menacing communications because of their faith.  Ahmadi Muslim representatives said they did not initially report or publicize these threats because they feared additional verbal harassment and physical abuse from Taliban representatives.

Prior to the Taliban takeover, Christian representatives reported public opinion, as expressed in social media and elsewhere, remained hostile toward converts to Christianity and to the idea of Christian proselytization.  They reported pressure and threats, largely from family, to renounce Christianity and return to Islam.  They said Christians continued to worship alone or in small congregations, sometimes 10 or fewer persons, in private homes due to fear of societal discrimination and persecution.  The dates, times, and locations of these services were frequently changed to avoid detection.  There continued to be no public Christian churches.  Following the Taliban takeover, Christians described raids by Taliban on the homes of Christian converts even after they had fled the country or moved out.  Christian sources stated the Taliban takeover emboldened intolerant relatives to threaten them with violence and inform on converts should they continue their practice of Christianity.

Prior to the Taliban takeover, some Sikhs and Hindus had refused to send their children to public schools because other students harassed their children, although only a few private school options were available to them due to the decreasing sizes of the two communities and their members’ declining economic circumstances.  According to community members, since the Taliban takeover, the small number of remaining Sikh and Hindu children did not attend school due to school closures related to COVID-19 and inclement winter weather.

Until the Taliban takeover, Kabul’s lone synagogue remained occupied by the self-proclaimed last remaining Jew in the country, and a nearby abandoned Jewish cemetery was still utilized as an unofficial dump; reportedly many abandoned Islamic cemeteries were also used as dumping sites.  The lone known Jew departed Afghanistan in late August, saying he feared the Taliban would be unable to protect him from an ISIS-K attack.

Prior to the Taliban takeover, NGOs reported some Muslims remained suspicious of development assistance projects, which they often viewed as surreptitious efforts to advance Christianity or engage in proselytization.

Albania

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 3.1 million (midyear 2021). According to the most recent census, conducted in 2011, Sunni Muslims constitute nearly 57 percent of the population, Roman Catholics 10 percent, members of the AOC 7 percent, and members of the Bektashi Order (a form of Shia Sufism) 2 percent. Other groups include Protestant denominations, Baha’is, Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Jews. Nearly 20 percent of respondents declined to answer an optional census question about religious affiliation. According to Boston University’s 2020 World Religion Database, there are approximately 1.71 million Muslims (59 percent of the population), 1.01 million Christians (38 percent), 73,000 atheists or agnostics (2.5 percent), and 16,000 Baha’is. The World Jewish Congress estimates there are 40-50 Jews.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Religious communities said interfaith relations were excellent.

Authorities reported that on April 19, Rudolf Nikollaj attacked individuals at the Dine Hoxha Mosque in Tirana with a knife following afternoon prayers, wounding five persons before police arrested him. Nikollaj, whose father is Catholic and mother is Muslim, had converted to Islam, according to his father, but was often prevented from entering mosques by worshippers who told him he was Christian. Nikollaj’s father told media his son had been depressed. In July, the Tirana prosecutor asked the Tirana District Court to put Nikollaj in a medical institution due to his history of mental health problems. In November the court accepted the prosecution’s recommendation.

According to an IRI report entitled Antisemitic Discourse in the Western Balkans released during the year, antisemitic statements in domestic media were rare, although there were some conspiracy theories regarding a Jewish American businessman’s role in influencing domestic politics and Jews controlling the world order and economy. Of 457 online media items studied between January 2019 and May 20, 2020, 17 (3.7 percent) contained what IRI determined was antisemitic content. Most media focused on Holocaust remembrance and the country’s good relations with Israel.

The Interfaith Council held several online and in-person meetings domestically and internationally on faith-related issues, such as a discussion on the country’s communist past and religion, as well as other topics, including the role of religious groups in combating trafficking in persons and countering violent extremism.

Together as the Interfaith Council and individually, religious communities provided books, food, and other donations to support institutions such as hospitals and families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Algeria

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 43.6 million (midyear 2021), more than 99 percent of whom are Sunni Muslims following the Maliki school.  Religious groups together constituting less than 1 percent of the population include Christians, Jews, Ahmadi Muslims, Shia Muslims, and a community of Ibadi Muslims who reside principally in the Province of Ghardaia.  Religious leaders estimate there are fewer than 200 Jews.

Christian groups include Roman Catholics, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, members of the EPA, Lutherans, the Reformed Church, Anglicans, and an estimated 1,000 Egyptian Coptic Christians.  Religious leaders’ unofficial estimates of the number of Christians range from 20,000 to 200,000.  In 2020, the Christian advocacy nongovernmental organization (NGO) International Christian Concern estimated there were approximately 600,000 Christians.  According to government officials and religious leaders, foreign residents make up most of the Christian population.  Among the Christian population, the proportion of students and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa without legal status has also increased in recent years.  Christian leaders say citizens who are Christians predominantly belong to Protestant groups.

Christians reside mostly in Algiers and the Provinces of Kabylie, Bejaia, Tizi Ouzou, Annaba, Ouargla, and Oran.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Some Christian converts said they and others in their communities continued to keep a low profile due to concern for their personal safety and the potential for legal, familial, career, and social problems.  Other converts practiced their new religion openly, according to members of the Christian community.  In January, Catholic officials reported that because of what they believed was growing intolerance of Christians, the Archdiocese of Algiers was unable to find a person willing to engrave a cross on the tombstone in Algiers of Archbishop Henri Teissier, who died in Oran in December 2020.

Several Christian leaders said some Muslims who converted or who expressed interest in learning more about Christianity were assaulted by family members or otherwise pressured to recant their conversions.

According to religious leaders, some individuals who openly engaged in any religious practice other than Sunni Islam reported that family, neighbors, or others criticized their religious practice, pressured them to convert back to Islam, and occasionally insinuated they could be in danger because of their choice.

Media criticized religious communities they portrayed as “sects” or “deviations” from Islam or as “foreign,” such as Ahmadi Muslims and Shia Muslims.  Ahmadi leaders said news outlets continued to amplify what they considered government misinformation portraying Ahmadis as violent.

EPA leaders continued to say when Christian converts died, family members sometimes buried them according to Islamic rites, and their churches had no standing to intervene on their behalf.  Christian groups reported some villages, for example in the Kabylie region, continued to prohibit Christians from being buried alongside Muslims.  In these cases, Christians opted to be buried under Islamic rites so their remains could stay near those of their families.

Some Christian leaders stated they had good relations with Muslims in their communities, with only isolated incidents of vandalism or harassment.  Christian and Muslim leaders hosted each other during the year.  The Notre Dame de Santa Cruz, site of a fort and Catholic chapel, and the Pierre Claverie Center, a Catholic church and community center, in Oran hosted frequent nonreligious community events and reported Muslims frequently participated alongside Christians.

Protestant leaders said other faiths privately expressed support, and the EPA again reported excellent interfaith dialogue within the religious community.  The EPA reported some local authorities expressed regret for church closures but stated they were duty bound to follow government directives, regardless of their personal opinions.

Andorra

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 86,000 (midyear 2021).  The Andorran government estimates the population at 78,000 (2020 data), including 38,000 citizens and 40,000 other residents, mostly from Spain, France, and Portugal.  The local government does not provide statistics on the size of religious groups, and there is no census data on religious group membership.  In 2019, government officials estimated that 92 percent of the population was Roman Catholic.  Muslim leaders estimate their community, largely composed of recent immigrants, has approximately 2,000 members.  The Jewish community reports it has approximately 100 members.  Other small religious groups include Hindus, Anglicans, Seventh-day Adventists, the Baha’i Faith, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, the New Apostolic Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In the absence of a mosque in the country, the Muslim community continued to rely on two Islamic prayer rooms that it rented in Andorra la Vella and in Escaldes-Engordany.

The Catholic Church of Santa Maria del Fener in Andorra la Vella continued to lend its sanctuary twice a month to the Anglican community so that visiting Anglican clergy could conduct services for the English-speaking members of that community.

Angola

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 33.6 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2014 national census approximately 41 percent of the population is Roman Catholic and 38 percent Protestant.  Individuals not associated with any religious group constitute 12 percent of the population.  The remaining 9 percent is composed of animists, Muslims, Jews, Baha’is, and other religious groups.  Among Protestants, Tocoists (members of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the World) are the largest group, with 2.8 million adherents, according to the Ministry of Culture’s National Institute for Religious Affairs (INAR).  The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD) reports 500,000 members.  Other major Protestant denominations include Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, Baptists, and the Assembly of God Pentecostal.  There is also a small number of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country.  INAR reports that in 2018, the most recent data available, there were 122,000 Muslims.  INAR states the number has grown considerably since that time.  A leader of one Muslim organization estimated there are 800,000 Muslims in the country, of whom approximately 95 percent are foreign migrants, mainly from North and West African countries.  There are approximately 350 Jews, primarily resident foreign nationals.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

During the year, several religious groups, in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Communication, held an ecumenical dialogue and participated in an interfaith social action initiative called Abraco Solidario (Solidarity Embrace), which provided food to vulnerable populations affected by the severe drought in the southern provinces of Cuando Cubango, Cunene, Namibe, and Huila.  Participants included the Council of Christian Churches in Angola, the Evangelical Alliance, and Catholic organizations Caritas, and Justice and Peace.

Several faith-based organizations linked to the Catholic Church and the Protestant religious group Congregational Evangelical Church in Angola formed the Plataforma Sul (Southern Platform) to advocate for more efficient government and social responses to problems affecting rural communities and minority ethnic groups resulting from the widespread drought, such as food shortages.

In August, the human rights nongovernmental organization (NGO) Friends of Angola (FOA) organized a roundtable on religious freedom in the country.  Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim leaders participated, as well as representatives of other NGOs.  FOA presented recommendations from the participants to President Joao Lourenco, members of the National Assembly, and INAR, all calling for changes, such as recognition of Islam as an official religion, improved government dialogue with mosques around the country, no preferential treatment for any religious group by the government, creation of an independent body to regulate national religious affairs, and updates to the 2004 law on religious freedom.  The government had not responded to the recommendations by year’s end.

In addition to the Catholic radio station Ecclesia, which broadcasted in 16 provinces, other Catholic (Vatican Radio and Maria Radio), Methodist, Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Tocoist radio stations also operated in the country under government licenses.  Several religious groups had radio shows on secular radio and TV stations, such as the Jehovah Witnesses and the IURD.

Antigua and Barbuda

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 99,000 (midyear 2021).  According to the 2011 census, the most recent, 17.6 percent of the population is Anglican, 12.4 percent Seventh-day Adventist, 12.2 percent Pentecostal, 8.3 percent Moravian, 8.2 percent Roman Catholic, and 5.6 percent Methodist.  Those with unspecified or no religious beliefs account for 5.5 percent and 5.9 percent of the population, respectively.  Members of the Baptist Church, the Church of God, and the Wesleyan Holiness Consortium each account for less than 5 percent of the population.  The census categorizes an additional 12.2 percent of the population as belonging to other religious groups, including Rastafarians, Muslims, Hindus, and Baha’is, without providing percentages for each group.  Based on anecdotal information, these four religious groups are listed from largest to smallest.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom.

Area Administered by Turkish Cypriots

Section I. Religious Demography

According to a statement from the “Statistics Council,” as of August 2021, the population of the area administered by Turkish Cypriots is 382,836.  The census contains no data on religious affiliation.  Sociologists estimate as much as 97 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim.  The Alevi Culture Association estimates approximately 10,000 immigrants of Turkish, Kurdish, and Arab origin and their descendants are Alevi Muslims.  The TSPA estimates there are 1,000 Turkish-speaking Protestants.  The government of the Republic of Cyprus estimates 290 members of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus and 48 Maronite Catholics reside in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.  According to sociologists, other groups include the Russian Orthodox, Anglican, Baha’i, Jewish, and Jehovah’s Witness communities.  According to “Ministry of Education (MOE)” statistics for the 2020-21 academic year, there were approximately 94,381 foreign students enrolled at universities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.  Of these, 60 percent were Muslim Turks and the rest were predominantly Christians and Muslims from more than 140 countries.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Because religion and ethnicity often overlap, it was difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.

A video posted April 7 on YouTube showed an electronic music event recorded on March 20 on the grounds of the Saint Magar Armenian Monastery, the only Armenian monastery in Cyprus.  According to the RTCYPP, the video stirred negative reaction online among the Armenian community and news outlets.  In a RTCYPP-released joint statement, the five constitutionally recognized religious leaders of Cyprus condemned what they termed the monastery’s misuse and called for protection of all places of worship against vandalism, misuse, and desecration.

The TSPA continued to report societal discrimination, including verbal harassment, toward Protestants.  The TSPA again said Turkish Cypriots who converted to other faiths, particularly Christianity, faced societal criticism and feared losing their jobs.  The TSPA continued to report many members preferred to remain silent about their faiths and beliefs.  The TSPA also reported police continued to closely monitor its activities and occasionally visited representatives to inquire about church activities and attendance levels.

During the year, there were few pilgrimages and meetings across the “green line” due to pandemic mitigation measures.

Argentina

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 45.9 million (midyear 2021).  According to a 2019 survey by CONICET, the country’s national research institute, 62.9 percent of the population is Catholic; 15.3 Protestant, including evangelical Christian groups; 18.9 percent no religion, which includes agnostics; 1.4 percent Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ); 1.2 percent other, including Muslims and Jews; and 0.3 percent unknown.  Other sources state Seventh-day Adventists, Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Methodists, and members of the Church of Jesus Christ together total 3 percent of the population.  According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Jews numbered 180,000 in 2019.  The Islamic Center estimates the Muslim population at 800,000 to 1,000,000.  Evangelical Christian communities, particularly Pentecostals, are growing, but no reliable statistics are available.  There are also small numbers of Baha’is, Buddhists, and adherents of indigenous religions.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

During the year, media reported the country experienced overall increases in antisemitic incidents.  According to media and DAIA, in January, individuals forcibly stopped an Orthodox Jewish family traveling by car from to La Falda to La Cumbre in Cordoba Province and yelled “[expletive] Jews, get out of here.  Death to the Jews!”  When the father of the family left his vehicle to attempt to calm the situation, the assailants beat him and continued to shout epithets.  After his children tried to intervene, they too were beaten.  According to the report, the father and children managed to get back into the car and later filed a police report.  Authorities later arrested the suspected assailants but took no further action through year’s end.  DAIA denounced the incident.

On February 19, actor and singer Nicolas Pauls posted on Instagram a cartoon depicting a gigantic sleeved arm with a Star of David on it and a hand pressing down on dozens of persons with the caption, “To know who rules over you, simply discover whom you may not criticize.”  Martin Souto, a television host and friend of Pauls, reposted the picture.  Both faced intense criticism from social media, and both later apologized publicly.

According to vis-a-vis news portal, in March, an unidentified woman rammed her car into another car in which two Orthodox Jewish women were traveling in downtown Buenos Aires.  According to a witness, after the Orthodox Jewish women exited their car, the assailant pulled off the sheytl (wig worn by Orthodox Jewish women) of one of the women and then pushed her to the ground, shouting, “You [expletive] Jew.  I’m going to kill you; you should all have died in the Holocaust!”  Police at first ordered the female assailant to leave but later arrested her after she tried to run over the two Jewish women.

On March 2, unknown vandals damaged the sanctuary of Our Lady of Peace Cathedral in Lomas de Zamora, Buenos Aires Province, stealing crowns from statues of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus.

On May 22, journalist Hugo Ojeda published an article entitled, “Song to Palestineuschwitz,” that compared Israeli actions in Palestinian territories to Nazi concentration camps, adding that Israel’s “ethnic cleaning operations … exceeded the crimes that the genocidal Nazis of the past century inflicted on gypsies, communists, homosexuals and jews [sic].”  DAIA condemned Ojeda’s article, and the publisher Pagina 12 later deleted the article.  Ojeda made no public apology.

In June, the Israeli Ambassador remarked during a panel at the College of Law in La Plata that the country was breaching its trade obligations by restricting shipments of meat to Israel.  In response, the owner of a chain of butcher shops and former Justicialist Party politician, Alberto Samid, tweeted, “The best that could happen is that the Jews no longer buy meat from us… the world does not want to sell them anything.  They are a disaster as clients.”  Samid did not apologize for his remarks despite receiving widespread public criticism.  In April, Samid accused pharmaceutical company Insud CEO Hugo Sigman of selling COVID-19 Astra-Zeneca vaccines to the “gringos.”  Samid wrote on Twitter, “This MOISHE has no limits.  He never gets tired of stealing from us!!!!  When are we going to go to Garin [the town where Insud is located] to block his laboratory?”

On June 3, unknown individuals spray-painted an evangelical Christian church in Neuquen Province and several Catholic institutions in San Luis Province during a day of nationwide protest against gender-based violence.  The Secretariat of Worship decried the vandalism in a statement on social media, noting that it distracted from the demonstrators’ message promoting women’s rights.

On July 26, DAIA objected to the use of Anne Frank’s likeness during an episode of Showmatch, a gameshow on the private television station El Trece.  Producers projected a photograph of Anne Frank alongside a contestant singing about women “who don’t leave the house.”  This incident was reported to the public defender.  The show’s producers issued a joint communique with the Anne Frank Center in Buenos Aires calling the episode an “unintentional error” and pledging to use it as a “learning experience.”

In August, evangelical Christian groups, including ACIERA, denounced a television production for Netflix entitled El Reino (“The Kingdom”), stating it fomented stereotypes and prejudices against evangelical Christian groups.  The plot depicted a fictional evangelical Christian pastor of questionable ethics who runs for president.

On August 23, prominent lawyer Alejandro Fargosi attacked parliamentarian and human rights activist Myriam Bregman as a “militant leftist Jew.”  Fargosi’s comments were widely criticized on social media, both by political figures and Nobel Laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel, and President Fernandez expressed his solidarity with Bregman on Twitter.  Bregman told local media that Fargosi never apologized.

On August 27, lawyer Gregorio Dalbon made antisemitic comments during a radio interview.  Dalbon, whose clients included President Fernandez and Vice President Fernandez de Kirchner, accused the Jewish community of bribing a prosecutor in charge of the investigation of a violation of quarantine by President Fernandez, his wife, and friends.  DAIA condemned Dalbon’s comments.  On August 31, Dalbon publicly apologized, after apparently meeting with DAIA officials.  According to media, on September 2, a group of judges requested Dalbon’s suspension from the Argentine Bar Association for these and what they stated were other offensive comments.

In September, individuals were caught trying to steal 223 bronze plaques from headstones in La Tablada Jewish Cemetery in Buenos Aires.  The week before, more than 100 headstones had been smashed.  AMIA leaders implored local authorities to provide more security at the cemetery, saying it appeared to be a “free zone.”

A September 15 article from the University of Buenos Aires’ student media criticized the lack of Muslim viewpoints in local media during events in Afghanistan.  The article, noting a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment, described an incident in which a Muslim student was heckled as she stepped from a bus with, “Be careful, she has a bomb!”

On September 24, unknown vandals damaged the sanctuary of the Cathedral of San Maron in the Retiro neighborhood of Buenos Aires and stole items from the church.  The CEA and Secretary of Worship Oliveri denounced the vandalism.

Interreligious groups such as the Interreligious Committee for Peace in Argentina, whose members included Catholic, Protestant, evangelical Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i, as well as indigenous religious groups and CALIR, continued to work on increasing opportunities for interreligious action on common societal challenges.  CALIR issued statements denouncing acts of vandalism against religious institutions and sponsored local conferences, including a regional forum on religious freedom held on October 28-29.

In October, Jews, Christians, and Muslims jointly painted over Nazi symbols that had been placed on Jewish gravestones in the Jewish community of Santa Fe cemetery.  According to Horacio Roitman, Santa Fe’s DAIA representative, this response to the acts of hatred was “owed to the whole society.”

According to a University of San Martin study released in June, nearly 40 percent of the population believed that “Jewish businessmen” were benefiting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Asked whether they agreed with the statement, “Behind the coronavirus pandemic, there are figures such as Soros and laboratories of Jewish businessmen who seek to profit financially,” 30 percent of respondents said they concurred “strongly.”  An additional 7 percent agreed to some extent with the statement.  Of the 43 percent of respondents who disagreed, 38 percent completely rejected the statement, and 19 percent said they either did not know or were indifferent.  The study’s main author, Ezequiel Ipar, said he was surprised by the “magnitude of antisemitic sentiment,” particularly among youth.

Armenia

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 3.0 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2011 census, approximately 92 percent of the population identifies as Armenian Apostolic.  Other religious groups include Roman Catholics, Armenian Uniate (Mekhitarist) Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and evangelical Christians, including Armenian Evangelical Church adherents, Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventists, Baptists, charismatic Christians, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  There are also followers of the Church of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, as well as Molokan Christians, Yezidis, Jews, Baha’is, Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, and pagans who are adherents of a pre-Christian faith.  According to a poll the International Republican Institute released in February, 87 percent of respondents identified as Armenian Apostolic, 2 percent as Roman Catholic, and 2 percent as Orthodox Christian.  According to members of the Jewish community, there are approximately 800 to 1,000 Jews.  According to the census, there are more than 35,000 Yezidis, with more recent estimates by Yezidi human rights activists and academics suggesting a figure of 50,000.  Yezidis are concentrated primarily in agricultural areas northwest of Yerevan around Mount Aragats.  Armenian Uniate Catholics live primarily in the north.  Most Muslims are Shia, including Iranians and temporary residents from the Middle East.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Some religious minorities, such as Seventh-day Adventists and several evangelical Christian groups, as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses, reported that public attitudes toward them had generally improved compared with the previous year and said there was little or no negative media coverage concerning them.  While NGOs said there were fewer antisemitic social media posts than in the previous year, there were some antisemitic references in posts criticizing a Jewish, U.S. citizen businessperson.

The evangelical Word of Life Church, which members of the prior government accused of having a role in organizing the 2018 revolution, however, was the object of ongoing hate speech and vilification by anonymous social media accounts opened specifically to target them, according to Church leaders.  The hate speech – including accusations of links with Azerbaijan and vilification for supporting anti-Covid-19 vaccination efforts – was posted on platforms such as Telegram, YouTube, and Facebook.  Unknown individuals also created a Facebook account falsely attributed to the Church’s leader, Senior Pastor Artur Simonyan, that espoused offensive views.  The Church reported the hate speech and the falsified account to the relevant social media companies, but the companies said they did not find evidence that their standards had been violated.  Simonyan said he had requested an official verified badge for his Facebook account – an emblem Facebook adds to pages to verify that they are authentic – to prevent the creation of more accounts falsely attributed to him but that the company had told him that his social media traffic was not sufficient to warrant a badge.

On February 18, the NSS terminated a criminal investigation it had launched in 2018 – on charges of incitement of religious hatred – into the creation of a Facebook page that falsely presented itself as associated both with the Word of Life Church and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party.  The NSS concluded the case lacked the elements of a crime.

Members of the Jewish community reported a rise in antisemitism since the onset of intensive fighting with Azerbaijan in the fall of 2020, an increase that the Jewish community and public media largely attributed to Azerbaijani use of Israeli-produced weapons.  Jewish community members stated that antisemitic slurs were again posted on social media platforms, in some cases together with cartoons depicting Jews in an offensive manner.  The use of offensive slurs was particularly prevalent in posts on Facebook by anonymous, antigovernment individuals targeting the Jewish leader of an international foundation.  Members of the Jewish community also reported antisemitic comments directed at them on public transport.

According to representatives of religious minorities, there were fewer instances of groups targeting religious minorities for political purposes during campaigning for parliamentary elections in June than in prior elections.  Religious minority activists stated that during the campaign, an opposition figure who had never held elected office and whom a representative of a civil society group characterized as increasingly irrelevant, stated that religious organizations took an active part in overturning the government in 2018 and would play a key role in the elections.  He singled out Word of Life as particularly active.  He also stated that “pastors tell the congregations whom to vote for, and they all do,” and that “even Jehovah’s Witnesses interfere in the political process,” adding that minority religious groups were funded from abroad.  He referred to both the Word of Life and Jehovah’s Witnesses as “sects,” a term these religious groups did not use to describe themselves and which was generally perceived as pejorative.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some religious groups increased their online presence, generating both positive and negative reactions in online comments.  Religious minority leaders stated that since the beginning of 2020, there had been less verbal targeting of religious minorities, both on and offline, as the individuals who had previously targeted them largely pivoted to discussing the aftermath of the 2020 fall fighting and the COVID-19 pandemic.

In December 2020, the International Republican Institute released a nationwide poll examining public opinion on topics including human rights and hate speech, with a specific focus on social media.  The poll was conducted in August 2020.  According to the poll, 6 percent of the respondents agreed that freedom of thought, conscience, and religion was always violated (the question did not specify by whom), while another 45 percent said the violation occurred during a specific period; 33 percent said it occurred before the 2018 revolution, 6 percent said after April 2018, and 6 percent said during the 2020 state of emergency decreed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The same poll found that 55 percent of respondents believed that the rights of religious minorities were either very protected or somewhat protected in the country, and 18 percent believed that religious minorities were not at all protected or somewhat not protected, with the rest refusing to answer.  There was a difference in the perception of protection between members of the AAC (74 percent said they were protected) and members of other religious groups (58 percent said they were protected).  Of those surveyed, 77 percent indicated that they had not seen cases of insulting, threatening, or hostile behavior toward a person based on his or her religion or belief.  According to 35 percent of those surveyed, religious minorities were often or sometimes targeted by hate speech, while 53 percent said that religious minorities were never or rarely targeted.  Forty-one percent believed religious minorities needed special protections from hate speech.

A minority religious group again reported societal and family pressure as the most significant deterrent to its members’ freely practicing their belief.

Both the Hebrew- and Armenian-language sides of Yerevan’s Holocaust and Genocide Memorial were defaced on February 12, for the third time in five months.  In contrast to similar incidents in 2020, government officials criticized the act, restored the monument, and arrested a suspect.  Then Yerevan mayor Hayk Marutyan issued a statement saying, “The desecration of any monument is completely unacceptable, especially memorials related to minorities living in our city.”  Then Parliamentary Vice Speaker Alen Simonyan also condemned the act, calling it a “crime against universal values” and saying that “those who committed this crime should be held to account.”  Former Prosperous Armenia Party member Naira Zohrabyan, a member of the Armenia-Israel friendship group, said that “regardless of our attitude – and it is definitely negative – towards Israeli arms sales and overt military and political support to Azerbaijan … [the] memorial cannot be desecrated,” adding, “I bow before the memory of the innocent victims of the Holocaust.”

According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, as in the previous year and contrary to years prior to 2020, there were no incidents of verbal harassment toward the group’s members.  The group halted all public activities in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On July 6, the Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF), a local NGO, held its Annual Media Award Ceremony for the best coverage of issues related to the freedom of religion or belief, awarding nine winners for their coverage of tolerance, peaceful coexistence, and diversity in the country.  According to human rights NGOs, EPF’s religious tolerance and nondiscrimination initiative, which began in 2015, had had a positive impact on media coverage of religious issues in the country.

One Shia mosque, located in Yerevan, served all Islamic groups.

Australia

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 25.8 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2016 census, 52.1 percent of residents are Christian, including Roman Catholics (22.6 percent of residents), Anglicans (13.3 percent), Uniting Church (3.7 percent), Presbyterian and Reformed (2.3 percent), Baptist (1.5 percent), and Pentecostal (1.1 percent).  Muslims constitute 2.6 percent of the population, Buddhists 2.4 percent, Hindus 1.9 percent, Sikhs 0.5 percent, and Jews 0.4 percent.  An additional 9.6 percent of the population either did not state a religious affiliation or stated affiliations such as “new age,” “not defined,” or “theism,” while 30.1 percent reported no religious affiliation.

Revised figures from the 2016 census indicate that indigenous persons constitute 3.3 percent of the population, and that there are broad similarities in the religious affiliation of indigenous and nonindigenous individuals.  In 2016, less than 2 percent of the indigenous population reported adherence to traditional indigenous religions or beliefs.  Fifty-four percent of indigenous respondents identify as Christian, and an estimated 36 percent report having no religious affiliation.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In February, a group of men in Western Sydney, purportedly members of the Indian community, attacked four Sikh students.  Police investigated the attack but did not label it a hate crime.  Community leaders said divisions within the Indian-Australian community had grown, accusing “Hindu nationalists” of using Facebook and WhatsApp to spread divisive rhetoric targeting minority religious groups within the community, including Sikhs and Muslims.

In August, after a cluster of COVID-19 cases emerged at the Islamic al-Taqwa College, Principal Omar Hallak told media that for the second year running, families and students received “racial comments” on social media, blaming the Muslim community for Victoria’s sixth lockdown.

Twenty to thirty white supremacists rallied in a Victoria national park in January, chanting white power slogans and “Heil Hitler.”  The group timed the rally to coincide with the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.  Police did not charge the group, stating the individuals did not break any laws; however, state Premier Daniel Andrews told media there was evidence “evil and wicked” antisemitism was on the rise in Victoria.

In August, the Victoria government’s “COVID Commander” apologized to Melbourne’s Orthodox Jewish community after naming the group among those who tested positive for the virus during a COVID-19 media briefing, saying it was a “poor choice of words.”

Melbourne Jewish organizations reported an increase in antisemitic messages and social media posts after news reports emerged featuring video footage of an engagement party in August in the Jewish community that broke the state’s COVID lockdown rules.

In March, the Australian Muslim Advocacy Network filed a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission against Facebook under the national Racial Discrimination Act for direct and indirect discrimination and liability for hate speech.  At year’s end, the commission continued to investigate the complaint.  The network also sent Facebook a letter in March outlining its concerns about the spread of hate speech and dangerous conspiracy theories directed towards Muslims on the site.

In Melbourne, Victoria, an antisemitic group placed stickers during an August 21 anti-lockdown demonstration with the Star of David and a QR code linking to a video claiming the Jewish community was responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

The ECAJ reported 447 antisemitic incidents involving threats or abuse during the period October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021, compared with 331 in the October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020 period.  According to the council, incidents increased in several more serious categories, including direct verbal abuse, harassment, and intimidation (147 compared with 128 in 2020), graffiti (106 compared with 42 in 2020), and stickers/posters (72 compared with 28 in 2020).  Physical assaults remained at the same number (eight).

The Community Security Group (CSG), which oversees the specialized and specific security needs of the Jewish community in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia under the auspices of the ECAJ, released a report on antisemitic incidents in 2020 in which it stated there were 356 reported incidents throughout the country.  The CSG recorded a 21 percent decrease in antisemitic incidents compared with 2019.

In May, police opened an investigation after closed circuit television recorded an unidentified man wearing a balaclava putting up posters around Perth’s northern suburbs that included imagery that was hostile towards Jews.  By year’s end, the perpetrator had not been arrested due to what police described as difficulties in identifying him.

The federal census form included “Greek Orthodox” as the only Christian Orthodox religious group, omitting other groups such as Coptic, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, and Ukrainian.  In Perth, the Orthodox religious groups that were omitted raised concerns about the form.

Uyghur Muslims reported harassment and threats in the country from the Chinese Communist Party.

The Australian Human Rights Commission published a study in July entitled, “Sharing the Stories of Australian Muslims,” based on a national survey of the country’s Muslims.  The study found 80 percent of survey participants experienced some form of unfavorable treatment based on their religion, race, or ethnicity.  The most common situations in which respondents experienced unfavorable treatment were when dealing with law enforcement (50 percent); in the workplace or when seeking employment (48 percent); at a shop or restaurant (43 percent); or online (43 percent).

The Victoria State Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission received 44 complaints involving religion from July 2020 to June 2021, an 18 percent increase from the previous period.  Of these complaints, 19 occurred in the provision of goods and services, 13 in education, eight in employment, and four in accommodation.

Austria

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 8.9 million (midyear 2021).  According to religious groups and government estimates, Roman Catholics constitute 55 percent of the population, and Muslims – predominantly Sunni – 8 percent, while approximately 25 percent is unaffiliated with any religion.  According to estimates from religious groups, Eastern Orthodox churches (Russian, Greek, Serbian, Romanian, Antiochian, and Bulgarian) constitute 5 percent of the population, and Protestants (Augsburg and Helvetic confessions) 3.2 percent.  Groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, and other Christian and non-Christian religious groups.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to the Ministry of Interior, there were 20 antisemitic and three anti-Muslim crimes reported to police in the first half of the year.  In all of 2020, there were 36 antisemitic and 16 anti-Muslim crimes, compared with 30 and six such crimes, respectively, in 2019.  The ministry said its figures included only incidents that were reported to it and in which authorities filed criminal charges, and the ministry attributed all the crimes in the three years to right-wing extremists.  Most incidents, according to the ministry, involved hate speech.  The ministry did not provide details on any of the incidents.

The IGGO’s Documentation Center on Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Racism reported that there were1,402 anti-Muslim incidents in 2020 (1,051 in 2019).  The 2020 data were the most recent available.  In 2015, the first full year in which it collected such statistics, IGGO reported 156 anti-Muslim incidents.  The IKG reported 585 antisemitic incidents (550 in 2019) in the same year.  From January to June, the IKG recorded 562 incidents, more than twice the 257 in the first half of 2020.  Most incidents in 2021 consisted of hate speech or insults on the internet, although there were also 11 cases of violent threats and eight physical assaults.  The data were the most recent available.  Both groups included incidents regardless of whether they were reported to police or criminal charges were filed.  Most 2020 antisemitic and anti-Muslim cases concerned hate speech and insinuations of violence on the internet (1,019 cases), followed by insulting language and property damage.  Eight cases involved physical assaults.  The IGGO reported men were more likely to experience anti-Muslim behavior on the internet, while Muslim women were more likely to experience it in person in significant part because of their visible face or head coverings.

The IKG reported antisemitic incidents in the first half of the year included eight physical assaults, 58 cases of property damage, 154 mass mailings, and 331 threats.  Examples of antisemitic incidents included one in Vienna in May in which a group of teenagers were apprehended for throwing rocks at a Jewish family in traditional clothes, and antisemitic graffiti at the Vienna Jewish Museum in May.  The IKG attributed the increase in incidents in part to antisemitic messages at demonstrations against COVID-19 restrictions.

In July, the Ministry of Interior presented its first report on hate crimes.  The report listed 1,936 hate crimes between November 2020 and April 2021, primarily directed against persons of a different religion, opinion, or ethnicity.  The report stated 309 of the cases were religiously motivated.

In May, two days before the annual event commemorating the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp, police disbanded a demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions attended by approximately 30 persons in Mauthausen after the organizer played a Hitler video.

In May, on the International Day against Racism and Violence, the Ministry of Interior reported several antisemitic postings on its Facebook site and launched investigations to identify the authors.

In May, demonstrators chanted “Allahu Akbar” and “Child Murderer Israel” and waved Palestinian flags during an anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian rally in Vienna.  The IKG appealed to its members to stay away from the area of the demonstration and warned that the political situation in Israel could pose a threat to Jewish communities in Europe.  Police launched investigations into the use of antisemitic slogans during the demonstration, while Integration Minister Raab and then Interior Minister Karl Nehammer warned that the right to assemble should not be abused to make antisemitic statements.  Authorities arrested and questioned 11 individuals but released them without filing charges.

In May, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel held demonstrations with pro-Palestinian groups to protest Israeli house evacuations in East Jerusalem.

In a video on Twitter that became publicly known in January, Martin Sellner, head of the pan-European nationalist Identitarian movement, widely described as right-wing extremist, called People’s Party member of parliament Martin Engelberg an infamous hypocrite, antipatriotic traitor, despicable person, and “destroyer of the homeland” who has “abandoned any Christian values.”  Sellner was reacting to a December 2020 statement in which Engelberg criticized FPOe Parliamentary Floor Leader Kickl for not distancing himself from the Identitarian movement.  Sellner also praised Kickl for “taking a stance” against persons like Engelberg.  EU and Constitution Minister Edtstadler condemned Sellner’s message as antisemitic and also called upon the FPOe and Kickl to distance themselves from the Identitarian movement.  In June, Engelberg obtained an injunction from the Vienna Commercial Court that ruled that Sellner must cease the slanderous statements about Engelberg.

In September, the Brussels-based NGO Action and Protection League issued the results of its European antisemitism survey based on data from December 2019-January 2020.  According to the survey, 18 percent of 1,000 respondents ages 18-75 in Austria said they had negative feelings towards Jews, and 26 percent said they would be “totally uncomfortable” or “uncomfortable” with having Jewish neighbors.  The survey cited stereotypical statements about Jews and asked respondents the degree to which they agreed or disagreed.  The proportion who responded “strongly agree” or “tend to agree” with the following statements were:  “The interests of Jews in this country are very different from the interests of the rest of the population” (26 percent); “there is a secret Jewish network that influences political and economic affairs in the world” (30 percent); “Jews have too much influence in this country” (21 percent); “Jews will never be able to fully integrate into this society” (28 percent); “Jews are more inclined than most to use shady practices to achieve their goals” (22 percent); “many of the atrocities of the Holocaust were often exaggerated by the Jews later” (17 percent); “Jews are also to blame for the persecutions against them” (19 percent); “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes” (40 percent).

At the July presentation of a Council of Europe survey on online hatred against Muslims conducted among Muslim associations in eight European countries, the council’s special representative on antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred cited the country’s “Islam map” as a negative example fueling discrimination.  The study stated the authors of hate postings were usually “anti-migration, right-wing groups, and – especially in Austria – the Identitarian movement.”

A counseling center in Vienna managed by the Society Against Sect and Cult Dangers, an NGO that described itself as an organization working against harm caused by “destructive cults” such as Scientology, continued to distribute information to the general public and provide counseling for former members of such groups.  All provinces funded family and youth counseling offices that provided information on “sects and cults.”

In October, the Graz Provincial Court for Criminal Matters convicted a Syrian man of assaulting Graz Jewish Community president Elie Rose in Graz in 2020 and vandalizing the Graz synagogue and a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex community center.  The court sentenced him to three years in prison, stating the man could not be dissuaded from his anti-Jewish sentiments.  In response to the attack, the Graz Jewish Community continued to receive additional police protection, and the government continued to provide orientation and values courses on antisemitism for refugees.

According to the IGGO report covering 2020, in June of that year a woman insulted and hit a Muslim woman on the head with a newspaper, causing her hijab to slip off on one side.  The woman complained that none of several persons sitting in a nearby sidewalk cafe came to help her.  In September 2020, a woman assaulted another woman wearing a headscarf on a city bus in Vienna, spitting on her, pulling on her headscarf, and shouting she should go back to Turkey.  Property damage cited in the report included an arson attack against a Somali cultural association and prayer room in Vienna in May 2020.

A report presented in June by the NGO Initiative for Discrimination-Free Education listed a total of 186 cases of discrimination in schools in 2020 (403 cases in 2019), of which it attributed 15 percent to anti-Muslim sentiment and 2 percent to antisemitism.  While the NGO said the sharp drop in total discrimination cases was due to the reduced physical presence of students in schools due to COVID-19, the percentage of incidents motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment (approximately 31 percent of total discrimination cases in 2019) and antisemitism (approximately 11 percent of total cases) also dropped significantly.  Examples included statements by a physics teacher in Vienna who said in 2020 in front of her Muslim students that Muslims were responsible for a November 2020 terrorist attack in Vienna by a man police identified as an ISIS sympathizer.  In another example, a sports teacher suggested to a 12-year-old student who was wearing a headscarf that she should go to another country if she wanted to continue wearing it.

The organizers of the annual May gathering of Croatians and Bosnians in Bleiburg, Austria to commemorate Nazi-allied Croatian troops and civilians killed in 1945 canceled the event after parliament passed a resolution in 2020 prohibiting the event.

In June, a court in the Carinthian provincial capital of Klagenfurt convicted a man of neo-Nazi activity and illegal possession of weapons and sentenced him to a 19-month prison sentence.  The man had a Nazi symbol tattoo on his testicles.

In January, the court in Klagenfurt convicted a man of neo-Nazi activity and sentenced him to 24 months in prison, 16 months of which were suspended.  The man had performed the Hitler salute in 2019 and had a swastika tattoo.

In January, the Vienna Criminal Court issued a six-month suspended prison sentence on incitement charges for an imam whom it convicted of making antisemitic statements in a sermon in 2018.  The imam said, “Allah hates the Jews; they are the worst kuffars (unfaithful).”

Fourteen Christian groups, consisting of the Roman Catholic Church, various Protestant denominations, and eight Orthodox and Old Oriental Churches, continued to meet twice a year within the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Austria to discuss religious cooperation.  The Christian groups coordinated with other religious groups and the government to create a unified set of COVID-19 restrictions on all religious services in 2020 and 2021.  Baptists and the Salvation Army had observer status on the council.  Two permanent working groups on “Religion and Society” and “Media” remained in place.

Azerbaijan

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 10.3 million (midyear 2021).  According to 2011 SCWRA data (the most recent available), 96 percent of the population is Muslim, of which approximately 65 percent is Shia and 35 percent Sunni.  Groups that together constitute the remaining 4 percent of the population include the Russian Orthodox Church; Georgian Orthodox Church; Armenian Apostolic Church; Seventh-day Adventists; Molokan Church; Roman Catholic Church; other Christians, including evangelical churches, Baptists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses; Jews; and Baha’is.  Ethnic Azerbaijanis are mainly Muslims, and non-Muslims are mainly Russians, Georgians, Armenians, and other national minorities.  Others include the International Society of Krishna Consciousness and those professing no religion.

Christians live mainly in Baku and other urban areas.  Approximately 15,000 to 20,000 Jews live in Baku, with smaller communities throughout the country.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Local experts on religious affairs and civil society representatives stated citizens and civil society organizations continued to tolerate and, in some cases, support financially “traditional” religious minority groups, such as Jews, Russian Orthodox, and Catholics.  These sources also said that some individuals viewed groups with less of a historical presence in the country, such as Baptists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, with suspicion and mistrust.

Bahamas

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 352,000 (midyear 2021).  According to the most recent census in 2010, more than 90 percent of the population practices a religion.  Of those, Protestants make up 70 percent of the population – Baptists, 35 percent; Anglicans, 14 percent; Pentecostals, 9 percent; Seventh-day Adventists, 4 percent; Methodists, 4 percent; Church of God, 2 percent; and Brethren, 2 percent.  Twelve percent of the population is Roman Catholic.  Other Christians are 13 percent of the population, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Greek Orthodox Christians, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  According to the census, 5 percent is listed as other, having no religion, or unspecified.  Other religious groups include Jews, Baha’is, Rastafarians, Muslims, Black Hebrew Israelites, Hindus, and followers of Obeah, which is practiced by a small number of citizens and some resident Haitians.  According to a leader of the Rastafarian community, there are more than 13,000 Rastafarians in the country.  The leader of the Jewish community estimates there are 1,000 Jews.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Some private entities required employees to either be vaccinated against COVID-19, which Rastafarians said they viewed as a violation of their religious beliefs, or pay for their own weekly tests.  Rastafarian leaders said those entities discriminated against employees who did not comply.

Bahrain

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 1.5 million (midyear 2021).  The NGO World Population Review estimates the population is 1.7 million.  According to the national government, there are approximately 712,000 citizens, constituting less than half of the total population.  According to 2020 national government estimates, Muslims make up approximately 74 percent of the total population.  The Ministry of Information Affairs website states 99.8 percent of citizens are Muslims, while the remainder of citizens are Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Baha’is.  The ministry website states 70.2 percent of the total (citizen and noncitizen) population is Muslim and 29.8 percent adhere to other religions and beliefs, such as Christians (10.2 percent), Jews (0.21 percent), Hindus, Baha’is, Buddhists, and Sikhs.  According to Jewish community members, there are between 36-40 Jewish citizens (six families) in the country.

The government does not publish statistics regarding the breakdown between the Shia and Sunni Muslim populations.  Most estimates from NGOs and the Shia community state Shia Muslims represent a majority (55 to 65 percent) of the citizen population.

Most foreign residents are migrant workers from South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and other Arab countries.  According to national government 2020 census data, approximately 401,500 foreign residents are Muslim; 387,800 are Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, Sikh, or Christian (primarily Roman Catholic, Protestant, Syrian Orthodox, and Mar Thoma Syrian from South India).  According to Boston University’s 2020 World Religions Database, the population includes approximately 1.4 million Muslims, 205,000 Christians, and 109,000 Hindus.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Non-Muslim religious community leaders again reported that there was ongoing societal pressure on individuals not to convert from Islam.  Those who did so were unwilling to speak publicly or privately to family or associates about their conversions out of fear of harassment or discrimination.

Both anti-Shia and anti-Sunni commentary appeared in social media.  Anti-Shia posts described Shia opponents of the government as “traitors,” “agents of Iran,” “terrorists,” “killers,” “criminals,” plotters,” and, occasionally, “rawafid” (a derogatory term describing Shia who refused to accept the early caliphs).  Anti-Sunni posts described the royal family and its supporters as “nawasib” (a derogatory term describing Sunnis who are hostile to the family of the Prophet Muhammad).

NGOs working on civil discourse and interfaith dialogue reported Sunni-Shia tensions and historical political divisions continued to have a negative economic effect.  Shia representatives stated the persistent higher unemployment rate among members of their community, limited prospects for upward social mobility, and the lower socioeconomic status of Shia, exacerbated by ongoing private sector discrimination against them, added to the tensions between the two communities.  Because religion and political affiliation were often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize these effects as being solely based on religious identity.

In February, the Jewish communities in the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia announced the formation of the region’s first communal organization, the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities (AGJC), incorporated in Dubai.  The AGJC president was Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo, a citizen of Bahrain.  On August 22, Bahraini Jews held services in the newly renovated synagogue in Manama for the first time since 1947, with the participation of diplomats, members of Jewish communities throughout Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and Bahraini and Emirati Muslims.  In October, the AGJC organized the first Jewish wedding in the country in 52 years.  The event, conducted under the auspices of the Orthodox Union, which identifies itself as “the world’s largest kosher certification agency,” was the first strictly kosher wedding in the country’s history.

The government-supported NGO King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence held a conference in December entitled “Ignorance is the Enemy of Peace,” focusing on religious freedom.  The center conducted programs on combating antisemitism in the wake of the government’s normalizing relations with Israel under the 2020 Abraham Accords.

According to minority religious groups, there was a high degree of tolerance within society for minority religious beliefs and traditions, although not for conversion from Islam or for atheistic or secularist views.  Holiday foods, decorations, posters, and books were widely available during major Christian and Hindu holidays, and Christmas trees and elaborate decorations remained prominent features in malls, restaurants, coffee shops, and hotels.  The news media continued to print reports of non-Muslim religious holiday celebrations, including Christmas celebrations and Hindu festivals such as Diwali and Holi.

Anti-Zionist commentary in social media peaked with announcements of government normalization efforts with Israel, alongside protests employing antinormalization slogans such as “Death to the Zionists” and “Death to Israel.”  After the normalization took place, there was negative public reaction to a Twitter post by Houda Nonoo, a former Bahraini Ambassador to the United States, inviting Jews from abroad to visit and settle in Bahrain.

The UAE research and consulting firm PSB took a June poll of youth between the ages of 17 and 24 in 17 Arab states and reported 37 percent of Bahraini respondents said their religion was the most important factor in their personal identity, slightly higher than the regionwide result of 34 percent and the result from the previous year’s survey of 32 percent.  Other choices offered by the poll as possible responses included family/tribe, nationality, Arabic heritage, political beliefs, language, and gender.

Bangladesh

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 164.1 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2013 government census, the most recent official data available, Sunni Muslims constitute 89 percent of the population and Hindus make up 10 percent.  The remainder of the population is predominantly Christian, mostly Roman Catholic, and Theravada-Hinayana Buddhist.  The country also has small numbers of Shia Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims, Baha’is, animists, agnostics, and atheists.  Leaders from religious minority communities estimate their respective numbers of adherents to be between a few thousand and 100,000.

Ethnic minorities concentrated in the CHT and northern districts generally practice non-Islamic faiths.  The Garo in Mymensingh are predominantly Christian, as are some of the Santal in Gaibandha.  Most Buddhists are members of the indigenous populations of the CHT.  Bengali and ethnic minority Christians live in communities across the country, with relatively high concentrations in Barishal City and Gournadi in Barishal District, Baniarchar in Gopalganj District, Monipuripara and Christianpara in Dhaka City, and in the cities of Gazipur and Khulna.

The largest noncitizen population is Rohingya.  Human Rights Watch estimates approximately 1,500 Rohingya in the refugee settlements are Christians.  A Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said approximately 400 refugees are Hindu, while activists and leaders on the ground say the number is closer to 550-600.  According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, more than one million Rohingya refugees have fled Burma in successive waves since the early 1990s.  Since August 2017, approximately 769,000 Rohingya fleeing violence in Burma have taken refuge in the country, bringing the total to more than 918,000.  Nearly all who arrived during the 2017 influx sought shelter in and around the refugee settlements of Kutupalong and Nayapara in Cox’s Bazar District.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Freedom House in September assessed that members of religious minorities – including Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, and Shia and Ahmadi Muslims – faced harassment and violence, including mob violence against their houses of worship.  According to the BHBCUC and the Hindu American Foundation (HAF), communal attacks against ethnic and religious minorities occurred throughout the year.

From October 13-24, during and after the Hindu festival of Durga Puja, national and local media reported that mobs attacked and destroyed Hindu homes and temples after a local man publicized a post on Facebook that showed the Quran on the lap of the deity Hanuman inside a Hindu temple in the city of Cumila.  The post went viral and sparked violent reactions across the country.  According to the World Hindu Federation (WHF) and the HAF, mobs vandalized more than 340 Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries, vandalized or burned nearly 1,650 Hindu owned houses, and looted Hindu-owned shops and businesses.  Reporting about the numbers of deceased varied:  The Guardian reported seven persons died but the WHF said more than 14 Hindus died in the violence.  According to media and official estimates, at least four Muslims were also killed through clashes with police.  The UN attributed four deaths to the anti-Hindu violence but said others died due to subsequent law enforcement measures to quell the violence.  The BHBCUC said communal violence against minorities continued throughout the year, stating mobs destroyed 70 temples and 100 homes and businesses.  Ain o Salish Kendra, a domestic human rights organization, estimated that 3,769 attacks had taken place against Hindus since 2013, including those in the October violence.  In response to the violence, there were several interfaith demonstrations throughout the country that denounced the attacks.  Hindus refrained from public celebrations of Diwali on November 4 in favor of private ceremonies in their temples and homes.  Hindu worshipers covered their faces with black cloth to protest the lack of security for Hindus.

According to Al-Jazeera, on June 19 in Bandarban in CHT, activists from an indigenous minority group killed an indigenous man because he converted to Islam.

Asia News reported the attack and death of Joy Haldar, a Christian student at St. Joseph’s High School and College.  Eleven Muslim students sent Haldar death threats by phone before later attacking him and three other Christian students on May 16.  Haldar sustained blows to the head and eventually died after 22 days in the hospital.  The students attacked Haldar in a dispute over Pubg, an online video game.  After Haldar’s brother filed a police complaint, the accused were detained and released on bail.  “As Christians, we are a long way from enjoying security and justice,” the brother said.

On May 31, according to various media reports, two men with machetes attacked and left for dead Augra Jyoti Mahasthabir, a Buddhist monk from an indigenous community, at a monastery in Khagrachari in the CHT.  The attackers, two Bengali construction workers who worked at the monastery, also looted money from the temple.  The officer-in-charge of the Panchhari police station said police opened an investigation for attempted murder in the case.

On February 10, a group of Muslims destroyed the church sign of Emmanuel Church in Lalmonirhat District in the northern part of the country, cut down trees, vandalized the entrance to the church, and stole chairs and carpets.  The local pastor said Muslims in the area were angry with Christians because new members had joined their faith community as converts from Islam.  Media reported the destruction was spurred by anti-Christian propaganda at a local Islamic meeting place where Muslim religious leaders engaged in hate speech.  The Bangladesh Christian Association condemned both incidents of violence.

According to media reports, on March 17, a crowd of Muslims vandalized dozens of Hindu residences and temples in Noagaon village in Sunamganj District after a Hindu man criticized Hefazat-e-Islam joint secretary general Mamunul Haque on Facebook.  The media reported police arrested 113 persons, including a Jubo League (the ruling Awami League’s youth wing) party leader, following the attacks, and many of were released on bail.  On March 25, police filed a Digital Security Act case against the man whose Facebook post sparked the attacks.  The court granted his release on bail in September.

In September, Freedom House assessed recent violent incidents were “part of a pattern in recent years in which violence against religious or other minorities appears to have been deliberately provoked through social media.”   Human rights organizations and religious leaders echoed this assessment, saying social media contributed to religious polarization and an increase in attacks on religious minorities.

On May 8, numerous individuals sent abusive comments to actor Chanchal Chowdhury’s Facebook account after he posted a photo with his mother to celebrate Mother’s Day.  In the photo, his mother is wearing a vermilion bindi mark on her forehead.  Numerous followers expressed surprise at Chowdhury’s religion, and some made abusive comments about his mother being Hindu.  Some individuals also made negative personal comments about Chowdhury, and the comment thread was characterized by negative back and forth postings between Muslims and Hindus.  In response, Chowdhury said, “What do you stand to gain or lose if I am a Hindu or Muslim?  The biggest identity of everyone is that we are human beings.  May these vulgar questions and embarrassing discussions stop everywhere.  Come and let’s become human beings.”

Human rights activists expressed concerns regarding the wellbeing of Hindu and Christian groups, including the Rohingya Christian Assembly, in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.  They said the Hindu community was segregated from the rest of the camp in response to an increase in violence against the community.  Hindu leaders said they struggled to hold festivals, as these were prohibited without special permission, which was rarely given.  Hindu leaders said there was inadequate access to the established temple, as access was only allowed for a maximum of 24 persons.  Government officials, however, said limits on gatherings or building new permanent structures were a result of overall restrictions in the refugee camps.  Authorities rarely granted permission to any group in the camps to gather during the year due to COVID-19 restrictions.  Camp authorities did not allow any permanent structures, such as shelters, houses of worship, or learning centers, regardless of religious affiliation.

On September 29, unknown assailants killed prominent Rohingya leader Mohammed Mohib Ullah in Cox’s Bazar.  Although authorities did not ascribe a motive for his killing, Mohib Ullah was known for being an active Rohingya community defender and rights advocate, including for religious freedom.  The media reported police arrested up to a dozen suspects in October and November.

In November, the New York Times reported Rohingya Christian refugee families relocated to the island of Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal due to what they reported was persecution and violence against them in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.  Members of the Christian minority in the camps stated the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a militant Rohingya group present in the camps, had temporarily abducted and tortured some Christian refugees.

Media reported that in September, Rohingya Muslims protested the burial of Mohi Uddin, a Christian Rohingya refugee, in the Kutapalong refugee camp, preventing the burial from taking place for 30 hours.  According to the pastor of the Baptist church in Chattogram where Uddin was eventually interred, the burial of individuals of different faiths in the same place had not been an issue of contention at the camp in the past, but despite the intervention of the camp manager and UN staff, on this occasion Muslim Rohingya refugees formed a barrier to protest Uddin’s burial.

According to media, large protests took place before and during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh on March 26.  On March 19, 500 Muslims protested in the street outside the Baitul Mokarram Mosque in Dhaka and 200 student activists marched through the streets on Dhaka University’s campus.  The protestors said Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party were oppressing Muslims in India.

Media reported that on June 9, Christians and other religious minorities continued their annual observation of “Black Day” protests against the 1988 constitutional amendments establishing Islam as the state religion in the country.

According to local human rights organizations, a growing group of Hindu activists inside the country campaigned to reform Hindu family law to allow for greater rights for Hindu women, including female inheritance of property and provisions for divorce.  According to media reports, Hindu groups they characterized as conservative protested in August the submission of a set of reform proposals to the Law Commission by the NGO Manusher Jonno Foundation (Foundation for Human Beings).  The Bangladesh National Hindu Grand Alliance urged the government to take legal action against The Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam and his wife Shaheen Anam, executive director of Manusher Jonno Foundation, who advocated changes in the law, for hurting religious sentiments of the Hindu community and creating chaos in Hindu families.  These tensions among different elements within the local Hindu community continued through the end of the year, without changes to the family law.

Human rights NGOs continued to report harassment and social isolation of, and physical violence against, converts to Christianity from Islam and Hinduism.  The NGOs said individuals commonly associated a person’s faith with his or her surname.  Despite constitutional guarantees protecting an individual’s right to change faiths, the NGOs stated that when someone’s professed faith deviated from the faith tradition commonly linked with his or her surname, harassment, threats, and social isolation could ensue.

Barbados

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 287,000 (midyear 2021).  According to the most recent census in 2010, approximately 76 percent of the population is Christian, including Anglicans (23.9 percent of the total population), Pentecostals (19.5 percent), Seventh-day Adventists (5.9 percent), Methodists (4.2 percent), Roman Catholics (3.8 percent), Wesleyans (3.4 percent), Church of the Nazarenes (3.2 percent), and the Church of God (2.4 percent).  Religious groups with 2 percent or less of the population each include Baptists, Moravians, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Other religious groups, together constituting less than 3 percent of the population, include Muslims, Jews, Rastafarians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Baha’is.  Approximately 21 percent of respondents do not identify a religious affiliation.  According to the leader of the Jewish community, many Jews are part-time residents or periodic visitors to the country.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Religious leaders representing the Anglican, Pentecostal, and Seventh-day Adventists churches, among others, acknowledged the growing social acceptance of same-sex relationships but said they were committed to following their beliefs and were opposed to the idea of their churches sanctioning same sex relationships.

Following a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections that threatened the medical system’s capacity, religious leaders called for all to pray to help reduce the surge.

Some church leaders said they had to defend their continued provision of limited in-person services following COVID-19 outbreaks among their members.  Church leaders said that following these outbreaks, social and media criticism called for the complete closure of all facilities involving public gatherings, including places of worship.

The Anglican Church provided space for a shelter for victims of abuse, regardless of religious affiliation or belief.

Most religious leaders said they were not seeing growth in their membership and were concerned that the demographic profile of their membership continued to skew to older individuals.

Belarus

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 9.4 million (midyear 2021).  According to a 2016 survey by the state Information and Analytical Center of the Presidential Administration (the latest such data available), approximately 53 percent of the adult population belongs to the BOC, and 6 percent to the Roman Catholic Church.  According to the state survey, 8 percent of the adult population is atheist, and 22 percent is “uncertain.”  Smaller religious groups together constituting approximately 2 percent of the population include Jews, Muslims (who number approximately 20,000), Greek Catholics (members of the Belarusian Greek Catholic Church, also known as “Uniates”), Old Believers (priestist and priestless), members of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and other Orthodox Christian groups, Lutherans (approximately 1,500), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Apostolic Christians, Presbyterians and other Protestant groups, Armenian Apostolics, Latin Catholics, members of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, Baha’is, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Buddhists.  Jewish groups state there are between 30,000 and 40,000 Jews.  Most ethnic Poles, who constitute approximately 3 percent of the population, are Roman Catholic.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Antisemitic comments appeared on social media and in the comment sections of local online news articles, although it was unclear whether the comments were posted by persons in the country.  For example, online communities on the Russian social media platform VKontakte posted images and videos featuring neo-Nazi themes and calling for violence against Jews and others.

Various religious communities reported instances of vandalism.  For example, on March 4, the Homyel Jewish community reported a communal multiuse building on its premises was painted with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.  Police launched an investigation into the vandalism but did not provide further information.

In March, individuals broke into and vandalized the BOC Saint Maria Magdalena Church in Navalukaml.  The next day, police arrested two men who had allegedly also vandalized residential buildings in Navalukaml.  A local court convicted them on charges of hooliganism and gave them suspended sentences of one and a half years as well as a fine of 1,450 rubles ($570) and 80 hours of community service, according to a September report by the General Prosecutor’s office.

In May, unidentified persons vandalized the Roman Catholic Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral in Minsk, damaging flower beds, streetlamps, a door, and the vehicle of one of the priests.  Police announced an investigation but by year’s end had not announced the results.

Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, former Archbishop of Minsk-Mahilyou and one of the senior Roman Catholic prelates in the country, retired on January 3 at the age of 75, the standard retirement age for Catholic bishops.  The Lukashenka regime had frequently targeted the Archbishop for criticism and barred his return to the country between August and December 2020.  On September 14, the Vatican announced as his replacement Bishop Iosef Staneuski, general secretary of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in the country.

The BOC continued its annual commemoration in honor of Hauryil Belastoksky (Gabriel of Bialystok), a child allegedly killed by Jews in Bialystok in 1690.  The Russian Orthodox Church considers him one of its saints and martyrs, and the BOC falls under the authority of the Russian Church on traditional practices such as this.  The traditional memorial prayer recited on the anniversary of Belastoksky’s death on May 3 states the “martyred and courageous Hauryil exposed Jewish dishonesty,” although a trial after the boy’s death acquitted the Jew who was charged with the crime.  Some antisemitic references about Belastoksky remained on the BOC’s official website, though in recent years the BOC’s online materials focused more on his role as a regional patron saint of children.  While Jewish community leaders said they prioritized other concerns, prayers for the commemoration reportedly continued to include antisemitic references.

An interreligious working group comprising the BOC, Roman Catholic Church, Union of Evangelical Christian Baptists, Union of Evangelical-Lutheran Churches, and Jewish religious communities organized seminars and educational events, some of which were virtual due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.  For example, in July, representatives of the working group held a forum marking the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the Minsk ghetto.  The participants highlighted the importance of preserving shared historic memories.

Belgium

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 11.8 million (midyear 2021).  According to the most recent survey in December 2018 by the GESIS-Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, 57.1 percent of residents are Roman Catholic, 2.3 percent Protestant, 2.8 percent other non-Orthodox Christian, 6.8 percent Muslim (mostly Sunni), 0.6 percent Orthodox Christian, 0.3 percent Jewish, 0.3 percent Buddhist, 9.1 percent atheist, 20.2 percent “nonbeliever/agnostic,” and 0.5 percent “other.”  A 2015 study by the Catholic University of Louvain estimated that 42.2 percent of Muslims reside in Flanders, 35.5 percent in Brussels, and 22.3 percent in Wallonia.  According to Catholic University of Louvain sociologist Jan Hertogen, based on 2015 data, 24.2 percent of the Brussels population and 7.5 percent of the Antwerp population is Muslim.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Media and NGOs, including Amnesty International, the Collective Against Islamophobia in Belgium, the NGO Antisemitism Belgium, and Unia, reported incidents of violence, threats, harassment, discrimination, and hate speech against Muslims and Jews.

In 2020, the most recent period for which data were available, Unia reported 115 antisemitic incidents, a 45 percent increase from 2019.  Unia defined these as incidents against Jewish persons rather than against Jewish practices, which it tracked separately.  Of these, 70 percent were related to hate speech and 49 percent took place on the internet.  Unia reported four cases of destruction of public property and four cases of verbal harassment related to antisemitism.  No cases of physical assault or attacks were recorded.

Unia reported 261 cases of other religious discrimination or harassment in 2020 and noted that the decreased number of in-person social interactions due to COVID-19 might account for the decrease in cases from 2019, when 336 cases were recorded.  Of the 2020 incidents, 37 percent were media related, and 30 percent occurred in the workplace, mostly against Muslims.  Approximately 88 percent of the cases targeted Muslims.  There were 11 incidents against Jewish religious practices, seven against Christians, and 13 in which the religious link was categorized as “other” or “unclear.”

Unia cited 112 cases of religious hate speech in its 2020 annual report. Approximately 90 percent of these were related to “inciting hatred, discrimination or violence.”  A total of 29 religious hate crimes were recorded by Unia, with 93 percent being cases of intimidation or harassment and no cases of physical attacks.

In February, Flemish media outlets De Morgen and Gazet Van Anwerpen reported that Flemish Jews pointed to increasing antisemitic comments on social media following news reports about large gatherings in synagogues and higher infection rates in the Antwerp Jewish community during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Security services also reported an increase in hate messages targeting Jews, including some accusing the Jewish community of spreading COVID-19.

In March, the Flemish television program TelefactsNU reported it had infiltrated and exposed an extreme right online chat group called “Volksverbond” that praised violence and spread racist and anti-Muslim propaganda.  Members of the chat group created fake online Muslim profiles and posted provocative and purportedly Islamist messages, such as calling for adoption of sharia, to “open the eyes of the people.”  Others proposed dressing as Muslims and throwing Molotov cocktails at protestors during a far-right demonstration.  Group members also shared information on how to acquire weapons and arms licenses.  According to the Flemish media outlet Het Laatste Nieuws, the group had 350 followers on Instagram and 26 core members in its private chat.

On June 3, the Court of Mechelen sentenced a man to six months in prison and fined him 800 euros ($910) for performing the Nazi salute in Fort Breendonk, located near the city of Mechelen, which had served as a Nazi prison hub for the transit and deportation of the country’s Jews during World War II.  The man was a member of Right-Wing Resistance Flanders, listed as a right-wing extremist group by the government’s Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis.

In May, press reported that the Royal Belgian Football Association had begun an ethics investigation of a Dutch soccer player for the Brugge soccer club after video appeared of the man singing with club fans that he would “rather die than be a Jew” following a match with Brussels club Anderlecht.  According to local media, other teams commonly referred to Anderlecht players and supporters as “Jews.”  The player said on social media he had not intended to offend, and the Brugge club said he “had no antisemitic undertone.”  Jewish parliamentarian Michael Freilich said the player needed to hear “how offensive his words have been to Belgian Jews.”

The Aalst Carnival, which in previous years was marked by open displays of antisemitism, did not take place due to COVID-19.  In January, press reported that the director of the carnival, Sven de Smet, posted a message on Facebook referencing accusations that Orthodox Jews did not follow COVID-19 restrictions.  The message read, “Hey, Jew, the rules apply to you, too.  Anything!  The chosen people of God.”  Journalist Rudi Roth filed a complaint with Unia about de Smet’s post.

According to Antisemitism Belgium, in early May five men insulted a man, his wife, and children, shouting “Free Palestine”; one of them later punched the man twice in the face.  The victim received medical care at the hospital, and the perpetrator was arrested by local guards and transferred to the police.  There was no further information on the status of the case.

Also in May, two persons threw rocks at a group of Jews in Antwerp.  Police were unable to identify the individuals responsible.

In July, an Antwerp resident assaulted two members of the Antwerp Jewish community near a synagogue.  The police later arrested a suspect.  There was no further information on the status of the case.

Other cases reported by Antisemitism Belgium include online antisemitic hate messages, for example postings comparing Israel and Zionists to Nazis or calling for the killing of Jews or the destruction of Israel; in-person verbal harassment, for example, instances of calling persons “dirty Jews”; and discrimination and vandalism, such as the defacement of posters highlighting the issue of violence against Jews.

In September, the Brussels-based NGO Action and Protection League issued the results of its European antisemitism survey based on data from December 2019-January 2020.  According to the survey, 8 percent of 1,000 respondents ages 18-75 in Belgium said they had negative feelings towards Jews.  Four percent said they would be “totally uncomfortable” or “uncomfortable” with having Jewish neighbors.  The survey cited stereotypical statements about Jews and asked respondents the degree to which they agreed or disagreed.  The proportion who responded “strongly agree” or “tend to agree” with the following statements were:  “The interests of Jews in this country are very different from the interests of the rest of the population” (23 percent); “There is a secret Jewish network that influences political and economic affairs in the world” (23 percent); “Jews have too much influence in this country” (14 percent); “Jews will never be able to fully integrate into this society” (24 percent); “Jews are more inclined than most to use shady practices to achieve their goals” (16 percent); “Many of the atrocities of the Holocaust were often exaggerated by the Jews later” (9 percent); “Jews are also to blame for the persecutions against them” (12 percent); and “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes” (22 percent).

Belize

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the population at 406,000 (midyear 2021).  According to the 2010 census, the most recent, the Roman Catholic Church is the largest religious group, accounting for 40 percent of the population.  Protestants make up 32 percent, including Pentecostals (8 percent), Seventh-day Adventists (5 percent), Anglicans (5 percent), Mennonites (4 percent), Baptists (4 percent), Methodists (3 percent), the Church of the Nazarene (3 percent), and the Salvation Army.  Jehovah’s Witnesses make up 2 percent of the population, while other religious groups, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Rastafarians, Baha’is, and Soka Gakkai together constitute 11 percent.  Approximately 15 percent of the population does not affiliate with one of these religious organizations.

No religious group is a majority in any of the country’s six districts.  Catholics reside throughout the country.  Mennonites and Pentecostals reside mostly in the rural areas of the Cayo and Orange Walk Districts.

The 2010 census lists 577 Muslims in the country.  This number does not include the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat group, which according to its leaders, numbers fewer than 160 individuals.  Some members of indigenous groups, including the Maya and the Garifuna, practice traditional folk religious rituals.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The interfaith BCS, which includes representatives from the Methodist, Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, and Pentecostal Churches, the Salvation Army, and the Chinese Christian Mission, as well as Muslim and Baha’i leaders, held limited counseling services for relatives of crime victims, as permitted under health regulations.  COVID-19 pandemic assembly restrictions significantly curtailed BCS services to the central prison and to Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital staff, patients, and relatives, along with BCS weekly Sunday services and Islamic prayers on Fridays at hospital chapels.  During the year, the BCS organized food drives and distributed meals to the needy.

Fifteen registered religious-based radio stations operated in the country.  According to the Belize Broadcasting Authority, evangelical Protestant groups continued to own and operate most of the stations.  Others included Catholic, Mennonite, and Pentecostal radio stations.

The Kolbe Foundation continued to manage the country’s central prison, with a focus on rehabilitating inmates.  It provided support for all religious denominations within the inmate population, subject to the availability of a suitable chaplain.  According to the BCC, the Kolbe Foundation continued to respect dietary restrictions for prisoners of diverse religious backgrounds.  During the year, the Jehovah’s Witnesses sent letters of encouragement to each inmate, along with a copy of Watch Tower magazine.

Benin

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 13.3 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2013 census (the most recent), 48.5 percent of the population is Christian, 27.7 percent is Muslim (mostly Sunni), 11.6 percent practice Voodoo, 2.6 percent are members of indigenous religious groups, 2.6 percent are members of other religious groups, and 5.8 percent declare no religious affiliation.  The largest Christian denominations are Roman Catholicism, with 25.5 percent of the population, and the Celestial Church of Christ, with 6.7 percent.  Other religious groups include Methodists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baha’is, Baptists, Pentecostals, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (Unification Church), the Very Holy Church of Jesus Christ of Baname, and Eckankar followers.

Many individuals who identify as Christian or Muslim also practice Voodoo or other traditional religions.

Most Muslims reside in northern regions.  There are some Shia Muslims, and most are foreign residents.  Residents in the north report the presence of Tablighi Muslim adherents.  Southern regions are predominantly inhabited by Christians.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

On September 6, a former priest of the Christian Church of Baname, Jean Claude Assogba, sent a letter to government authorities, diplomatic missions, and trade unions to denounce what he said were abuses committed by Church leadership against its congregants.  He said these abuses included fraud and occult practices such as selling beverages made of animal blood to followers, poor conditions for and ill-treatment of priests, and mysterious disappearances and poisoning of followers.  Reports about his letter circulated widely on social media.  In 2017, four leaders of the same Church were briefly detained on order of the Court of Porto-Novo after five congregants died following practices advised by Church leaders.  As of year’s end, neither the Church nor the government had addressed the latest allegations.

Bhutan

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 857,000 (midyear 2021).  According to a 2012 report by the Pew Research Center, approximately 75 percent of the population follows Buddhism and 23 percent are Hindu.  Hindus reside mostly in southern areas adjacent to India.  The 2020 report by the World Christian Database estimated that Buddhists comprised 83 percent of the population and Hindus 11 percent in 2019.

The 2012 Pew Research Center report estimates of the size of the Christian community ranges from 0.5 to 3.6 percent of the total population.  The Open Doors report covering 2021 estimates the Christian population at 30,000 (approximately 3.5 percent).  Most Christians are concentrated in towns in the south.  According to scholars, although individuals often combine Bon (an indigenous Tibetan religious tradition) practices with Buddhist practices, very few citizens adhere exclusively to this religious tradition.  The Sharchop ethnic group, which makes up the majority of the population in the east, practices elements of Tibetan Buddhism combined with elements of the Bon tradition and Hinduism, according to scholars.

Most of the country’s foreign workers come from India.  In 2019 (most recent data available), India’s Ministry of External Affairs estimated that 60,000 Indian nationals lived in the country and 8,000 to 10,000 additional temporary workers entered the country daily.  Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some Indian residents left the country and the government limited entry of most foreign workers.  While there is no data on their religious affiliation, most foreign workers are likely Hindu and, in fewer numbers, Muslim.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Some converts reported continued societal pressure on individuals to participate in Buddhist traditions and practices.  The Open Doors 2021 report said converts to Christianity faced intense pressure to return to their former religion, especially from relatives who viewed the conversions as bringing shame to their entire family.  The NGO characterized persecution of Christians in the country as “very high.”  The NGO report said that anyone who left Buddhism was viewed with suspicion by neighbors and friends, and family members went to great lengths to bring converts back to their original faith.  One local organization said persecution varied in different regions of the country, with pressure to return to Buddhism likely to be higher in rural areas.

Bolivia

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 11.8 million (midyear 2021).  According to U.S. government figures, 77 percent of the population identifies as Catholic and 16 percent as Protestant, including evangelical Protestant and Pentecostal groups.  According to the local leader of the Church of Jesus Christ, approximately 300,000 followers reside in the country; the Church of Jesus Christ’s central website estimates more than 200,000 followers.  Approximately 5 percent of the population identifies with smaller religious groups, and 5 percent self-identify as nonbelievers.  There are approximately 1,500 Muslims and 450 Jews, according to leaders of the respective faiths and news reports.  Approximately 60,000 Mennonites live in the lowlands province of Santa Cruz, according to community leaders.  Many indigenous communities, concentrated in rural areas, practice a mix of Catholic and indigenous spiritual traditions.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to media, on October 31, groups in favor of abortion interrupted a Mass at the San Francisco Basilica and San Miguel Church in La Paz and at the San Lorenzo the Martyr Cathedral in Santa Cruz, spray painting the latter with red paint.  The activists were demonstrating on behalf of the 11-year-old pregnant rape victim.  “From the point of view of our faith, there’s an absolute conviction to protect life,” Susana Inch, legal counsel for the BEC, said.  “Even when there’s an instance of sexual violence, even when there’s a high-risk pregnancy, even when everything is unfavorable, the conviction is to protect and save that life under any circumstance.”  A representative of the Archdiocese of Santa Cruz condemned the attacks on the Catholic Church and its buildings.

Media reported a November 25 incident in which a group of pro-abortion rights protesters confronted a group attempting to protect the Maria Auxiliadora Church in La Paz.  The protesters threw buckets of paint, feces, and other objects at the group protecting the church.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 3.8 million (midyear 2021).  According to the most recent census, conducted in 2013, Sunni Muslims constitute approximately 51 percent of the population, Serbian Orthodox Christians 31 percent, Roman Catholics 15 percent, and others, including Protestants and Jews, 3 percent.

There is a strong correlation between ethnicity and religion:  BiH Serbs affiliate primarily with the SOC, and BiH Croats with the Catholic Church.  Bosniaks are predominantly Muslim.  The Jewish Community estimates it has 1,000 members, with the majority living in Sarajevo.  The majority of Serbian Orthodox live in the RS, and most Muslims and Catholics in the Federation.  Protestant and most other small religious communities have their largest memberships in Sarajevo and Banja Luka.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The IRC, which records and tracks cases of religious intolerance and hatred, recorded three incidents against religious officials and 23 cases of vandalism against religious buildings.  Of the 23 incidents of vandalism, eight targeted Catholics, 10 Muslims, three the SOC, and two the Jewish Community.  In 2020, the IRC recorded 17 incidents of vandalism against religious buildings, identifying suspects in only three of those cases.  Because religion and ethnicity often are closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many actions as solely based on religious identity.

The IRC again stated it believed the actual number of religiously motivated incidents against religious persons or buildings was much higher but that members of religious groups feared reporting them.  The IRC also stated it lacked the staff, capacity, or funding to follow up in detail on every case.

In one of the three incidents against persons, on January 18, a man in Livno Canton verbally insulted imams and Muslims gathered in a mosque.  Livno Canton Police identified the individual and arrested him.  Authorities fined him for disturbing public peace and order.

The BiH Jewish Community reported a significant increase in antisemitic speech online, especially after clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in May.  Examples of online hate speech included targeting members of the Jewish Community, sending them death threats, denying the Holocaust, glorifying Hitler, and stating that “all Jews should be sent to Auschwitz gas chambers.”  The IRC condemned this social media post and called on local police to investigate the case and identify the author of the post.

On February 18, an unknown person fired several gunshots at the minaret of the historic Aladza Mosque in Foca, causing minor damage.  Police investigated but had not identified a suspect by year’s end.

In March, a person drew a swastika on an obituary that was hanging on the entrance of the Ashkenazi Synagogue/Jewish Community headquarters in the center of Sarajevo.  The obituary was of a prominent member of the Jewish Community in Sarajevo.  Using surveillance camera footage, Sarajevo Canton Police identified the 17-year-old who drew the swastika and filed a criminal report against him with the Sarajevo Canton Prosecutor’s Office.

On May 9, an unknown person drew graffiti insulting Jesus on the front of the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua in Bihac.  Near the church, there was a swastika drawn on a traffic sign, and the slogan “Knife, Wire, Srebrenica,” referencing the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, written on a billboard nearby.  Bihac Mayor Suhret Fazlic condemned the vandalism and called on police to investigate it vigorously, but there were no developments in the case by year’s end.  The Islamic Community also condemned the incident, saying via social media that desecration of religious objects was an act not only against religion but also against civilization, and that should concern everyone.

On August 5, unidentified persons broke a window in the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin in the village of Vukovsko near Kupres and overturned the headstone of the grave of Simo Popovic, the priest who built the church in 1860.  The attack was the third on the church in recent years.  MHRR Minister Milos Lucic condemned the incident.  There were no developments in the case by year’s end.

Mesud Hrbat, a Sarajevo businessman, provided support to all four main religious groups in Sarajevo in order, he said, to contribute to good neighborly and interreligious relations in Sarajevo.  Hrbat funded the construction of a mosque in the Rjecica settlement of Sarajevo’s Novi Grad Municipality, paid BAM 100,000 ($58,000) for the facade of the Catholic Saint Luke the Evangelist Church in Sarajevo’s Municipality of Novi Grad and BAM 100,000 ($58,000) for restoration of the yard of the Old Orthodox Church in Sarajevo, and pledged BAM 60,000 ($34,800) for a new facade on the Ashkenazi Synagogue /Jewish community building in Sarajevo.

In 2020 (the most recent year for which data were available), the OSCE Mission to BiH observed through its monitoring program 16 potential bias-motivated incidents targeting Muslims and 27 incidents targeting Christians (Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and Orthodox).  All 43 incidents, which represented a 39 percent increase over the 31 the OSCE reported in 2019, were reported to the police.  The incidents included threatening religious officials such as Cardinal Puljic, threatening believers, disturbing religious ceremonies, vandalism of religious properties, desecration of cemeteries, and other property offenses.  The OSCE said the data should be interpreted with caution because of an assumed high rate of underrecording and underreporting of bias crimes in the country.

The Council of Muftis of the Islamic Community said it was continuing efforts to persuade unregistered Islamic congregations (known as para-jamaats), which gathered predominantly Salafist followers and operated outside the purview of the Islamic Community, to cease what they described as “unsanctioned” religious practices and officially unite with the Islamic Community.  The Islamic Community reported there were 20 active para-jamaats, compared with 11 in 2020.  According to Islamic Community officials, the difference was not the result of an increase in the number of para-jamaats but of better data collection.  According to the Islamic Community, of these 20 groups, four had memberships consisting of up to 40 families, while other para-jamaats comprised only a handful of believers.

The IRC continued working on different projects through its 15 local chapters across the country, primarily focusing on youth and women.  The projects included publishing a manual to guide religious officials working with wartime sexual abuse survivors and organizing an interreligious camp that brought together youth from all principal religious communities across the country.  The IRC also continued to monitor and condemn attacks on religious leaders and buildings.  In September, the IRC organized a youth conference on combating hate speech, including religiously motivated hate speech, in social media.  The IRC also expanded its interfaith network of women belonging to different religious groups across its 15 chapters.

Botswana

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 2.4 million (midyear 2021).  According to Botswana’s 2011 Population and Housing Census reporting on the population 12 years and over (the most recent data available), 79 percent of citizens are members of Christian groups, 15 percent espouse no religion, 4 percent are adherents of the Badimo traditional indigenous religious group, and all other religious groups together constitute less than 1 percent of the population.

Anglicans, Methodists, and members of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa make up the majority of Christians.  There are also Lutherans, Roman Catholics, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baptists, Mennonites, and members of the Dutch Reformed Church and other Christian denominations.  According to the 2011 census, there are approximately 11,000 Muslims, many of whom are of South Asian origin.  There are small numbers of Hindus, Baha’is, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jews.  Immigrants and foreign workers are more likely to be members of non-Christian religious groups than native-born citizens.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Representatives of religious organizations, including Christian and Muslim, again said that interfaith relations were strong, which in the past have included partnerships to address issues including HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence.  They continued to say there was a high degree of tolerance for religious diversity in the country.

Brazil

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 213.4 million (midyear 2021).  According to a 2019 Datafolha survey, 50 percent of the population identifies as Roman Catholic, the same as the previous survey in 2016 but down from 60 percent in 2014.  Atheists and those with no religion represent 11 percent, and the proportion of evangelical Christians is 31 percent, compared with 24 percent in 2016.  Two percent practice Afro-Brazilian religions, and 3 percent are Spiritists.  According to the 2010 census, the most recently available data from official sources, 65 percent of the population is Catholic, 22 percent Protestant, 8 percent irreligious (including atheists, agnostics, and deists), and 2 percent Spiritist.  Adherents of other Christian groups, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Seventh-day Adventists, as well as followers of non-Christian religions, including Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Afro-Brazilian and syncretic religious groups, such as Candomble and Umbanda, make up a combined 3 percent of the population.  According to the census, there are approximately 600,000 practitioners of Candomble, Umbanda, and other Afro-Brazilian religions.  Some Christians also practice Candomble and Umbanda; however, some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) believe this is significantly underreported, given the number of terreiros located across the country.  According to recent surveys, many Brazilians consider themselves followers of more than one religion.

According to the 2010 census, approximately 35,200 Muslims live in the country, while the Federation of Muslim Associations of Brazil (FAMBRAS) estimates the number to be 1.2 to 1.5 million.  The largest communities reside in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, and Foz do Iguacu, as well as in smaller cities in the states of Parana and Rio Grande do Sul.

According to CONIB, there are approximately 120,000 Jews in the country.  The two largest concentrations are 70,000 in Sao Paulo State and 34,000 in Rio de Janeiro State.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Although only approximately 2 percent of the population were followers of Afro-Brazilian religions, a disproportionate number of cases registered by the human rights hotline involved victims who were practitioners of Afro-Brazilian religions. Media reported multiple incidents in which individuals and groups destroyed terreiros and sacred objects.

In January, an unidentified man broke into an Umbanda temple in Duque de Caxias, Baixada Fluminense, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, and set a fire and destroyed sacred religious objects.  According to the temple’s priest, Maria Antonia dos Santos, the man said his pastor had instructed him to break “all the demons he could find in the temple.”  The suspect was arrested the same day and sent to a psychiatric hospital after police concluded he was suffering a mental health crisis.  The leaders of the temple organized a fundraising campaign and rebuilt the temple, which was rededicated in May.

In February, unidentified men set fire to a food stand of Candomble priestess and street vendor Maria Enoia de Sousa, known as Mae Enoia, in Macae, southern Rio de Janeiro State.  The priestess had reportedly been harassed since November 2020, when she had begun selling acaraje, a regional dish associated with practitioners of Afro-Brazilian faiths.  According to media reports, when she attempted to file a police report, the police precinct said she needed to pay a fee of 700 to 800 reais ($120-$140) to conduct the investigation.  Police investigated the case, with monitoring by the CCIR, through year’s end.

In February, Gleidson Lima, an evangelical Christian pastor and leader of the Tenda dos Milagres Church, destroyed Afro-Brazilian sacred objects and offerings in the neighborhood of Belford Roxo, part of the greater metropolitan area of the city of Rio de Janeiro.  A video posted on the internet following the attack showed the pastor stating he was breaking the objects “in the name of Jesus.”  Police indicted Lima on February 24 on charges of religious intolerance, and a trial date was pending at year’s end.

In March, media reported that an unidentified, apparently intoxicated man destroyed a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows in a Catholic church in Petropolis, Rio de Janeiro State.  According to Father Lucas Thadeu, who witnessed the incident, the man broke the statue after declaring that due to his religion he did not like religious images.   Police were investigating at year’s end.

According to media in May, four individuals entered the Nossa Senhora dos Remedios Parish in Osasco, Sao Paulo, and destroyed seven religious images, plus flower vases, and toilets, saying they did so “in the name of Jesus.”  After reviewing security camera footage in June, the Secretariat of Public Security detained four suspects, including two minors.  Police indicted the two adults for the crimes of religious intolerance and “vilification of images” (the mistreatment or disrespect of objects) and took the minors to the Childhood and Youth Court.  Authorities released all the suspects after their hearings to await the outcome of the investigation, which according to media reports, the Ocasco police investigation continued through year’s end.

According to press reports, on December 3, police arrested and charged a man with aggravated theft and arson for the November 26 arson of the Shia Imam Ali Mosque in Ponta Grossa, in Parana State.  The man broke into and set fire to the husseiniya (Shia congregation hall), dirtied the kitchen walls, destroyed masbahas (prayer beads), and set fire to five volumes of the Quran.  The individual confessed to the crime, which carries a possible sentence of up to 14 years in prison.  In response to the attack, Parana Governor Carlos Massa Ratinho Junior stated his support for the mosque, stating, “We will not tolerate any criminal acts, especially those of religious intolerance, like what happened at the mosque, in Ponta Grossa,” and he pledged civil police would conduct a full investigation.

In December, a group of preschool students visited Xica Manicongo, the urban quilombo (a historical community founded by formerly enslaved persons) in the municipality of Niteroi in Rio de Janeiro State, to watch a cultural performance.  Afterward, individuals virtually attacked the participating school on social media.  Commenters conflated the quilombo with an Afro-Brazilian terreiro in the city, with posts using offensive language and criticizing the school administrators for permitting the visit.  In response, Niteroi’s municipal Secretary of Education defended the children’s participation in the event, explaining that schools have “autonomy to develop activities that defend freedom of expression and the antiracist education agenda.”  The secretary’s statement also reiterated that these activities were supported by laws that promote the culture and history of Afro-Brazilian peoples.  In response to the municipality’s clarification, many persons expressed support for the school’s position and the visit.

In February, followers of Afro-Brazilian religions in Maceio, Alagoas State, paid homage to Tia Marcelina, a temple leader whom security forces beat in 1912.  According to the Municipal Foundation for Cultural Action, the objective of the event, which included singing, instrumental music, and the hanging of a banner, was to remember the power and ancestry of the day in history and to renew what the foundation termed the fight against “religious racism.”

In July, former Mundial Supermarket employee Rafael Oliveira denounced the chain for religious intolerance, stating supermarket management verbally harassed, and ultimately fired him when he wore a protective facemask containing an image of the orixa ogun, an Afro-Brazilian deity.  According to Oliveira, other Mundial employees in the northern Rio de Janeiro State city of Ramos wore facemasks in support of other religions and sports teams without reprimand, while a manager told Oliveira to change his mask.  In the three weeks thereafter, the supermarket transferred Oliveira five times and changed his hours eight times before terminating his employment.  The supermarket chain stated that “it does not condone any act of discrimination or religious intolerance and respects all beliefs,” and said Oliveira’s dismissal was not related to discrimination.

In July, Afro-Brazilian religious leaders met with officials from Bahia State’s Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality to discuss a series of attacks against Terreiro Icimimo, a 104-year-old site recognized by the Bahia State government as a cultural heritage site.  That same month, unidentified men had broken into the temple and destroyed sacred objects and outdoor ceremonial spaces.  According to a representative for the terreiro, authorities had not indicted or arrested any suspects by year’s end.

In August, representatives of Afro-Brazilian religions in Pernambuco State, under the coordination of the Pernambuco Terreiros Walk Network (ACTPE), which unites the state’s terreiros to combat racism and religious prejudice, held a demonstration against acts of religious intolerance.  During the event, the representatives announced they had filed a complaint with the Public Ministry of Pernambuco through the State Secretariat for Social Defense against an evangelical Protestant pastor for having maligned Afro-Brazilian religions.  On social networks, Pastor Aijalon Berto of the Evangelical Church Dunamis (meaning power) objected to artistic graffiti panels installed near the Abolition Museum that depicted Afro-Brazilian cultural and religious symbols, saying these were associated with evil and Satan.  In the video, the pastor stated, “Entities referred to in Candomble are witchcraft.”  Civil police said they were investigating the case.  In November, the ACTPE held a second march in conjunction with the start of the country’s Month of Black Consciousness to mark the fight against racism and religious intolerance.  Local and state political leaders spoke alongside Afro-Brazilian religious leaders, calling for respect on a daily basis.

Media continued to report on cases of Candomble practitioners being expelled from the community and being prohibited from wearing the white clothing that is generally used by adherents of the Candomble faith in the area controlled by a criminal group self-identifying as evangelical.  Alvaro Malaqunas Santa Rosa, known as Peixao, who, according to media in 2020, had joined forces with a militia group to expand influence over a group of five favelas (informal housing settlements) to establish what came to be known as the “Complex of Israel” in northern Rio de Janeiro, continued to avoid arrest despite police operations targeting his drug trafficking operation.  As a child, Peixao followed his mother’s Umbanda practices but later converted to evangelical Christianity.

Media continued to report on cases of evangelical Christian missionaries traveling to isolated and recently contacted indigenous communities to proselytize.  Indigenous organizations said these actions violated indigenous peoples’ constitutional right to maintain their cultural heritage and sacred practices and threatened their safety.  In September, STF Minister Luis Roberto Barroso reaffirmed a 2020 court decision that prevented the entry of third parties, including members of religious groups, into areas in which isolated indigenous peoples were living to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

An August report published by Globo using data obtained through the Access to Information Law showed that in the first five months of the year, federal police investigated 36 cases entailing violations of the country’s laws against the use of symbols to publicize Nazism, a rate Globo estimated was on track to be only slightly fewer than the 110 cases opened in all of 2020.  In 2020, the highest number of cases was opened in the southeast of the country, particularly in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro States, with 27 and 23 cases, respectively.  The data did not include the states of Mato Grosso do Sul, Rondonia, and Tocantins.

FISESP’s annual Antisemitism Report recorded 57 incidents and allegations of antisemitism in the country from January to July, compared with 149 incidents and allegations during the same period in 2020.  FISESP also reported a total of 92 incidents at year’s end.  The report was based on a range of sources, including traditional media, social media, and reports from branch offices of the organization.  The survey reported a variety of activities including sightings of swastikas and other antisemitic graffiti, antisemitic hand gestures, and the sale of Nazi artifacts.  FISESP attributed the drop in recorded cases to difficulties collecting data during COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, when local FISESP branches were closed.

From the end of 2020 to May, neo-Nazi cells grew from 349 to 530, according to anthropologist Adriana Magalhaes Dias at the Sao Paulo State University of Campinas.  The cells were most prevalent in the south and southeast regions, with 301 and 193 identified, respectively.  Dias also mapped cells in the midwest (18) and northeast (13).  According to Dias, a neo-Nazi cell was a group of at least three persons inspired by the Nazism in Europe in the 20th century.

According to press reports, on March 12, the federal police raided the Pentecostal Generation Jesus Christ Church in the city of Rio de Janeiro to seize literature and antisemitic materials related to a 2020 video broadcast of the church’s leader, evangelical Pastor Tupirani da Hora Lores, praying with congregants for another Holocaust.  He said, “Massacre the Jews, God, hit them with your sword, for they have left God, they have left the nation.”  The police raid supported a cybercrimes police investigation of the pastor for inciting practitioners to discriminate against Jews through his in-person and online sermons.  In August, press reported that despite the police investigation, the pastor continued to make offensive comments.

Neo-Nazi groups maintained an active presence online.  The National Cyber Crime Reporting Center, operated by Safernet Brazil, recorded for the second year in a row an increase in complaints about internet content supporting Nazism.  During the year, Safernet Brazil stated it received 14,476 reports of neo-Nazi content online, a 60.7 percent increase compared with 2020 and the highest number registered since 2010.  The reports included 894 different webpages, of which 318 were removed by TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter because of content defined as illegal and pro-Nazi.

There continued to be reports of private entities and individuals inciting violence against or engaging in verbal harassment of religious minorities on social media and in the press.  As of August, the Israelite Federation of the State of Rio de Janeiro reported that it had confirmed 10 cases of antisemitism in Rio de Janeiro.  The number of reports of crimes of intolerance – racial, religious, or related to sexual orientation or gender identity – registered by the ombudsman’s office of the Sao Paulo Department of State between January-July represented a 24.5 percent increase compared with the same period in 2020.  During this period, 311 reports were registered, compared with 248 during the same period in 2020.

In June, the Federal Public Ministry indicted a man in the First Federal Criminal Court of Sao Paulo for incitement of Nazism on a Russian online social network in 2015.  Authorities accused the man, who had a history of involvement with neo-Nazi groups, of being responsible for a webpage containing neo-Nazi symbols and photos referencing Adolf Hitler, with faces covered by emojis.  Identified through police cooperation between Brazil and Russia, the man confessed to the authorship of the publications.  The Public Ministry said the man would be prosecuted for inciting discrimination and prejudice based on race, color, religion, or nationality and if found guilty, would be subject to a fine, up to five years in prison, or both.

According to media, on August 7, an unidentified individual or individuals scattered antisemitic pamphlets on the sidewalks and streets of Rio de Janeiro’s Barra de Tijuca neighborhood that stated, “Jews, impulsive accumulators of gold, diamonds, and dollars.”  Rio de Janeiro civil police said they were investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

According to press reports, on August 23, unidentified men online posted pornographic images and antisemitic messages during a virtual Jewish ceremony organized by the Israelite Religious Association in Rio de Janeiro.  Hackers threatened the participants by posting messages such as, “We will burn all synagogues” and “Death to Jews.”  Organizers suspended the event until a new link could be sent to the participants.  Rio de Janeiro police were investigating the case at year’s end. 

In November, journalist Jose Carlos Bernardi, working for Jovem Pan, one of the country’s largest broadcasters, stated that Brazil could attain economic development enjoyed by Germany “only by attacking Jews.  If we kill a gazillion Jews and appropriate their economic power, then Brazil will get rich.  That’s what happened with Germany after the war.”  The journalist and network later apologized for the remarks, following public complaints.

According to FAMBRAS, anti-Muslim messages on the internet, mostly associating Islam with terrorism and spreading messages of hate against Muslim representatives and their religious symbols, continued.  In March, according to FAMBRAS legal advisor Mohamed Charanek, the Court of Justice in Brasilia ordered the removal from social media of all material associating Islam with terrorism posted by a group self-identifying as the “Conservative Party,” a group seeking recognition as a political party.  The court fined the group 10,000 reais ($1,800).

The Ministry of Women, Family, and Human Rights’ National Secretariat of Human Rights received 581 reports of religious intolerance via the nationwide Dial 100 Human Rights hotline during the year, compared with 566 in 2020.

The Rio de Janeiro Civil Police Office for Racial Crimes and Crimes of Intolerance (DECRADI) reported receiving 78 reports of religious intolerance during the year.  According to the Chief of Police and head of DECRADI, authorities had indicted nine persons on charges of religious intolerance.  The State Secretariat for Human Rights in Rio de Janeiro reported 51 instances of religious intolerance between January and July, compared with 26 instances during the same period in 2020.  Afro-Brazilian religious groups experienced the greatest number of occurrences, with harassment, discrimination, and destruction of religious temples reported regularly.

According to the Bahia State Secretariat of Racial Equality, there were 19 instances of religious intolerance in the state between January and July, compared with eight instances in the comparable period in 2020.

On January 21, in celebration of the Brazilian National Day Against Religious Intolerance, Temple Ile Axe Abassade Ogum organized a tribute to the late Candomble priest Mother Gilda, who experienced verbal abuse involving religious intolerance during her lifetime.  The ceremony took place at Parque do Abaete, in Salvador, Bahia State, the site of a bust of the religious leader.

Bahia State University (UNEB) organized an online event entitled “Religion, (in)Tolerance, and Respect” to celebrate the January 21 National Day to Combat Religious Intolerance.  The UNEB event focused on the growth of religious diversity in the country and how religious intolerance could lead to discrimination and aggression when members of one religious group did not recognize the religious freedom of other religious groups.

Brunei

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 471,000 (midyear 2021).  According to the 2011 census (the most recent), 78.8 percent of the population is Muslim, 8.7 percent Christian, and 7.8 percent Buddhist, while the remaining 4.7 percent consists of other religions, including indigenous beliefs.

There is significant variation in religious identification among ethnic groups.  According to 2019 official statistics (the most recent), ethnic Malay citizens comprise 66 percent of the population and are defined by law as Muslims from birth.  The ethnic Chinese population, which is approximately 10 percent of the total population and includes both citizens and stateless permanent residents, is 65 percent Buddhist and 20 percent Christian.  Indigenous tribes, such as the Dusun, Bisaya, Murut, and Iban, make up approximately 4 percent of the population and are estimated to be 50 percent Muslim, 15 percent Christian, and the remainder followers of other religious groups, including adherents of traditional practices.  The remaining 18 percent of the population includes foreign-born workers, primarily from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and other South Asian countries.  According to official statistics, approximately half of these temporary and permanent residents are Muslim, more than one-quarter Christian, and 15 percent Buddhist.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Non-Muslims and Muslims face social pressure to conform to Islamic behavioral guidelines.  Some male Muslims reportedly felt pressure from family and friends to attend Friday prayers even though they did not hold strong religious beliefs.  Members of the LGBTQ community expressed fears about openly expressing their sexual or gender identity, saying they believed it would bring shame on their families for violating religious mores.

Following the death of Cardinal Sim in May, individuals from a variety of faith backgrounds made numerous comments in online forums praising the Cardinal for his efforts to serve the people of the country, according to local press.

Legislative council member Khairunnisa binti Haji Ash-ari faced social media backlash when she reintroduced a 2012 proposal for MOHA to open village head positions to women in the March annual parliamentary sessions.  In her speech she pointed out that women held positions of significant leadership in the government and private sector, and there should be no issue in electing a village head regardless of gender.  Many social media users did not agree, using Instagram to state women should be ineligible due to the Islamic responsibilities mixed in with the village head’s otherwise administrative role.  The Minister of Home Affairs said the matter would be taken into consideration but by year’s end had taken no action.  One local online newspaper, The Scoop, turned off comments due to “abusive and derogatory” language and remarks containing misogyny, racism, and prejudice.

Social media users expressed anger after a court acquitted a religious teacher charged with sexual abuse.  Comments on Reddit, Borneo Bulletin’s Instagram, and Media Permata’s Instagram drew comparisons and contrasts with another sexual assault case reported on the same day in which a court handed down a lengthy sentence to the defendant.  Many commentators said the justice system in the country was flawed because it accorded leniency to the rich and powerful, and stated the court gave the acquitted teacher preferential treatment due to his association with MORA.  They also questioned the need for six witnesses in prosecuting the religious teacher’s case, while this was not required in the other case.

There were again reports that some individuals who wished to convert to another religion continued to fear social retribution, such as ostracism by friends, family, and their community.  If parents converted to Islam, there was often family and official pressure for the children to do the same if they were not young enough to have been automatically converted with their parents.  Some non-Muslims said they continued to feel pressured in the workplace or in social groups to convert to Islam.  While the SPC outlined harsh punishments for Muslims converting to another religion, there were no known cases during the year of the government having applied those penalties.  Non-Muslims reported, however, that government officials monitored their religious services and events to ensure that no Muslims attended and that there was no anti-Islamic content.

Bulgaria

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 6.9 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2011 census (the most recent), 76 percent of the population identifies as Eastern Orthodox Christian, primarily affiliated with the BOC.  The census reports Muslims, the second largest religious group, are approximately 10 percent of the population, followed by Protestants, including the Union of Evangelical Congregational Churches, Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches, and Union of Evangelical Pentecostal Churches, at 1.1 percent, and Roman Catholics at 0.8 percent.  Nearly 95 percent of Muslims reported being Sunni; most of the rest are Shia, and there is a small number of Ahmadis concentrated in Blagoevgrad.  Orthodox Christians of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church (AAOC), Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, members of the Church of Jesus Christ, and other groups together make up 0.2 percent of the population.  According to the census, 4.8 percent of respondents have no religion and 7.1 percent did not specify a religion.  According to a 2019 report by the think tank Agency for Social Analyses, 74 percent of individuals identify as Orthodox Christians, 10 percent as Muslims, 13 percent as atheists, and 3 percent with other religious traditions.

Some religious minorities are concentrated geographically.  Many Muslims, including ethnic Turks, Roma, and Pomaks (descendants of Slavic Bulgarians who converted to Islam under Ottoman rule) live in the Rhodope Mountains along the southern border with Greece and Turkey.  Ethnic Turkish and Romani Muslims also live in large numbers in the northeast and along the Black Sea coast.  Some recent Romani converts to Islam live in towns in the central region, such as Plovdiv and Pazardjik.  According to the census, nearly 40 percent of Catholics live in and around Plovdiv.  The majority of the small Jewish and Armenian communities are in Sofia, Plovdiv, and along the Black Sea coast.  Protestants are widely dispersed.  Many Roma are Protestant converts, and Protestants are more numerous in areas with large Romani populations.  Approximately 80 percent of the urban population and 62 percent of the rural population identifies as Orthodox Christian.  Approximately 25 percent of the rural population identify as Muslim, compared with 4 percent of the urban population.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Antisemitic rhetoric continued to appear regularly in online comments and on social networking sites, for example, calling Jews “lampshades,” as well as in online media articles and in the mainstream press.  Antisemitic graffiti, including swastikas and offensive slurs, appeared regularly in public places.

In June, Shalom reported spotting stickers with Nazi symbols inside public transportation vehicles in Sofia and inside ski lifts in Bansko.  Shalom also reported increased incidents of antisemitic hate speech online in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing election campaigns.  In October, vice presidential candidate Elena Guncheva of the Vazrazhdane Party referred on social media to local politicians of Jewish and Turkish origin, saying they should consider themselves “guests” in the country.  After Shalom complained of “xenophobia and hate speech” to the Central Electoral Commission, which condemned her words but stated it could not interfere in the political campaign, Guncheva addressed Shalom specifically on social media, reiterating that “Bulgaria is the land of Bulgarians.”  In November, the Israeli embassy issued a public letter condemning her comments.

Jewish community leaders expressed concern regarding periodic vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and monuments and what they said was an increasing trend of antisemitic and xenophobic propaganda and graffiti.  In June, Shalom approached the local government in Provadia after discovering that the old local Jewish cemetery had become an illegal landfill, with bones scattered around the site.  Shalom asked the municipality to clean the cemetery and to allow a rabbi to collect the bones.  At year’s end, the municipality had not responded to Shalom.

On January 29, unknown persons defaced with a swastika a memorial plaque in Plovdiv for a Jewish man killed in 1943.  The Plovdiv municipality cleaned the plaque, but police had not identified the perpetrator by year’s end.

On August 22, vandals drew racist and antisemitic symbols, including a swastika, on the fence of the Sofia Synagogue.  Police had not identified any suspects by year’s end.

Shalom condemned remarks by Miroslav Ivanov, a candidate for parliament from the Bulgarian National Union-New Democracy Party during a television interview in July.  The party has no representation in parliament.  According to press reports, among other comments, Ivanov said that Jews were happy under Hitler because they could work freely, Nazi gas chambers were used for deworming, and that a Nazi salute he was shown to be doing in a picture was actually a “Roman salute.”  Shalom called for Ivanov to be prosecuted for Holocaust denial and spreading antisemitic propaganda.

For the second consecutive year, Jehovah’s Witnesses reported no cases of hostility or harassment against their members by nongovernment officials, which they attributed to COVID-19-related restrictions that forced them to switch to online gatherings.

The Church of Jesus Christ reported no instances of harassment of missionaries, compared with three such incidents in 2020.  The Church attributed the change to having moved most of its activity online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Office of the Grand Mufti said Muslims were targets of periodic hate speech, such as at a protest in November in front of the Embassy of Turkey in Sofia against alleged interference of Turkey in the general elections, where participants chanted “death to Turks.”  According to the office, since most of the Muslim population in the country is ethnic Turkish, Bulgarian society frequently conflates “Muslim” and “Turk.”  The office also cited several instances of offensive graffiti on Muslim properties, such as a swastika on a mosque in Plovdiv in January and obscenities spray-painted on a mosque in Kazanlak.

On February 14, Regional Mufti of Plovdiv Veli again hosted the annual Tolerance Coffee, gathering representatives of the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities, local government officials, foreign diplomats, and representatives of civil society.  According to the press release from the mufti’s office, the event commemorated the 2014 attack on the local Cumaya Mosque and was intended as a sign of respect and tolerance among all people, regardless of their ethnic background or religious beliefs.

The National Council of Religious Communities, whose members include representatives of the BOC, Muslim, evangelical Protestant, Catholic, AAC, and Jewish communities, continued to serve as a platform for the largest religious groups to organize joint events and defend a common position on religious issues, such as legislative proposals, political statements, and actions by others, and religiously motivated vandalism.  The BOC only occasionally participated in the council’s activities, according to reports from members of the council and public reports of council activities.  The council again substantially curtailed activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including by canceling the annual Festival of Religions in Sofia for the second year in a row.

In July, Bridges – Eastern European Forum for Dialogue, an NGO, organized its fifth youth camp, gathering 15 youths from different regions in the country and from different faiths in Plovdiv for discussions on history, traditions, tolerance, and dialogue with BOC, Catholic, Muslim, AAOC, and Jewish leaders.

Burkina Faso

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 21.4 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2006 census, 61 percent of the population is Muslim (predominantly Sunni), 19 percent is Roman Catholic, 4 percent belong to various Protestant groups, and 15 percent maintain exclusively indigenous beliefs.  Less than 1 percent is atheist or belongs to other religious groups.  Statistics on religious affiliation are approximate because Muslims and Christians often adhere simultaneously to some aspects of traditional or animist religious beliefs.

Muslims reside largely in the northern, eastern, and western border regions, while Christians are concentrated in the center of the country.  Traditional and animist religious beliefs are practiced throughout the country, especially in rural communities.  The capital has a mixed Muslim and Christian population.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Human rights organizations and religious groups continued to express concern that religiously targeted violence threatened what they termed the “traditional peaceful coexistence” of religious groups in the country.  Observers continued to report the stigmatization of the predominantly Muslim Fulani ethnic community because of a perceived association with militant Islamist groups.  They said this aggravated social tensions in some regions, since self-defense militias at times exacted vigilante justice on Fulani communities in the northern and central regions of the country because of this perceived connection to militant and terrorist groups.

Members of the Burkinabe Muslim Community Organization, the Catholic Archdiocese of Ouagadougou, and the Federation of Evangelical Churches continued to state that despite an increase in religiously motivated attacks, religious tolerance remained widespread as a common value, and numerous examples existed of families of mixed faiths and religious leaders attending each other’s holidays and celebrations.  Members of the largest religious communities promoted interfaith dialogue and tolerance through public institutions such as FAIB, which conducted awareness campaigns throughout the country.  They also worked through NGOs such as the Dori-based Fraternal Union of Believers, which encouraged various religious communities, specifically in the Sahel Region, to conduct social and economic development activities with the goal of reducing vulnerability to terrorist recruitment and fostering religious tolerance between the communities.

In January, the Catholic Archbishop of Ouagadougou, Cardinal Philippe Ouedraogo, denounced terrorist violence, calling it “an evil for humanity.”  Ouedraogo also said he feared how jihadist and terrorists attacks were challenging social cohesion.  He said, “Fundamentalism is gaining ground, due to the misinterpretation of the holy book.  We already see tensions, as evidenced by fundamentalist signs including within religions…”  He added, however, that Protestants, Muslims, and Catholics had met together with the Mogho Naba, a powerful traditional chief of the predominantly Muslim Mossi ethnic group, who had assisted in addressing and reducing such tensions.  Describing the closure of three of the six parishes of the Diocese of Dori in the Sahel Region, Ouedraogo said, “All priests, sisters, and worshippers have fled” to Kaya (Centre-Nord Region).  The Archbishop discussed his initiative to promote interfaith dialogue through the annual Christian-Islamic and interethnic couples pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Notre Dame de Yagma near Ouagadougou, taking place in February, the second time for this pilgrimage.

Pastor Henry Ye, the President of the Federation of Evangelical Churches and Missions (FEME), stated that religious dialogue and tolerance was valued among religious leaders in the country, but observed that the broader religious community did not yet embrace this spirit at the same level.  To counter pressures toward radicalization and violent extremism among youth in particular, he noted that the FEME held regular exchanges over social media among youth organizations of religious groups.  Ye also described how acts of terrorism affected churches.  For instance, all FEME-related churches in Yagha Province, Sahel Region were closed.  Pastor Lankoande Isaie of the Assembly of God said that one group of violent extremists agreed not to close churches in Tapoa, Est Region, as long as members did not raise pigs or brew beer, and the men grew beards and wore short trousers.

Religious leaders continued to express their view that the foundation of interfaith dialogue in the country helped them resist and survive various crises over time, including the threat and challenge to interreligious and ethnic cohesion posed by terrorism.  They said the government often called upon them for assistance in resolving socioeconomic tensions including a case involving destruction of a mosque in 2020 on disputed land, and tensions regarding the length of closure of places of worship during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Another case involved a protest and attack at FAIB headquarters regarding the perceived prolonged closure of a mosque, to which the government responded by reopening the mosque.

As in previous years, new Muslim and Protestant congregations continued to form without approval or oversight from existing Muslim and Protestant federations.  Religious leaders stated the messages of tolerance by Muslim and Protestant federations were often undermined by small new religious groups that did not fall under their oversight and that took positions counter to the federations’ views.  They said the lack of oversight made it difficult for official religious groups to monitor and regulate the activities and messages of these new groups.

On February 4, FAIB leaders cited the growing social stigmatization of their wives when they wear a veil.  El Hadj Oumarou Zoungrana, then president of FAIB, also described FAIB’s newly-established National Technical Committee, charged with reviewing sermons for content promoting violence in sermons and speeches by imams, and reprimanding the offenders.

Burma

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 57.1 million (midyear 2021).  According to the most recently available estimates, approximately 88 percent are Theravada Buddhists.  Approximately 6 percent are Christians, primarily Baptists, Roman Catholics, and Anglicans, along with several small Protestant denominations.  Muslims (mostly Sunni) comprise approximately 4 percent of the population.  There are small communities of Hindus and practitioners of Judaism, traditional Chinese religions, and animist religions.  The 2014 census excluded Rohingya from its count, but nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the deposed civilian government estimated the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim Rohingya population at 1.1 million prior to October 2016.  There are an estimated 600,000 stateless Rohingya in Rakhine State, and according to the United Nations, as of August 31, Bangladesh continues to host approximately 860,000 Rohingya refugees.

There is a significant correlation between ethnicity and religion.  Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion among the majority Bamar ethnic group and among the Shan, Rakhine, Mon, and numerous other ethnic groups.  Various forms of Christianity are dominant among the Kachin, Chin, and Naga ethnic groups.  Christianity also is practiced widely among the Karen and Karenni ethnic groups, although many Karen and Karenni are Buddhist, and some Karen are Muslim.  Individuals of South Asian ancestry, who are concentrated in major cities and in the south-central region, are predominantly Hindu or Muslim, although some are Christian.  Ethnic Rohingya and Kaman in Rakhine State, as well as some Bamar and ethnic Indians in Yangon, Ayeyarwady, Magway, and Mandalay Regions, practice Islam.  Chinese ethnic minority groups generally practice traditional Chinese religions and to a lesser extent Islam and Christianity.  Some smaller ethnic groups in the highland regions are animists, observing traditional indigenous beliefs.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In July, the NUG announced its appointment of a Rohingya activist as an advisor to its “Ministry of Human Rights.”  The NUG’s August 24 statement on the anniversary of atrocities committed against the Rohingya received public support via social media.  Some social media users commented that the coup had united the country against the military regime and had produced more sympathy for the Rohingya, which, they said, may have been responsible for a decline in online hate speech aimed at the Rohingya noted by some observers.

According to Muslim activists, Rohingya continued to be perceived as not truly belonging to the country, irrespective of citizenship status, and as belonging to a religion commonly viewed with fear and disdain.  There were continued reports of social stigma surrounding any assistance to or sympathy for Rohingya.  Some civil society leaders said that even among otherwise tolerant individuals, anti-Rohingya sentiment remained prevalent.  There were continued reports of general anti-Muslim prejudice, including social pressure not to rent housing to Muslims in some areas.  Some local media reports, however, said the Bamar ethnic majority’s empathy for the decades of persecution suffered by Rohingya and other minorities had grown due to their own post-coup experience of the brutal crackdown by regime security forces on innocent persons irrespective of ethnic and religious background.  For example, a schoolteacher told the New York Times, “I saw soldiers and police killing and torturing people […] I started to feel empathy for Rohingya and ethnic people who have been suffering worse than us for many years.”

In June, a public opinion poll found that, when asked about relations among persons of different faiths in the country, 47 percent said that strict protection of one’s own religion would provide a stronger foundation for democracy in the future, while 48 percent said that granting more rights to religious minorities would provide a stronger foundation for democracy in the future.

Despite a continuing order by the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee (SSMNC), an independent but government-supported body that oversees Buddhist affairs, that no group or individual operate under the banner of Ma Ba Tha, some branches of the group continued to use the name Ma Ba Tha, while others used the new name, Buddha Dhamma Parahita Foundation.  According to Myanmar Now, in March SSMNC announced in a statement that it would suspend its activities and called on the military to end the violence and arrests.  One of SSMNC’s 47 abbots said of the suspension, “It is similar to the [Civil Disobedience Movement].”  According to local media, some Ma Ba Tha-affiliated monks held a rally in November in support of the military.

In March, protestors waved flags made of women’s sarongs in celebration of International Women’s Day.  Regime-controlled Myawaddy News called the act “inappropriate” and “severely insulting to religion and contempt of [Buddhist] religion…and monks.”

Burundi

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 12.2 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2008 national census (the most recent), 62 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, 21.6 percent Protestant, 2.5 percent Muslim, and 2.3 percent Seventh-day Adventist.  Another 6.1 percent have no religious affiliation, and 3.7 percent belong to indigenous religious groups.  The head of the Islamic Community of Burundi, however, estimates Muslims constitute 10-12 percent of the population.  The Muslim population lives mainly in urban areas; most are Sunni, although there are some Shia communities as well as a small number of Ismaili Muslims in Bujumbura.  Groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Church of the Rock, Free Methodist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox Christians, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Eglise Vivante, Eglise du Bon Berger, Hindus, and Jains.  According to 2018 statistics from the Ministry of Interior, there are approximately 1,000 religious groups in the country.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The Independent National Human Rights Commission organized a workshop and training session on April 8 for religious leaders on the role of religious organizations in the promotion and protection of human rights.  Representatives from religious communities spoke and emphasized their contributions to establishing respect for human rights and made future commitments.

Cabo Verde

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 589,000 (midyear 2021).  The preliminary 2020 national census showed a total population of 498,000.  According to the 2010 national census, the most recent to report population by religious grouping, 77 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, 10 percent Protestant, 2 percent Muslim, and 11 percent does not identify with any religion.  The second largest Christian denomination is the Church of the Nazarene.  Other Christian denominations include Seventh-day Adventists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), Assemblies of God, Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, Independent Baptists, and other Pentecostal and evangelical Christian groups.  There are small Baha’i and Jewish communities.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom.

Cambodia

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 16.5 million (midyear 2021).  According to the MCR, approximately 93 percent of the population is Buddhist, 95 percent of whom practice Theravada Buddhism, with an estimated 4,400 monastic temples throughout the country.  The remaining 7 percent of the population includes Christians, Muslims, animists, Baha’is, Jews, and Cao Dai adherents.  Most ethnic Vietnamese traditionally practice Mahayana Buddhism, although others have adopted Theravada Buddhism and Roman Catholicism, representing most Catholics in the country.  Catholics constitute 0.4 percent of the population.  Nongovernmental estimates of the Protestant population, including evangelical Christians, vary, but are less than 2 percent of the total population.

According to government and NGO estimates, between 2 and 5 percent of the population is Muslim and is predominantly ethnic Cham, although not all Cham are Muslim.  The Cham typically live in towns and rural fishing villages along the banks of Tonle Sap Lake and the Mekong River, as well as in Kampot Province.  Nearly 90 percent of Muslims are adherents of Sunni Islam, subscribing to the Shafi’i school of Islamic law.  The remaining minority practice Salafist, Wahhabist Sunni doctrines; there are also Ahmadi Muslims.  A portion of the Cham community also subscribes to the indigenous Iman-San sect of Islam, combining traditional ancestral practices with Sunni Islam.

According to government estimates, 0.28 percent of the population is ethnic Bunong, the majority of whom follow animistic religious practices.  An additional estimated 0.25 percent of the population includes Baha’is, Jews, and Cao Dai adherents.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In April, a report by the Cambodian Youth Network found that more than 3,200 acres of a 7,400-acre protected forest in Kratie Province had been illegally cleared, while another 1,140 acres were under threat.  The forest is a religious site for the indigenous Bunong people.  A network official accused “wealthy and powerful individuals” of illegally clearing the forests for profit from logging or converting the land to other commercial purposes.  Indigenous community leaders reported that individuals and companies who purchased sacred indigenous land commonly hid their intention to clear the land of forest cover, a fact that, if known, would have caused local residents and religious leaders to object to the sale of the land.  Sources stated that it was difficult for local communities to prevent the clearing of forest after a sale was completed and payments made.

Observers and religious leaders reported improved public acceptance of persons practicing non-Buddhist religions, although some biases and prejudice remained.  Leaders in the minority Muslim Cham community stated that the Cham had equal employment and educational opportunities.

After meeting with Tep Vong, the Supreme Patriarch of Mohanikaya Buddhism, Roman Catholic Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler, head of the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh, reported that there was “reciprocal religious respect” among religious groups in the country and that government policies and social tolerance were instrumental in improving interreligious relationships.

In June, the Roman Catholic Church donated 20,000 masks to the High Council for Islamic Religious Affairs to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  A Council representative expressed gratitude to the Church for demonstrating solidarity with Cambodian Muslims.

Cameroon

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 28.5 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2005 census, the most recent available, 69.2 percent of the population is Christian, 20.9 percent Muslim, 5.6 percent animist, 1.0 percent belongs to other religions, and 3.2 percent reports no religious affiliation.  Among Christians, 55.5 percent are Catholic, 38 percent Protestant, and 6.5 percent other Christian denominations, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Orthodox churches.  The 2020 Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project found that 38.3 percent of Christians were Catholic and 31.4 percent of Christians were Protestant.  There is a growing number of Christian revivalist churches.

Christians are concentrated primarily in the southern and western parts of the country.  The Northwest and Southwest Regions are largely Protestant, and the South, Center, East, Littoral, and West Regions are mostly Catholic.  The Mbororo ethnic community is mostly Muslim and located primarily in the North, Far North, Northwest, Adamawa, and East Regions; the Bamoun ethnic group is also predominantly Muslim and located in the West Region.  Many Muslims, Christians, and members of other faiths also adhere to some aspects of traditional beliefs.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Because religion, ethnicity, and politics are often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.

In September, tensions escalated between Muslims and Christians in Ngaoundere, Adamawa Region, according to Etienne Patrice Etoundi Essama, leader of the Cameroon Association for Interreligious Dialogue.  Etoundi Essama said the leading imam in the area, Cheikh Mahmoud Ali, accused authorities at the Catholic Mazenod High School of attempting to convert Muslim students to Christianity by compelling them to wear badges bearing a cross.  Ali characterized the practice as a subtle form of evangelization and urged Muslims to withdraw their children from the school.  According to the school authorities, the badge was part of a uniform that identified all students at the school, but the uniform requirement had previously not been required for Muslim students.  Following government-led mediation on September 12, Minister of Territorial Administration Paul Atanga Nji said that both sides agreed that Muslim students at the school would be exempt from wearing badges bearing a cross.  On October 25, the Catholic Church’s Justice and Peace service said many Muslim parents withdrew their children from the school after the incident.

In October, a group of evangelical Christians in Douala, Littoral Region, accused an elderly woman of being possessed by demons and assaulted her in her home after she refused to adhere to their doctrine.  According to the media, the assailants had previously attacked other individuals in the area who did not share their religious beliefs.  Security forces rescued the woman and arrested seven individuals on assault charges and jailed them at the New Bell Prison in Douala.  The trial of the seven was proceeding at the Douala Court of First Instance at year’s end.

In July, Derek Che Choh, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Bamenda, announced in a public statement that unidentified individuals had desecrated two churches in Njinikom, Northwest Region.  According to Che Choh, on May 14, intruders stole the eucharist from the Perpetual Adoration Chapel in Njinikom Parish.  He said on July 8 that in a separate incident, unidentified individuals removed the tabernacle from the wall of the Christ the King parish church in Fuli Kom.  Che Choh said the acts were sacrilegious and desecrated the most sacred aspects of the Catholic faith.

In its report covering 2021, NGO Open Doors said that Christians who converted from Islam in the country suffered persecution and were at great risk from their immediate family and their wider community if they told anyone about their conversion, or if Bibles are discovered in their possession.

In October, members of an LGBTQI+ organization in the North Region said they regularly faced the discrimination and violence from other members of their religious communities.  They said religious leaders and other worshippers physically assaulted them, often shunned or avoided them during services, and denied them entry into faith-based organizations.

In September, the Cameroon Association for Interreligious Dialogue (ACADIR) organized a roundtable that brought together diverse faith-based organizations to discuss doctrines and practices that the association said hindered peaceful coexistence and exacerbated religious extremism.  Participants at the roundtable discussed the response of Muslim leaders to threats of Boko Haram and ISIS-WA in the Far North Region and addressed perceived religious extremism associated with Pentecostal churches.  The roundtable additionally addressed a conflict between Muslims and Christians in Adamawa Region, and discussed the contribution of diverse groups, including women and youth, to national peace and development.

Some prominent religious leaders played significant roles in promoting COVID-19 vaccinations.  In June, the Cameroon Council of Imams and Muslim Dignitaries (CIDIMUC) launched a campaign to sensitize Muslims to the necessity of the vaccinations.  CIDIMUC members publicly received their vaccines at Djoungolo Hospital in Yaounde, and Muslim leaders urged worshippers to take the vaccine during prayers at mosques.  In June, CIDIMUC produced a commercial promoting COVID-19 vaccination that ran on state-funded CRTV television for several weeks.

In May, ACADIR – in partnership with UNICEF and the Ministry of Public Health – organized a workshop in Yaounde during which participants urged Christians and Muslims to wear masks, observe COVID-19 safeguards, and get vaccinated.

On October 9, CIDIMUC organized an interreligious conference to promote interreligious dialogue and multiculturalism and consolidate peace.  According to the organizers, the conference sought to highlight the virtues of social cohesion and the contribution of religious groups to conflict prevention and resolution.

In February, ACADIR provided training on interreligious dialogue to Christians and Muslims in Ngaoundere, Adamawa Region.  In March and in June, ACADIR provided similar training sessions to Christians and Muslims in Bertoua, East Region, Garoua, North Region and Maroua, Far North Region.

Canada

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 37.9 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2011 census, which has the most recent data available on religion, approximately 67 percent of the population self-identifies as Christian.  Roman Catholics constitute the largest Christian group (38 percent of the total population), followed by the United Church of Canada (6 percent), Anglicans (5 percent), Baptists (1.9 percent), and Christian Orthodox (1.7 percent).  Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Pentecostal groups each constitute less than 2 percent of the population.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints estimates its membership at 199,000.  The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS Church) estimates its membership at 1,000.  The Hutterites, or Hutterite Brethren, which number approximately 35,000, are an Anabaptist ethnoreligious group living primarily in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan Provinces.  Approximately 3 percent of the population is Muslim, and 1 percent Jewish.  Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Scientologists, Baha’is, and adherents of Shintoism, Taoism, and aboriginal spirituality together constitute less than 4 percent of the population.  Approximately 24 percent of the population list no religious affiliation.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were reports of physical violence, vandalism, hate speech, and harassment directed at religious groups, particularly against Jews and Muslims.  In July, Statistics Canada released statistics for 2020 that showed a 16 percent decline in the number of police-reported, religiously motivated hate crimes from 613 in 2019 to 515 in 2020.

In 2020, the most recent year for which there were statistics, the B’nai B’rith Canada League for Human Rights reported nine cases of antisemitic violence, compared with 14 in 2019; there were 118 reports of vandalism, including the painting of swastikas and threatening messages on buildings, and 2,483 reports of harassment, compared with 182 and 2,011, respectively, in 2019.  The league received 2,610 reports of antisemitic cases in 2020, compared with 2,207 in 2019 and 2,041 in 2018.  More than 95 percent of the occurrences (2,483) involved harassment.  Seventy-one percent of all incidents reported in 2020 occurred online or had an online component; the physical location and identities of those posting the online messages were unknown.  Occurrences of in-person versus online harassment increased to one in four incidents in 2020.  In 2020, while overall incidents increased across the country, there were significant reductions in all provinces except for Ontario and Atlantic Canada, which include New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

Ontario reported more than 1,000 incidents of antisemitism in 2020, a 44 percent increase over the span of a single year and which accounted for 43 percent of all antisemitic incidents in Canada.  Atlantic Canada, which historically was the region with the lowest recorded incidents of antisemitism, recorded a rise of more than 226 percent in antisemitic incidents.  All incidents in Atlantic Canada were either harassment or vandalism.  According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, police-reported hate crime data for 2019 indicated that Jews, although only approximately 1 percent of the population, were the targets of 15 percent of all hate crimes in the country and remained the country’s most targeted group.

In June, Nathaniel Veltman struck five members of a Muslim family with his truck, killing four of them, in London, Ontario.  Police stated the driver fitted his truck bumper with a ram bar and targeted the family because they were Muslim.  Authorities arrested Veltman and charged him with one count of terrorism, four counts of first degree murder, and one count of attempted murder.  Prime Minister Trudeau condemned the attack as “brutal, cowardly, and brazen” and said the “killing was no accident.  This was a terrorist attack.”  The Prime Minister said he would redouble the government’s efforts to dismantle “far-right hate groups” and groups that threatened public safety, adding the government would continue to fund programs to help community centers, religious schools, and places of worship protect themselves.

A preliminary hearing was held in January for Guilherme “William” Von Neutegem, who was charged with first degree murder in the 2020 killing of a congregant in the parking lot of the International Muslim Organization Mosque in Rexdale, a suburb of Toronto.  Von Neutegem remained in custody at year’s end.

In June, an unidentified man attacked two Muslim women in Alberta, grabbing one of the women by her hijab, pushing her to the ground, and knocking her unconscious, according to media reports.  The man reportedly knocked the second woman to the ground and threatened her with a knife.  Police opened an investigation and released a sketch of the suspect but made no arrest by year’s end.

In March, a woman verbally harassed two Muslim girls, then physically assaulted one of them in Prince’s Island Park in Calgary, according to media reports.  The assailant reportedly punched one of the victims in the face and kicked her in the stomach.  Calgary police charged the assailant with assault, mischief, and causing a disturbance.  Dr. Mukarram Zaidi of the Canadian Muslim Research Think Tank said Muslim women and young girls told him, “These kinds of incidents occurred on a daily basis.”

According to B’nai B’rith Canada, more antisemitic incidents were reported to the organization in May than in all of 2020, 2019, and 2018 combined.  The increase occurred at the same time protests were taking place across the country in response to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.  B’nai B’rith Canada stated that incidents of antisemitism also “tend to increase during election campaigns in Canada, whether federal or provincial.”  In August, B’nai B’rith Canada reported unidentified persons vandalized the Beth Sholom Synagogue in Toronto, Ontario with swastikas and other graffiti.  A sign drawing attention to antisemitism in Toronto was vandalized with antisemitic rhetoric, and a school in a Jewish neighborhood in Thornhill, Ontario, was painted with swastikas and obscene graffiti.  Police opened investigations.  Also in August, unknown individuals in Montreal defaced the election signs of two Jewish candidates for the federal parliament with swastikas.  Montreal police opened an investigation.  In November, unknown vandals defaced the provincial courthouse and neighboring city hall in Ottawa with swastika graffiti and the letters “SS.”  Ottawa police opened a hate crime investigation but had made no arrests at year’s end.

According to B’nai Brith, in July, a customer assaulted an elderly Jewish liquor store employee in Toronto after another employee had asked to see the customer’s identification and the customer refused to comply.  The customer called the Jewish employee a “dirty [expletive] Jew,” struck him in the back with a wine bottle, and punched him in the face.  The victim required stitches and had to take medical leave from work.  Authorities arrested a suspect three weeks after the incident and charged him with seven criminal counts.  According to B’nai Brith Canada, Toronto police considered it a hate crime.

In May, Jewish and Palestinian groups held parallel demonstrations in central Montreal, and a group of men bearing Palestinian flags attacked a group of Jewish individuals.  The men threw stones at the Jewish demonstrators and physically assaulted some of them, according to media reports.  Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

A June, an Angus Reid Institute poll on racism and diversity found 25 percent of Canadians said they felt “cold” towards Muslims, the highest negative sentiment toward any other religious group described in the survey.  A November 2020 submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief reported 52 percent of Canadians said they trusted Muslims “a little” or “not at all.”

According to press reports, in January, police charged Adam Riga with threatening to set fire to a place of worship and possession of incendiary materials after one of Montreal’s largest synagogues, Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, was vandalized with antisemitic symbols.  Large swastikas were painted on the doors of the synagogue and the man brought a canister of gasoline to the site.  In February, the judge hearing Riga’s case determined Riga was mentally unfit and could not be held criminally accountable for his actions and ordered that he be transferred to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.

According to media reports in Vancouver in February, Susan Standfield, characterized as an anti-vaccine conspiracist, promoted a t-shirt online that depicted a yellow Star of David marked with the words “Covid Caust.”  B’nai B’rith’s CEO Michael Mostyn condemned Standfield “in the strongest terms” for what he called “trafficking in Holocaust imagery in order to promote COVID-19 conspiracy theories.”  He stated, “There can be no comparison between masks and vaccines, which are intended to save lives, and the cruel murder of six million Jews and millions of others by the Nazis and their collaborators.”

In June, unidentified individuals burned four Catholic churches in indigenous communities in suspected arson fires in British Columbia, with two fires set on National Indigenous People’s Day.  Police investigated the four incidents.  A Catholic church in Nova Scotia was also set on fire in a First Nations (indigenous) community north of Halifax.  In July, unknown persons vandalized 11 churches, both Catholic and Protestant, in Calgary, Alberta with red and orange paint, according to media reports.  Most of the targeted churches were Catholic, and the vandalism included a smashed window with paint thrown inside, splattered paint over a statue of Jesus Christ, painted handprints on doors, and texts that read “Charge the priest,” “Our lives matter,” and “215.”  The paint colors and the number 215 were symbolically linked to protests over the discovery of unmarked graves believed to be of indigenous children compelled to attend Indian Residential Schools.  One of the vandalized churches was an African Evangelical Church.  According to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who condemned the vandalism, many of the church’s congregants had arrived in the country as refugees.  Police in Alberta opened an investigation.

An indigenous Manitoba man was arrested in June for setting fire to a Catholic church on Easter Sunday on the territory of the St. Theresa Point First Nation.  Several days later, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Ontario was set ablaze, and police opened an investigation.  Police said they believed the church fires were likely set as protests after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves believed to be of indigenous children at the sites of former Indian residential schools.  Catholic and Protestant religious groups operated most of the schools between 1831 and 1998, and according to media, the government funded them to force the assimilation of Indigenous children into dominant Canadian culture and away from their own native culture and religion.  Prime Minister Trudeau commented, “The destruction of places of worship is unacceptable and it must stop.  We must work together to right past wrongs.”

In April, an individual shot an air rifle at the Assahaba Islamic Community Centre in Montreal, according to media reports.  Surveillance video showed a hooded individual taking 11 shots at the community center and then running away.  The Montreal police hate crimes unit opened an investigation.

In August, an unknown individual vandalized the Komagata Maru memorial in Vancouver.  The memorial is dedicated to the 376 Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu passengers aboard the ship Komagata Maru that in 1914 was denied entry to Canada under exclusion laws and forced to return to India.  Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said, “This is disgusting and whoever did this is a coward.  This memorial is about the perseverance of a community that has helped to build and shape our city.”  Vancouver police opened a hate crime investigation that remained pending at year’s end.

Central African Republic

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 5.4 million (midyear 2021).  According to the Pew Research Foundation in 2019 (the most recent data available), the population is 61 percent Protestant, 28 percent Catholic, and 9 percent Muslim.  Other religious groups, including traditional religious groups and those having no religious beliefs, make up an estimated 2 percent of the population.  The NGO Oxfam estimates the percentage of Muslims, most of whom are Sunni, at up to 15 percent (2019 data).  Some Christians and Muslims incorporate aspects of indigenous religions in their religious practices.

In the central, western, and southern regions of the country, Catholicism and Protestant Christianity are the dominant religious groups, while Islam is practiced in the far northern border areas near Cameroon, Chad, and Sudan.  In the capital, most residents of the Third District are Muslim, while other neighborhoods are predominantly Christian.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of August 2021, there were 703,373 refugees from the Central African Republic in bordering countries, including Cameroon (46 percent), Democratic Republic of the Congo (29 percent), Chad (17.1 percent), Sudan (3.9 percent), Republic of Congo (2.9 percent), and South Sudan (0.3 percent).  Most refugees were Muslim.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Muslim community leaders continued to report social discrimination against and the marginalization of their communities, including difficulties acquiring identification documents.  Members of the board of the Coordination of Central African Muslim Organizations (COMUC) expressed similar concerns.  Imams from mosques in the majority-Muslim PK5 community of Bangui’s Third District stated that despite numerous efforts to build social cohesion between Muslims and Christians nationwide, their community continued to experience discrimination and instability.

According to COMUC, the Muslim community was marginalized and suffered inequality and injustice at all levels of society.  Many Muslim children lacked birth certificates, since most administrative documents were destroyed during the 2013-14 conflict.  At times, this allowed civil authorities to question the citizenship of children with Muslim names.  As a result of not having birth documents, many Muslim children could not attend school.  The PK5 community, COMUC reported, faced more water outages than other Bangui neighborhoods; COMUC said it believed this was due to the city’s deliberately spending fewer resources in the area because the population was largely Muslim.

Christian burials continued to take place in Bangui’s Islamic cemetery near M’poko Airport, in contravention of a 2016 agreement between the Christian and Muslim communities that designated the area exclusively for Islamic burials.  One Muslim community leader described the burials as provocations that were indicative of underlying, persistent tensions between the Muslim and Christian communities.

COMUC leaders said that Muslims were stigmatized and largely discriminated against in the existing political system.  They also stated Muslims were deprived of property rights and business ownership.  Although at least five of 32 ministers in President Touadera’s cabinet were Muslim, as well as National Mediator El Hadj Moussa Laurent Ngon Baba, civil society leaders in the Muslim community stated they perceived that Muslims were largely absent from positions of leadership.  Muslim community advocates again said that in their view, Muslims were underrepresented in the civil service and among recruits for state security institutions, despite diversity targets outlined in the National Defense Plan.

Traditional and social media outlets at times continued to portray Muslims negatively, particularly those of Fulani ethnicity.  On September 21, local newspaper Le Citoyen published an article that described Ali Darassa, the leader of the predominantly Muslim UPC armed group, as the “Caliph.”

The Nour al-Yaqin Mosque of the PK5 neighborhood of Bangui’s Third District reopened on February 26 following repairs by the local peace committee in partnership with MINUSCA.  The mosque had been vandalized during intracommunal violence in 2013 and 2014.

In March, the international NGO Conciliation Resources and its partners – the National Council of Central African Youth, Diocesan Commission for the Pastoral Care of Children and Youth, Central African Islamic Youth, African Evangelical Youth, and a taxi-moto association – carried out research on young persons’ views of the crisis in the country, peacebuilding prospects, and their visions for the future.  The research, funded by the United Kingdom, captured the views of 550 young persons in Bangui.  Despite suffering recurrent crises since 2013 and dealing with a legacy of trauma, loss, and disrupted lives and livelihoods, those polled expressed optimistic views in the survey, according to the researchers.  The study’s participants rejected sectarian and ethnic division, blamed bad governance and political manipulation – not each other – for social ills, and professed a deep desire to take the lead in transforming their own futures and their relationship with government.

The Platform for Religious Confessions in Central Africa (PCRC), composed of the senior Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and Muslim leaders in the country, continued its efforts to promote interfaith dialogue.  The group remained focused on supporting the return of IDPs and refugees and promoting social cohesion in communities that previously experienced intercommunal violence occurring along ethnoreligious lines, such as the village of Ndangala in Lobaye Prefecture.  In September, local authorities and religious leaders in Ndangala launched a local branch of the PCRC in that village, which in turn organized interfaith discussions chaired by Christian leader Jean-Pierre Soalakpe and brought together 200 participants from the three religious groups of the village:  Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims.

Chad

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 17.4 million (midyear 2021).  According to a 2014-2015 census estimate, 52.1 percent of the population is Muslim, 23.9 percent Protestant, 20 percent Roman Catholic, 0.3 percent animist, 0.2 percent other Christian, 2.8 percent no religion, and 0.7 percent unspecified.  Most Muslims adhere to the Sufi Tijaniyah tradition.  A small minority hold beliefs associated with Wahhabism, Salafism, or follow the political-religious doctrine espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood.  Most Protestants are evangelical Christians.  There are small numbers of Baha’is and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Most northerners practice Islam, and most southerners practice Christianity or indigenous religions.  There is a significant Muslim presence in the south, but a minimal Christian presence in the north.  Religious distribution is mixed in urban areas, and indigenous religions are often practiced to some degree along with Islam and Christianity.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Analysts stated the country, which comprises a diverse society with many tribal, ethnic, and religious identities, remained relatively free from significant conflict between religious groups.  Most conflicts took place between farmers and herders over competing uses of land, not religious identity, according to observers.  Analysts stated that lengthy periods of largely southern and Christian rule (1960-1979), followed by largely northern and Muslim rule (1979-2021), against the backdrop of widespread poverty created an association between religion and geographic region that political actors continued to exploit for their purposes.  Media said N’Djamena and other large cities self-segregated according to religious divisions.

Analysts and human rights groups said poverty and a lack of government services and economic opportunity raised the risks that violent extremism, including extremism related to religion, could spread to the country, especially in the Lake Chad region, where Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa launched attacks against government soldiers and unarmed civilians during the year.  A Boko Haram attack occurred in the Lake Chad region in August 2021, killing 26 Chadian soldiers.  The Chadian military remained active in its fight against Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa in the Lake Chad region.

Religious leaders, including imams, continued to raise awareness among adherents of the risks of terrorist attacks, particularly in Lac Province, and to advocate for continued additional security in places of worship.  On a television program broadcast on Evangelical TV (ETV) during Easter, pastors and guests called on the government to address the root causes of religious extremism and recruitment to extremist causes by expanding access to economic opportunity.

In accordance with the legal prohibition against “inciting hatred,” media coverage continued to not mention instances of religious tension or conflict, instead using the term “communalism” – allegiance to a specific group or community rather than to wider society – to refer in general to divisions among various groups or communities, whether based on geographic, ethnic, religious, or other loyalties.

The Regional Forum on Interfaith Dialogue, comprising representatives of evangelical Protestant churches, the Catholic Church, and the Islamic community, did not meet during the year after meeting two or three times in 2020.  The National Prayer Day originally scheduled for November 28 was rescheduled for January 29, 2022.

Chile

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 18.3 million (midyear 2021).  According to ONAR’s 2021 estimates, 70 percent of the population self-identifies as Roman Catholic and an estimated 18 percent identifies as “evangelical,” a term used in the country to refer to non-Catholic Christian groups, including Episcopalians, but not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox Churches (including Armenian, Greek, Persian, Serbian, and Ukrainian communities), and Seventh-day Adventists.  In the most recent census that included religious affiliation, conducted in 2002, Baha’is, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims (Sunni, Shia, and those who identify with Sufism, among others), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and members of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (Unification Church), the Church of Jesus Christ, the Orthodox Churches, and other unspecified religious groups together constitute less than 5 percent of the population.  An estimated 4 percent of the population identifies as atheist or agnostic, while 17 percent of the population identifies as nonreligious.  According to ONAR, 9 percent of the population self-identifies as indigenous, of which approximately 30 percent identify as Catholic, 38 percent as evangelical, and 6 percent as other; the remaining 26 percent do not identify with any religion.  ONAR states that many of those individuals also incorporate traditional indigenous faith practices into their worship.  Indigenous Mapuche communities primarily identify as Christian, with the majority being Catholic, while an increasing number identify with evangelical Christian groups; others adhere to traditional Mapuche beliefs and syncretism.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

On October 12, unknown individuals burned a Catholic church and the Nuevo Pacto Pentecostal Church in a continuation of violent incidents in the southern region of Araucania.  Following the arson attacks, President Pinera declared a state of emergency for the region.  In April, arsonists burned a church in the municipality of Padre Las Casas on the road to Huichahue.  Media reported that individuals wrote, “Freedom to the prisoners of the Chilean state” on the front of the damaged church.  In February, assailants burned the Boroa Mission Church, located in the municipality of Nueva Imperial in Araucania Region.  This was the sixth year that such burnings occurred, with an increase in numbers of arson attacks reported during the year.

Several priests and churches in the Araucania Region reportedly received arson threats during the year.  ONAR reported that its regional directors were in constant contact with the churches and communities affected by the arson attacks, and it held discussions with governors regarding possible assistance from regional governments.  According to academic and nongovernmental sources, the Mapuche, an ethnonym chosen by the group and referring collectively to the country’s largest indigenous group, consider most of Araucania as ancestral territory and continued to call for the government to return lands confiscated prior to the return to democracy in the late 1980s.  Some factions of the Mapuche continued to use violence, including attacks on facilities and vehicles of industrial producers such as farms and logging companies, as well as churches and private residences, to demand the return of land.

Jewish community leaders again expressed concern regarding what they stated was a rise in antisemitism in the country.  According to the Antisemitism Cyber Monitoring System, an Israeli government monitoring system that tracks antisemitism worldwide, the significant Palestinian presence in the country influenced public discourse, “which is expressed in distinctly antisemitic tone under the guise of anti-Zionist activity.”  On May 19, a group of demonstrators burned Israeli flags outside the Israeli embassy in Santiago.  In May, the Jewish community reported a series of antisemitic comments and threats posted on social media coinciding with the escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas.  On May 12, the Federation of Jewish Students received several antisemitic messages, including, “They are coming, pest murders of Palestinians…. HAIL HITLER.”  The CJCH’s annual report, “Anti-Jewish Incidents in Chile, 2020-2021,” identified several incidents:  on August 17, observers saw a poster hanging outside the National Institute of Human Rights with the slogan “From Colombia to Palestine the peoples resist against fascism and criminal Zionism.”  In September, individuals reported graffiti that featured swastikas and SS symbols in Las Condes Municipality in Santiago Metropolitan Region and near the Hebrew Institute in the city of Santiago.  On September 16th, a truck driver shouted “Heil Hitler” when passing the Aish Hatorah Synagogue in Santiago.

During the year, the Chilean Association of Interreligious Dialogue (ADIR Chile), which includes Catholics, Orthodox, Adventists, Anglicans, Baptists, Evangelicals, Lutherans, Church of Jesus Christ, Jews, Muslims, Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Brahma Kumaris, and indigenous spiritual traditions, held several events, including an interfaith dialogue about the constitutional process on July 28 and a virtual interfaith Gathering to Celebrate the International Day of Peace on September 21.  On October 19, representatives of the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican Churches, National Evangelical Union, National Evangelical Platform, Church of Jesus Christ, Islamic Center of Chile, Seventh-day Adventist Church, and of Jewish and Muslim groups delivered a proposal to members of the country’s Constitutional Convention that addressed the importance of religious freedom in a free and democratic country.  On December 13, members of ADIR Chile and other religious leaders visited a Mapuche religious center, Ruca Mapuche, in the municipality of La Cisterna as part of a program to foster respect for spiritual and cultural diversity.

China (Includes Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Macau)

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 1.4 billion (midyear 2021).  According to the State Council Information Office (SCIO) report Seeking Happiness for People:  70 Years of Progress on Human Rights in China, published in September 2019, there are more than 200 million religious adherents in the country.  An SCIO April 2018 white paper on religion in the country states there are approximately 5,500 religious groups.

Local and regional figures for the number of religious followers, including those belonging to the five officially recognized religions, are unclear.  Local governments do not release these statistics, and even official religious organizations do not have accurate numbers.  The Pew Research Center and other observers say the numbers of adherents of many religious groups often are underreported.  The U.S. government estimates that Buddhists comprise 18.2 percent of the country’s total population, Christians 5.1 percent, Muslims 1.8 percent, followers of folk religions 21.9 percent, and atheists or unaffiliated persons 52.2 percent, with Hindus, Jews, and Taoists comprising less than 1 percent.  According to a February 2017 estimate by the U.S.-based NGO Freedom House, there are more than 350 million religious adherents in the country, including 185 to 250 million Buddhists, 60 to 80 million Protestants, 21 to 23 million Muslims, seven to 20 million Falun Gong practitioners, 12 million Roman Catholics, six to eight million Tibetan Buddhists, and hundreds of millions who follow various folk traditions.  According to Boston University’s 2020 World Religion Database, there are 499 million folk and ethnic religionists (34 percent), 474 million agnostics (33 percent), 228 million Buddhists (16 percent), 106 million Christians (7.4 percent), 100 million atheists (7 percent), 23.7 million Muslims (1.7 percent), and other religions adherents who together constitute less than 1 percent of the population, including 5.9 million Taoists, 1.8 million Confucians, 20,500 Sikhs, and 2,900 Jews.  According to the Christian advocacy NGO Open Doors USA’s World Watch List 2022 report, there are 96.7 million Christians.  According to 2015 data from the World Jewish Congress, the country’s Jewish population is 2,500, concentrated in Beijing, Shanghai, and Kaifeng.

The SCIO’s April 2018 white paper found the number of Protestants to be 38 million.  Among these, there are 20 million Protestants affiliated with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), the state-sanctioned umbrella organization for all officially recognized Protestant churches, according to information on TSPM’s website in March 2017.  The SCIO report states there are six million Catholics, although media and international NGO estimates suggest there are 10-12 million, approximately half of whom practice in churches not affiliated with the CCPA.  Accurate estimates on the numbers of Catholics and Protestants, as well as other faiths, are difficult to calculate because many adherents practice exclusively at home or in churches that are not state sanctioned.

According to the 2018 SCIO white paper, there are 10 ethnic minority groups totaling more than 20 million persons for whom Islam is the majority religion.  Other sources indicate almost all Muslims are Sunni.  The two largest Muslim ethnic minorities are Hui and Uyghur, with Hui Muslims concentrated primarily in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and in Qinghai, Gansu, and Yunnan Provinces.  The SARA, also referred to as the National Religious Affairs Administration, estimates the Muslim Hui population at 10.6 million.  A June report on the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang) issued by the Department of Population and Employment Statistics of the PRC’s National Bureau of Statistics estimates the total population in Xinjiang is 26 million.  The report states Uyghurs, along with ethnic Kazakh, Hui, Kyrgyz, and members of other predominantly Muslim ethnic minority groups, number approximately 15 million residents, or 58 percent of the total population there.

While there is no reliable government breakdown of the Buddhist population by school, the vast majority of Buddhists are adherents of Mahayana Buddhism, according to the Pew Research Center.  Most ethnic Tibetans practice Tibetan Buddhism, although a sizeable minority practices Bon, a pre-Buddhist indigenous religion.

Prior to the government’s 1999 ban on Falun Gong, the government estimated there were 70 million adherents.  Falun Gong sources estimate tens of millions continue to practice privately, and Freedom House estimates there are seven to 20 million practitioners.

Some ethnic minorities follow traditional religions, such as Dongba among the Naxi people in Yunnan Province and Buluotuo among the Zhuang in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.  The central government classifies worship of Mazu, a folk deity with Taoist roots, as an expression of “cultural heritage” rather than a religious practice.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Because the government and individuals closely link religion, culture, and ethnicity, it was difficult to categorize many incidents of societal discrimination as being solely based on religious identity.

Despite labor law provisions against discrimination in hiring based on religious belief, some employers continued to discriminate against religious believers.  Religious minorities continued to report employers terminated their employment due to their current or prior religious activities.

In 2020, the Economist reported employment discrimination against ethnic minorities was pervasive, citing a study that found that Hui job seekers had to send twice as many applications as Han applicants and that Uyghurs had on average to send nearly four times as many applications just to hear back from potential employers.  The study found the gap was greater for highly educated workers, with Uyghur candidates who were in the top 1 percent academically having to send six times as many applications as their Han counterparts.  According to the Economist, the application gap was “similar in both smaller cities and in the provincial-level regions of Guangdong, Beijing and Shanghai.  State-owned enterprises, which have an official mandate to hire more minority workers, appeared at least as biased as other firms.”

Discrimination against potential or current tenants based on their religious beliefs reportedly continued.  Since 2017 and 2018, when articles in the 2005 Public Security Administration Punishment Law related to “suspicious activity” began to be enforced in earnest, Falun Gong practitioners reported ongoing difficulty in finding landlords who would rent them apartments.  Sources stated government enforcement of this law continued to move the country further away from informal discriminatory practices by individual landlords towards a more formalized enforcement of codified discriminatory legislation.

In June, the Diplomat reported growing anti-Muslim sentiment in society as a result of the government’s Sinicization campaign, which the Diplomat said could lead to violence.  Sources said government propaganda portraying Uyghurs as radicals, extremists, and terrorists had created societal hostility toward that group.  Anti-Muslim speech in social media reportedly remained widespread.

There were reports that Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and other religious minorities continued to face difficulties in finding accommodation when they traveled.

In January, media reported messages on social media blamed local Catholics from Shijiazhuang City and “several priests from Europe and the United States” for the spread of COVID-19 in Hebei Province that resulted in a lockdown on January 6.  Local priests denounced the posts, saying there had been no religious activities, masses, or meetings since December 24, 2020.

Colombia

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 50.4 million (midyear 2021).  According to a 2017 survey by the NGO Latinobarometer, 73 percent of the population is Catholic, 14 percent Protestant, and 11 percent atheist or agnostic.  Groups that together constitute less than 2 percent of the population include nondenominational worshipers, Jews, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Church of God Ministry of Jesus Christ International, Mennonites, Baha’is, and Buddhists.  There are between 85,000 and 100,000 Muslims, according to a 2018 Pew research study.  According to Baha’i leaders, there are approximately 60,000 followers; a Buddhist representative estimates there are 9,000 adherents in the country.  The CJCC estimates there are approximately 5,500 Jews.  There is also a small population of adherents of animism and various syncretic beliefs.

Some religious groups are concentrated in certain geographical regions.  Most of those who blend Catholicism with elements of African animism are Afro-Colombians and reside on the Pacific coast.  Most Jews reside in major cities (approximately 70 percent in Bogota), most Muslims live on the Caribbean coast, and most adherents of indigenous animistic religions live in remote rural areas.  A small Taoist community is located in a mountainous region of Santander Department.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

During the year, the AGO investigated two cases of abuses of religious freedom in the municipalities of Soledad, Atlantico and Barrancabermeja, Santander.  In addition, the AGO investigated four cases of vandalism reported in Ayapel, Cordoba; La Plata, Huila; Cucuta, Norte de Santander; and Floridablanca, Santander.  The MOI also stated that several acts of vandalism against churches occurred during the year.

The DRA said acts of vandalism towards two churches occurred in the departments of Tolima in March and Valle del Cauca in May.  In addition, according to the Colombia Episcopal Conference, groups of women in favor of legalizing abortion vandalized the Catholic Cathedral of Ibague and the St. Francis Church of Bogota on March 8, International Women’s Day.  The women also damaged the physical structures and harassed church members.  In both cases, police were present but made no arrests.

According to the Colombian Episcopal Conference representing the Catholic Church, some state and private schools encouraged students to limit visible expressions of faith.  On February 17, Ash Wednesday, the French School in Pereira required three girls to wash the ash cross off their foreheads to enter the school.

According to media, Martha Sepulveda, a self-described devout Catholic, was scheduled to become the first person in the country without a terminal prognosis to die by legally authorized euthanasia on October 10.  On October 8, the private Colombian Institute of Pain (Incodol), which was scheduled to perform the procedure, determined that she was no longer eligible because her condition had improved.  Sepulveda’s family planned to appeal the decision.  A member of the national bishops’ conference urged Sepulveda to “calmly reflect” on her decision and invited all Catholics to pray that God would grant her mercy.  On October 27, a court in Medellin ruled that Sepulveda was entitled to die by euthanasia, with the procedure scheduled for early 2022.

During the year, the Catholic Church, Mennonite Church, and other religious groups continued to conduct programs focused on religious tolerance, land rights, peace, and reconciliation.  Faith-based and interfaith NGOs, including DiPaz and the Inter-Ecclesiastical Commission on Justice and Peace, continued to promote religious freedom and tolerance through their programs and community engagement.

DiPaz, which includes the Presbyterian Church, Lutheran Evangelical Church, Council of the Assemblies of God, and various NGOs, focused on advancing the peace process in the country.  In a July 16 letter to the United Nations Security Council, DiPaz called on the international community to urge the government to resume the full implementation of the 2016 peace accord that ended the conflict between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and strengthen channels of dialogue to resolve societal issues.  The World Council of Churches and Action by Churches Alliance joined DiPaz in supporting the search for sustainable peace in the country.  The letter appealed for continued and further action to promote a genuine and sustainable peace for all the individuals in the country, especially the most marginalized communities and those most affected as victims of violence.  Several regional and global organizations, including the World Communion of Reformed Churches, Presbyterian Church, Alliance of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches of Latin America, Regional Ecumenical Advisory and Service Center, World Student Christian Federation, QONAKUY (a phrase of the aboriginal Quechua people meaning “to join with another is to share the best of oneself”), and the American Lutheran Church, endorsed the letter.

The Catholic Church and other religious organizations distributed food packages during the COVID-19 pandemic to all in need regardless of religion.

Comoros

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 864,000 (midyear 2021), of which 98 percent is Sunni Muslim.  Roman Catholics, Shia Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims, and Protestants together make up less than 2 percent of the population.  Non-Muslims are mainly foreign residents and are concentrated in the country’s capital, Moroni, and the capital of Anjouan, Mutsamudu.  Shia and Ahmadi Muslims mostly live on the island of Anjouan.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were continued reports that local communities unofficially shunned individuals suspected of converting from Islam to Christianity.  Societal abuse and discrimination against non-Muslim citizens persisted, particularly against Christians or those who were converts from Islam.  Non-Muslim foreigners reported little to no discrimination.

Most non-Sunni Muslim citizens reportedly did not openly practice their faith for fear of societal rejection, and some Shia Muslims reported being harassed by Sunni Muslims.  Societal pressure and intimidation continued to restrict the use of the country’s three churches to noncitizens.  Christians reported they would not eat publicly during Ramadan so as not to draw attention to their faith.

Costa Rica

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 5.2 million (midyear 2021).  According to a University of Costa Rica (UCR) study released during the year, Catholics represent approximately 47 percent of the population (compared with 49 percent in 2019); no religious affiliation 27 percent (20 percent in 2019); evangelical Christians 19 percent; other Protestants 1.0 percent (the 2019 study estimated all Protestants combined at 36 percent); no response 6 percent, and others 2.7 percent.

Most Protestants are Pentecostal, with smaller numbers of Lutherans and Baptists.  There are an estimated 32,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, predominantly on the Caribbean coast.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints estimates its membership at 50,000.  The Jewish Zionist Center estimates there are between 3,000 and 3,500 Jews in the country.  Approximately 1,000 Quakers live near the cloud forest reserve of Monteverde, Puntarenas.  Smaller groups include followers of Islam, Taoism, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, Scientology, Tenrikyo, and the Baha’i Faith.  Some members of indigenous groups practice animism.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to UCR polling, the demographic shift to fewer adherents of the Catholic Church continued.  Approximately half of those who left the Catholic Church joined evangelical Christian groups, while the other half gave up religious affiliation altogether.  According to Catholic Chancellor Rafael Sandi, however, there were fewer requests to formally disaffiliate with the Catholic Church during the year compared with the number of requests made in 2020, 2019, and 2018.

An increase in instances of anti-Catholic language on social media was noted after media reports detailed the continued high-level investigations of Catholic priests charged with sexual abuse.  In May, the extradition from Mexico of Catholic priest Mauricio Viquez on four charges of sexually abusing minors prompted negative comments on social media against Viquez, his alleged enablers, and the Catholic Church, the latter for attempting to prevent Viquez’ case from going to trial.  At year’s end, Viquez remained in preventive detention.  In 2019, the statute of limitation ended for three of the four accusations.

Jewish community leaders continued to report anti-Israeli comments appearing on social media, some of which, they said, were antisemitic, although not directed at Jews living in the country.  In September, the Israelite Zionist Center of Costa Rica reported antisemitic comments it detected online through its Antidiscrimination Web Observatory, which compiles antisemitic incidents and messages posted on social networks.  Some messages combined negative comments against Jews with actions taken by Israel.  For example, some messages compared former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu with former Nazi officer Heinrich Himmler.  Another online comment accused Israeli citizens of using their religion and the Holocaust to repeat their experience with Palestinians.  One social media post stated, “Israel does not exist.  Not only do they appropriate a territory that does not belong to them, but also…most of these people are not even Semites, but rather, central European Aryans.”

Interludio, a forum of religious groups established by Pastor Jose Castro in 2017 to encourage interreligious dialogue among the country’s religious groups, continued to promote dialogue among religious leaders, with participation of representatives from the Catholic, evangelical Christian, Protestant, Lutheran, Jewish, Baha’i, and Buddhist faiths.  The group met periodically throughout the year and hosted a variety of events, including talks on spiritual growth and moral values.  

The Museum of Empathy, associated with Interludio, continued to promote a Resilience Academy, which provided psychological and spiritual support to populations especially vulnerable due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on the elderly and on single mothers. 

Cote d’Ivoire

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 28.1 million (midyear 2021).  According to the most recent census in 2014, 42.9 percent of the population is Muslim and 33.9 percent Christian.  Groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include adherents of indigenous and other religious beliefs.  According to the census, 19.1 percent of the population identifies as following no religion.  The government carried out a new census in November and December; however, as of the end of the year, the results had not been released.  Many individuals who identify as Christian or Muslim also practice some aspects of indigenous religious beliefs.

Christian groups include Roman Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Harrists (a group that follows the teachings of William Wade Harris, a Liberian who evangelized in Cote d’Ivoire in the early 20th century), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Southern Baptists, Greek Orthodox, Copts, the Celestial Church of Christ, and Assemblies of God.  According to 2014 census data, 17.2 percent of the population is Catholic, 11.8 percent evangelical Christian, 1.7 percent Methodist, 0.5 percent Harrist, 0.4 percent Celeste, and 2.2 percent belongs to other Christian denominations.  Muslim groups include Sunnis (95 percent of Muslims), many of whom are Sufi; Shia (mostly members of the Lebanese community); and Ahmadis.  Adherents of other religious groups include Buddhists, Baha’is, Rastafarians, followers of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Jews, and Bossonists, who follow traditions of the Akan ethnic group.

Muslims are the majority in the north of the country, and Christians are the majority in the south.  Members of both groups, as well as other religious groups, reside throughout the country.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Leaders of a Christian denomination reported an instance in May in which denomination members were prevented from building a church on land they owned in a majority-Muslim community in the south-central part of the country.  Local Muslims, mainly youths, opposed the project.  According to the Christian leaders, Muslim community members had asked Christian landowners earlier to let them use the land for prayer; in order to maintain good relations with the town’s Muslim community, the landowners agreed to allow this temporarily until they were ready to build their church.  The Christian landowners said they understood that Muslims would pray on the land without constructing a mosque, as Muslims often prayed in locations other than mosques.  The Christian leaders said that after they allowed the Muslims to use the land, the latter began building a mosque on the site and refused to leave when asked to do so.  The landowners contacted the community imam, who said he had not instructed his congregants to build the mosque, but he took no action to remove them from the land.  The landowners then petitioned the mayor (locally elected), the prefect and subprefect (regional representatives of the central government), and the DGC for assistance.  All initially said they could not help.  The mayor ultimately convened the landowners and local Muslim leaders and offered to give the landowners a different parcel of land in a more remote section of the community to build a church.  The Christian leaders said the landowners accepted this offer and ceded their original parcel of land to the Muslim community to maintain positive relations with the community.  The mosque remained on the land.  The Christian leaders said they did not report the issue to the press because they did not want to harm the group’s generally good relations with the Muslim community.

The leaders of the same Christian denomination reported a second incident in the central part of the country with the same basic circumstances – Muslims occupied a parcel of land owned by Christians and constructed a mosque, thus preventing Christians from building a planned church.  The landowners petitioned local government officials for assistance to mediate the dispute; the prefect offered the Christians another parcel of land, but, as of December, the dispute was unresolved.

Religious leaders and civil society representatives again stated that leaders across the religious spectrum were broadly united in their desire to work toward peace and reconciliation following the 2010-2011 post-electoral crisis and the upheaval surrounding the 2020 presidential election.

Imam Djiguiba Cisse, a member of COSIM’s leadership, the chief imam at a major Abidjan mosque, and the director of the nationwide Islamic radio network and television station Al-Bayane, stated that he continued to have strong relationships with Christian leaders.  He noted that COSIM met with Catholic leaders during the year to build support for officially forming and registering a multifaith platform called the Alliance of Religions for Peace, which previously operated informally.  Two weeks prior to the 2020 presidential election, the alliance held a national interfaith prayer for peace and social cohesion in Abidjan.  The country continued to host several other multifaith organizations dedicated to peace and social cohesion, including the National Forum of Religious Denominations.  Between January and November, forum delegations visited several locations across the country to encourage social cohesion, peace, and reconciliation, invoking both Biblical and Quranic verses in support of peaceful coexistence when addressing audiences.

Leaders of the country’s interdenominational evangelical association, the Federation of Evangelical Churches of Côte d’Ivoire, said they had good relations with leaders of the country’s major religions.  A Catholic priest serving as spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Abidjan expressed similar sentiments and noted a July conference organized by Muslim and Catholic journalists’ associations in which leaders of both faiths stressed the importance of communication among different religious groups.  Minister of National Reconciliation Kouadio Konan Bertin attended the conference and, in his remarks, said the journalists should assist the government in its mission to reconcile the country.  Bertin thanked the associations for working together to promote friendship and cooperation among religions.  He also noted the power of language and suggested the journalists, through their reporting, could help maintain peace.  A Methodist leader said the Abidjan Methodist community held an annual prayer session with the Catholic community and noted that Methodist leaders regularly met with other faith leaders, including Muslims and Baptists.  A leader of the country’s small Jewish community said the community had warm relations with other religious groups, including Muslims.  Christian and Muslim leaders in the northern part of the country reported generally good relations.  Some community radio stations reported reserving airtime for different religious groups to conduct prayers on Fridays and Sundays.

According to religious leaders and civil society organizations, numerous individuals regularly celebrated each other’s religious holidays by attending household or neighborhood gatherings and religious ceremonies, regardless of their own faith.  Muslim and Christian leaders in Korhogo, for example, noted that adherents of the two religions sang, danced, and prayed together on certain occasions and invited each other to religious events.

Some Muslim leaders continued to state that their community took steps to prevent the influence of what they called intolerant forms of Islam in the country.  Specifically, they referred to adherents who disparaged any who did not follow their specific interpretation of Islam.  These steps included providing imams with suggested themes for sermons and advising imams to closely vet guest preachers before allowing them to give sermons in their mosques.  Community leaders in the north of the country reported that some communities required traveling Muslim preachers to have their proposed sermons approved by village authorities before giving them in village mosques.  Muslim leaders in the north reported that, in a break from tradition, some imams no longer offered temporary shelter in mosques to male travelers not known to their communities out of fear these travelers might have ties to terrorist or criminal groups.

Government sources and civil society leaders said that religiously based hate speech sometimes was used on social media, but they stated that influential political and religious leaders did not use such language.  A nongovernmental organization that tracks online hate speech in the country said cases of religiously based hate speech were rare.

Crimea

Section I. Religious Demography

The Crimean Peninsula consists of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (ARC) and the city of Sevastopol.  According to State Statistics Service of Ukraine 2014 estimates (the most recent), the total population of the peninsula is 2,353,000.  There are no recent independent surveys with data on the religious affiliation of the population, but media outlets estimate the number of Crimean Tatars, who are overwhelmingly Muslim, is 300,000, or 13 percent of the population.

According to information provided by the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture in 2014 (the most recent year available), the UOC-MP remains the largest Christian denomination.  Smaller Christian denominations include the OCU, RCC, UGCC, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, along with Protestant groups, including Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, and Lutherans.  Adherents of the UOC-MP, Protestants, and Muslims are the largest religious groups in Sevastopol.

There are several Jewish congregations, mostly in Sevastopol and Simferopol.  Jewish groups estimate between 10,000 and 15,000 Jewish residents lived in Crimea before the 2014 Russian occupation.  No updates have been available since the occupation began.  The 2001 census, the most recent, records 671 Karaites.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, a radio survey in Crimea found 67 percent of those surveyed did not approve of Russia’s ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses reported that respondents, seeing “ordinary citizens” treated like criminals and accused of terrorism for their faith, had increased sympathy for the organization.

On November 2, the Unian.net news website reported “authorities” in Crimea placed under house arrest a suspect who had allegedly painted offensive graffiti on a wall of a Christian church in Leninsky District.

Croatia

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 4.2 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2011 census (the most recent available), 86.3 percent of the population is Catholic, 4.4 percent Serbian Orthodox, and 1.5 percent Muslim.  Nearly 4 percent identify as nonreligious or atheist.  Other religious groups include Jews, Protestants, and other Christians.  According to the World Jewish Congress, there are approximately 1,700 Jews.

Religious affiliation correlates closely with ethnicity.  Ethnic Serbs are predominantly members of the SOC and live primarily in cities and areas bordering Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Most members of other minority religious groups reside in urban areas.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Because religion and ethnicity are often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.

SOC representatives reported that following the inauguration of Metropolitan Joanikije II on September 5 in a historic monastery in Cetinje, Montenegro, several negative media articles about the Church appeared.  One article appeared under the headline, “Zagreb Likes Patriarch Porfirije; however, this does not mean that the SOC is not evil.”  Commenting on the situation on September 13, Porfirije said, “The Church is not a political organization and has no political goals.”  He added that he had always spoken “affirmative[ly] of Croatia, even though sometimes there were reasons not to do so.”  He expressed regret for the negative messaging but said he was not surprised by the “fallacy of arguments” coming from Montenegro to Croatia.  He stated, “Croatia, together with its leadership and majority of its citizens, has a democratic capacity that leaves everyone a space to live in individual ethnic freedom and to freely declare feelings, regardless to which God he or she is praying.”

In April, the association In the Name of the Family published a “Report on Intolerance and Attacks on the Catholic Church and Catholic Believers in Croatia” that detailed incidents occurring during 2020.  The report stated there was an increasing number of incidents against the Catholic Church and Church members.  They included expression of hatred and intolerance, false accusations by the media, and dissemination of fake news and claims based on prejudice about priests, religious brothers and sisters, bishops, and the faithful.  The report also noted that individuals disputed the obligation and the right of bishops, priests, and monks to publicly express the views of the Catholic Church on social issues, and they also criticized Catholic teaching.  The report described burglaries of churches and desecration of church buildings and property.  The organization said the aim of the report was to shed light on the difference between constructive criticism and the spread of intolerance and discrimination.

The report of the ombudsperson described generally positive relations with the Muslim community in 2020; there was, however, an incident in which insulting messages appeared at the Zagreb Mosque and the perpetrator(s) was/were not identified.  The Office of the Ombudsperson also investigated an incident related to the alleged dissatisfaction of local citizens with the planned construction of an Islamic Center in the city of Pula but found nothing significant and closed the case.

Following complaints by a minority Christian religious group, the Office of the Ombudsperson issued a recommendation to the HRT to include more content intended for minority religious communities when designing and planning media programs.

As in recent years, some members of Jewish groups expressed concern over the public use of the Ustasha salute, Za Dom Spremni, associated with the World War II-era Independent State of Croatia.

Cuba

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 11 million (midyear 2021).  There is no independent, authoritative source on the overall size or composition of religious groups.  The Catholic Church estimates 60 percent of the population identifies as Catholic.  Membership in Protestant churches is estimated at 5 percent.  According to some observers, Pentecostals and Baptists are likely the largest Protestant denominations.  The Assemblies of God reports approximately 150,000 members; the four Baptist conventions estimate their combined membership at more than 100,000.

Jehovah’s Witnesses estimate their members at 95,000; Methodists 50,000; Seventh-day Adventists 36,000; Presbyterians 25,000; Anglicans 22,500; Episcopalians 10,000; Anabaptists 4,387 (mostly Iglesia de Los Hermanos en Cristo, the Brethren of Christ); Quakers 1,000; Moravians 750; and the Church of Jesus Christ 357 members.  There are approximately 4,000 followers of 50 Apostolic churches (an unregistered, loosely affiliated network of Protestant churches, also known as the Apostolic Movement) and a separate New Apostolic Church associated with the New Apostolic Church International.  According to some Christian leaders, evangelical Protestant groups continue to grow in the country.  The Jewish community estimates it has 1,200 members, of whom 1,000 reside in Havana.  According to a representative of the Islamic League, there are approximately 4,000 Muslims in the country, of whom fewer than half are native-born.  The representative also said that the majority of the Muslim population is Sunni.  Immigrants and native-born citizens practice several different Buddhist traditions, with estimates of 6,200 followers.  The largest group of Buddhists is the Japanese Soka Gakkai; its estimated membership is 1,000.  Other religious groups with small numbers of adherents include Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and Baha’is.

Many individuals, particularly Afro-Cubans, practice religions with roots across Africa, including Yoruba groups often referred to by outsiders as Santeria, but by adherents as the order of Lucumi or Orisha worship.  Bantu-influenced groups refer to themselves as Palo Monte.  These religious practices are commonly intermingled with Catholicism and other forms of Christianity, and some require Catholic baptism for full initiation, making it difficult to estimate accurately their total membership.  Rastafarian adherents also have a presence on the island, although the size of the community is unknown.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to media, the Community of Sant’Egidio intensified its activities, despite COVID-19 restrictions.  It continued to hold prayer and meetings in small groups.  “The community has flourished in the pandemic,” said an 80-year-old woman and member of the “Long Live the Elderly” program in Santiago de Cuba.  Sant’Egidio established the program to encourage youth to assist elderly individuals in various neighborhoods of Santiago, including Maceo, Cicharrones, Flores, and Marti.

According to a May National Public Radio article entitled, The Youth of Cuba’s Tiny Jewish Minority, a lack of tourists during the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country’s small Jewish community hard because the community relied on tourism for attendance at religious services, for donations, and for solidarity.

International faith-based charitable operations such as Caritas and Sant’Egidio, both Catholic, and the Salvation Army maintained local offices in Havana.  Caritas continued to gather and distribute relief items, providing humanitarian assistance to all individuals regardless of religious belief.

Cyprus

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population of the island at 1.3 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2011 census, the most recent, the population of the government-controlled area is 840,000.  Of that total, 89.1 percent is Orthodox Christian and 2.9 percent is Roman Catholic, known locally as Latin.  Other religious groups include Protestants (2 percent), Muslims (1.8 percent), Buddhists (1 percent), Maronite Catholics (0.5 percent), and Armenian Orthodox (0.3 percent), with small populations of Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Baha’is.  The country’s chief rabbi estimates the number of Jews at 4,500, most of whom are foreign-born residents.  A Jehovah’s Witnesses representative estimates the group has 2,600 members.  Recent immigrants and migrant workers are predominantly Roman Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Because religion and ethnicity often overlap, it was difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.

Media reported a group of Greek Orthodox people staged a protest outside the stadium holding Greek flags and banners saying, “The Pope is persona non grata,” “Pope out of Cyprus,” and “Cyprus is Orthodox.”  At a separate event, Pope Francis led a prayer at the Catholic Church of Holy Cross in Nicosia with dozens of migrants and asylum seekers in attendance.  The entire visit appeared live on national television.  Press coverage was widespread and predominantly positive.

Vandals spray painted Greek nationalist graffiti consisting of Greek flags, crosses, nationalist slogans, and threats on the Episkopi Mosque in Limassol on March 25, the 200th anniversary of the Greek uprising against the Ottoman Empire.  The building, originally a Byzantine church dating to the sixteenth century, later became a mosque during the Ottoman period.  The graffiti included letters and symbols meaning “Jesus Christ Conquers.”  On the same day, government spokesperson Kyriakos Koushos issued a written statement saying the Republic of Cyprus “strongly and unreservedly condemns the actions of some brainless people who under the pretext of so-called patriotism, insult religious sites and the meaning and ideals of patriotism.”  The Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus did not issue a public condemnation or comment.  “TRNC President” Ersin Tatar, the “MFA,” and the “Prime Minister’s” office separately released statements condemning the attack.  Tatar stated, “With only days to go prior to the 5+1 UN informal meeting to be held in Geneva, Switzerland, Greek Cypriot provocations have once again intensified.”  Chairman of the Turkish Cypriot People’s Party (HP) Kudret Ozersay also called the incident a provocation, adding, “If the same place is attacked twice, sometimes three times in a row, it is because the Greek Cypriot political leadership does not identify and punish those responsible.”

The Episkopi community council immediately cleaned the wall and the community chairman publicly condemned the incident.  The police said they examined footage from closed-circuit television and searched the residence and the car of a suspect looking for evidence linking him to attack.  The Supreme Court denied a request by the suspect to invalidate a search warrant.  However, the police investigation did not identify the individuals responsible.  Human rights defenders and representatives of the Muslim community stated on social media they did not believe there would be a serious investigation and named the lack of law enforcement action for previous incidents as the primary reason for repeated acts of mosque vandalization in the country.  Episkopi mayor Lefkios Prodromou told Politis Radio this was the third time that such a “reprehensible” incident had occurred at the mosque.  Speaking to the newspaper Phileleftheros on March 26, Prodromou said he asked the local police chief to provide a visible police presence at the mosque on April 1 to prevent a repeat attack on Greek Cypriot National Day.  Imam Alemdar said the incident marked a “worrying and growing trend” of hate speech in the country.  He added that authorities never fully investigated or prosecuted previous culprits and that security concerns would persist for mosques throughout the country until those responsible for such acts were held accountable.

The Orthodox Church of Cyprus called for the withdrawal of the country’s entry into the annual Eurovision contest, a song entitled “El Diablo,” charging the song made an international mockery of the country’s moral foundations by advocating “our surrender to the devil and promoting his worship.”  The Holy Synod, the Church’s highest decision-making body, said in a statement the song “essentially praises the fatalistic submission of humans to the devil’s authority” and urged the state broadcaster to replace it with one that expressed the country’s history, culture, and traditions.  The Church’s statement came a few days after authorities charged a man with uttering threats and causing a disturbance when he entered the grounds of the public broadcaster and condemned the song as blasphemous and an affront to Christianity.

Representatives of the Jewish community reported an increase in instances of antisemitic verbal harassment in public places, threats on social media and against Jewish students at schools, vandalism of menorahs and Israeli flags, and antisemitic and pro-Nazi graffiti outside schools attended by Jewish students.  They reported a physical attack against a 15-year-old Jewish student in Limassol by a group of Palestinian students.  Individuals who were attacked in public places wore kippahs or tzitzit.  Some of the incidents were reported to the police.  Authorities reported no arrests, according to Jewish community representatives.

The Catholic NGO Caritas reported that discrimination against Muslim children in schools declined compared with previous years and stated increased diversity awareness and language training during the year contributed.

The NGOs Caritas and Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism (KISA) said women wearing the hijab often faced difficulties finding employment.  According to Caritas, in October 2019, a Somali woman filed a complaint with the ombudsman based on a hotel’s refusal to employ her because she was wearing a hijab.  Her case remained under review at year’s end.

Members of minority religious groups continued to report societal pressures to participate in the public religious ceremonies of majority groups.  For example, children of various religious minorities said they faced social pressure to attend Greek Orthodox religious ceremonies at school.  Armenian Orthodox representatives continued to say community members who married Greek Orthodox individuals received pressure from their spouse’s family members to have a Greek Orthodox wedding and follow Greek Orthodox rituals.  Similarly, Armenian Orthodox army recruits reportedly continued to feel peer pressure to take the oath administered by a Greek Orthodox priest.

Some Greek Orthodox adherents who converted to other faiths reportedly continued to hide their conversion from family and friends due to fear of social ostracism.

In June, the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage (TCCH), one of the bicommunal (Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot) technical committees established as part of the UN-facilitated settlement negotiations process, finished the conservation of two Muslim cemeteries in Mandria/Yeşilova and in Kalo Khorio/Vuda.  In March, the TCCH launched tender processes for the restoration of mosques in the villages of Orounda, Maroni, Kalo Khorio/Vuda, Lefkara, Alektora, Avdimou/Evdim, and Tera.  In February, the TCCH launched conservation works at Zouhouri Mosque in Larnaca.

The leaders of the main religious groups on the island continued to meet regularly, in-person and online, within the framework of the RTCYPP.  On June 7, Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Armenian, Maronite, and Roman Catholic leaders met in person for the first time since June 2020 to demonstrate what they said was their commitment to standing together for religious freedom and to advocating for others’ religious rights.

On May 2, the Mufti of Cyprus, on the RTCYPP website and on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, extended Easter greetings to the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus and all Christians celebrating Easter.  On May 12, Christian religious leaders similarly issued a joint greeting to the Mufti of Cyprus and all Muslim faithful, wishing them a blessed Eid al-Fitr on the RTCYPP website and social media accounts.  The RTCYPP organizes regular meetings of religious leaders and facilitates interreligious communication and cooperation, and maintains an office in the buffer zone in Nicosia.

The RTCYPP continued its joint project of offering religious leaders Greek and Turkish language classes for priests, imams, nuns, and laypersons in the Greek Orthodox, Muslim, Armenian Orthodox, Maronite, and Roman Catholic communities who worked for faith-based organizations.  Classes continued online when in-person gatherings were not possible due to COVID-19-related restrictions.  In June, the RTCYPP expanded its Greek language classes to include 20 new students from the Muftiate of Cyprus, 10 women and 10 men, including imams and teachers of religious education.

Czech Republic

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 10.7 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2021 census, of the 70 percent of citizens who responded to the question about their religious beliefs, approximately 48 percent held none, 10 percent were Roman Catholic, 13 percent listed no specific religion, and 9 percent identified with a variety of religious faiths, including the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, the Czechoslovak Hussite Church, other Christian churches, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism.  Academics estimate there are 10,000 Jews, while the FJC estimates there are 15,000 to 20,000.  Leaders of the Muslim community estimate there are 10,000 Muslims, most of whom are immigrants.  According to a 2018 report by the Pew Research Center based on a 2015 survey of 1,490 adults, 72 percent of persons do not identify with a religious group, 21 percent identify as Catholic, 3 percent as Protestant, 1 percent as Orthodox Christian, and 3 percent as other or did not know or refused to answer.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The NGO In IUSTITIA stated it received reports of one religiously motivated hate crime during the first half of the year – an incident against Jews – compared with seven such cases – four against Muslims, two against Jews, and one against Christians – in the same period in 2020.  The incident concerned an employee of the Jewish community’s school, who was part of a government on-line hate free campaign.  Someone posted “Juden raus” (“Jews out”, a common antisemitic slur) under his profile in the campaign.

In 2020, the most recent year data were available, the MOI reported 27 criminal offenses with antisemitic motives and nine with anti-Muslim motives, compared with 23 and 11 offenses respectively, in 2019.  The MOI reported only incidents that it investigated.

The FJC, which monitored the internet for instances of antisemitism, reported 874 antisemitic incidents in 2020, an increase of 26 percent over the 694 incidents in 2019 and 252 percent over the 347 incidents in 2018.  The FJC attributed this increase to improved digital monitoring tools, rising political polarization, and a move from the real to the virtual world because of COVID-19-related restrictions.  The 2020 incidents included one of physical assault, one of property damage, and six of harassment.

In one incident, an unidentified person assaulted an Israeli student in a bar in Brno during the Purim holiday in March 2020 after he requested the disk jockey play an Israeli song.  The victim, who received medical treatment, did not report the incident to police.  In May 2020, the front gate of the synagogue in Krnov was doused with a sticky liquid.  The other 866 incidents included graffiti, videos, articles, and online comments.  According to the FJC, the largest increase was in antisemitic hate speech on the internet, which accounted for 98 percent of the incidents.  It stated 84 percent of incidents involved stereotypical statements and conspiracy theories about Jews, such as allegations Jews controlled the economy and government.  In 9 percent of the cases, the writers criticized Israel (the FJC did not classify all criticism of Israel as antisemitic) and wrote in support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, while 4 percent denied the Holocaust.  The FJC stated that although the country remained safe for the Jewish community, online antisemitism should not be underestimated, as an analysis of attacks in other countries showed that violent acts were preceded by online radicalization.

In June, police charged four individuals and two companies associated with the publishing firm Guidemedia with Holocaust denial for producing a Czech translation of Germar Rudolf’s book Dissecting the Holocaust, which denies gas chambers were used in Nazi camps.  At year’s end, their trial had not begun.  Police continued to investigate Guidemedia for publishing an antisemitic children’s book, Poisonous Mushroom, first published in Germany in 1938 as part of antisemitic Nazi propaganda.  In January, police charged Emerich Drtina and the Nase Vojsko company with promoting a movement suppressing human rights and freedoms for publishing a 2021 calendar featuring Nazi figures.  As of October, the case was pending review by the District Court in Prague.  In September, police charged the Bodyart Press publisher and another person for publishing and distributing The Myth of the Six Million, a Holocaust denying book authored by a deceased U.S. historian.  In November, the state prosecutor indicted the publisher.  The case was pending at year’s end.

The MOI reported two private “white power” concerts were held during the first half of the year in which participants expressed antisemitic and neo-Nazi views, compared with nine such concerts in 2020.  The ministry estimated approximately 50 to 100 persons attended each concert.

A report published during the year on 2020 hate crimes in the country from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) cited five antisemitic incidents, one of physical violence, two of threats, and two of vandalism.  In one case that ODIHR sourced to the FJC, a television presenter received an anonymous letter containing antisemitic and xenophobic insults and threats of physical violence.  ODIHR also cited the FJC as the source of one report of vandalism against a Jewish synagogue in 2020 and In IUSTITIA as reporting vandalism against a street sign pointing to a Jewish cemetery damaged by gunshots.

The ODIHR report, citing In IUSTITIA, included five incidents against Muslims – one of physical violence, one of a threat, and three of vandalism.  In one incident, five persons subjected a woman wearing a headscarf to anti-Muslim and misogynist insults and death threats on the street.  In another incident, a woman wearing a headscarf was repeatedly subjected to anti-Muslim insults.  The perpetrators ripped the hijab from her head.

In September, the Brussels-based NGO Action and Protection League issued the results of its European antisemitism survey based on data from December 2019-January 2020.  According to the survey, 21 percent of 1,000 respondents ages 18-75 in the Czech Republic said they had negative feelings towards Jews.  Twenty-seven percent said they would be “totally uncomfortable” or “uncomfortable” with having Jewish neighbors.  The survey cited stereotypical statements about Jews and asked respondents the degree to which they agreed or disagreed.  The proportion who responded “strongly agree” or “tend to agree” with the following statements were – “the interests of Jews in this country are very different from the interests of the rest of the population” (24 percent); “there is a secret Jewish network that influences political and economic affairs in the world” (23 percent); “Jews have too much influence in this country” (14 percent); “Jews will never be able to fully integrate into this society” (20 percent); “Jews are more inclined than most to use shady practices to achieve their goals” (22 percent); “many of the atrocities of the Holocaust were often exaggerated by the Jews later” (14 percent); “Jews are also to blame for the persecutions against them” (15 percent); “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes” (20 percent).

In July, the Olomouc Appellate Court issued a two-year suspended sentence to Benedikt Cermak for online comments expressing approval of the deadly attacks on two mosques in New Zealand in 2019.  The court reversed a verdict of the Regional Court in Brno that had sentenced Cermak to six years in prison in May.

The Jewish community said it hoped to complete by 2022 a memorial that would include Jewish gravestone fragments.  The communist government took the fragments from a 19th century Jewish cemetery in the 1980s and cut them into cobblestones to be placed across the capital.  The Prague mayor’s office returned the fragments to the Jewish community in 2020.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 105 million (midyear 2021).  In 2010, the Pew Research Center estimated 95.8 percent of the population is Christian, 1.5 percent Muslim, and 1.8 percent report no religious affiliation.  Of Christians, an estimated 48.1 percent are Protestant, including evangelical Christians and the Church of Jesus Christ on Earth through the Prophet Simon Kimbangu (Kimbanguist), and 47.3 percent Roman Catholic.  There are approximately 60 Protestant denominations.  Other Christian groups include Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Greek Orthodox Church.  There are small communities of Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Baha’is, and followers of indigenous religions.  Muslim leaders estimate their community makes up approximately 5 percent of the population.

A significant portion of the population combines traditional beliefs and practices with Christianity or other religious beliefs.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Local media outlet Actualite.cd on September 21 reported that armed men wearing police uniforms robbed a parish church in Bukavu, South Kivu Province, despite its proximity to a police sub-station, and assaulted the priests, tying them up, and stuffing a shirt into one priest’s mouth to prevent him from calling for help.

In August, RFI reported multiple instances of vandalism targeting Catholic churches in southwestern Kasai Province and southeastern Haut-Katanga Province.  The Archbishop of Lubumbashi denounced the theft of a statue of the Virgin Mary and other items from Catholic places of worship within his jurisdiction.  RFI reported further vandalism in October in western Kongo Central Province, where gunmen in a Protestant parish destroyed graves of Swedish missionaries.  According to RFI, local civil society members condemned these acts, and some politicians described them as a reaction to these religious institutions’ frequent criticism of those in power.  Some observers on social media explained the vandalism as merely the theft of valuable objects, and others suggested some perpetrators had hoped to gain spiritual power from stolen religious relics.

A representative of the Jehovah’s Witnesses said there have been several attacks on members in the interior provinces, which he described as less tolerant of Jehovah’s Witnesses than Kinshasa.  The representative said the attacks included threats, beatings, and kidnappings, and took place in Kwilu Province in the west and Maniema Province in the east.

Denmark

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 5.9 million (midyear 2021).  As of the end of 2021, 73.2 percent of the Danish population were ELC members according to Statistics Denmark.  In 2021, 8,961 members left the ELC, representing the lowest yearly number who departed that church since 2007.  A church historian at the University of Copenhagen attributed this development to the pandemic, which highlighted the importance of religious communities.  The Danish government does not collect data on religious affiliation outside of the ELC.  A professor estimated in April 2020 that there are approximately 250,000 Muslims, accounting for 4.4 percent of the population.  Muslims are concentrated in the largest cities, particularly Copenhagen, Odense, and Aarhus.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates other religious groups, each constituting less than 1 percent of the population, to include, in descending order of size, Roman Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Serbian Orthodox Christians, Jews, Baptists, Buddhists, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Pentecostals, members of the Baha’i Faith, and nondenominational Christians.  According to a 2020 survey released by the Ministry of Immigration and Integration, approximately 11 percent of the population does not identify as belonging to a religious group or identifies as atheist.  The organization Jewish Community in Denmark estimates between 6,000 and 8,000 Jews live in the country, mostly in the Copenhagen area.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Police reported 194 religiously motivated crimes in 2020, the most recent year for which statistics were available, 8 percent more than in 2019, in which 180 such crimes were reported.  There were 87 crimes reported against Muslims, compared with 109 in 2019; 79 against Jews, compared with 51 in 2019; 25 against Christians, compared with eight cases in 2019; and three against members of other religions or belief groups, compared with 12 in 2019.  Most incidents involved harassment, hate speech, and vandalism, including desecration of cemeteries, and mainly affected the Muslim and Jewish communities.  The report cited hate speech as the most common type of religiously motivated hate crime.  In 2020, 45 percent of religiously motivated hate crime cases reported were directed at Muslims.  The number of hate crime cases committed against Jews increased significantly since 2018, when there were 26 cases reported.  The police report attributed the 2020 increase in hate crimes against Christians to the 12 cases of parish priests who received threatening text messages in April and May that year.

Police Inspector Claus Birkelyng said it was unclear whether the increase in reports in 2020 reflected an increase in actual crimes or a higher number of reported crimes than in previous years.  He also said there had been an increase in hate crimes committed online compared with previous years, from 128 in 2019 to 164 in 2020.  Of the 164 reported online hate crimes, 99 were identified as religiously motivated, of which 32 were directed at Muslims and 51 at Jews.

In January, witnesses discovered the words “[expletive] the Quran,” accompanied by a drawing of a hand with the middle finger up, painted on the side of the mosque belonging to the Danish-Turkish Islamic Foundation in Aabenraa, in the southern part of the country.  This was the third time vandals damaged the mosque since 2019.  By year’s end, officials had not arrested anyone for the incident.

In April, vandals placed two dolls in nooses near a grave in the Jewish cemetery in Aalborg and poured red paint over the dolls and the wall surrounding the cemetery. The vandals also left antisemitic flyers referring to a website for the right-wing radical organization Nordic Resistance Movement near the dolls.  Police charged a man with vandalism and racism for the crime and in June, and a court sentenced him to one year in prison.  He appealed the verdict and officials released him in November, with the court expected to rule on his appeal in January 2022.

On April 6, a court sentenced a man to nine months in prison for racism, violation of the peace of a graveyard, and gross vandalism against a grave in a Jewish cemetery in Randers in 2019.

In May, a video of a Danish man verbally abusing a Muslim couple and their two small children went viral, prompting several politicians, including Prime Minister Frederiksen, to condemn the act.  Frederiksen said, “We all have a responsibility to speak out – against racism, hate, and discrimination.  It doesn’t belong in Denmark.”

In July, the newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad released the findings of a survey the paper had conducted among 81 Muslim associations in the country.  The survey found that 30 percent of the associations contacted had been vandalized since January 2017.  The incidents ranged from graffiti and stickers promoting hatred on walls to door handles wrapped in bacon.  The survey reported that in two-thirds of the cases, the mosque or organization involved did not report the incident to the police.  In a media report about the survey, Ismail Celik, chairman of the mosque in Odense and spokesman for the Danish-Turkish Islamic Foundation said, “People are worried about the hatred of Muslims.  We want to be part of society and we want to be respected in the community.”  Similarly, a study released by the Ministry for Ecclesiastical Affairs in February showed that 19 percent of all churches had experienced vandalism since 2017.

In its report released in September, the Pew Research Center categorized the country as having “moderate societal hostility to religion.”

In September, a Danish-Somalian family appeared on television after being harassed by their downstairs neighbor in Copenhagen.  The family showed videos, including a clip in which the neighbor yelled “You know what you are? You are dirty Muslim animals.”  Authorities did not file charges in this case.

Also in September, unknown persons physically and verbally assaulted a Muslim woman at a public library in Copenhagen, where an individual called her a “Muslim [expletive]” and told her to “take that [expletive] off,” referring to her hijab.  Authorities charged the perpetrator with assault.  No further information emerged on the case.

Djibouti

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 938,000 (midyear 2021), of which 94 percent is Sunni Muslim.  According to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Shia Muslims, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Ethiopian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindus, Jews, Baha’is, and atheists constitute the remaining 6 percent.  Non-Muslim populations are generally concentrated in Djibouti City and include foreign-born citizens and expatriates.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates the registered refugee population at 34,000, of whom 42 percent are from Somalia, 37 percent from Ethiopia, 18 percent from Yemen, and 3 percent from Eritrea.  Refugees are both Muslim and non-Muslim, but no data exists on their religious breakdown.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Societal norms and customs discouraged conversion from Islam, but conversions reportedly occurred, particularly for marriages with non-Muslim partners.  An Islamic leader stated that Muslim women were less likely to marry outside the Islamic faith due to societal pressures.  Both Muslim and Christian leaders stated conversion from Islam was detrimental to a person’s social status; Muslim religious leaders said traditional social networks often ostracized converts from Islam.

One imam noted the possibility that unregistered religious groups could spread a message of extremism or religious intolerance as had happened in the mid-2000s, although he said the Muslim community had actively worked since then to ensure such messages did not become widespread.

A Christian leader noted that although societal religious tolerance is high in the country, with members of different religious groups living side by side without friction, religious leaders rarely came together to discuss issues and potential common responses to social concerns, such as poverty or food insecurity.

Dominica

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 74,600 (midyear 2021).  According to the U.S. government, Catholics represent 61.4 percent of the population, Protestants 28.6 percent, Rastafarians 1.3 percent, Jehovah’s Witnesses 1.2 percent, and those listing “other” 0.3 percent; 6.1 percent report no religious affiliation, and 1.1 percent are unspecified.  According to the most recent census in 2011, approximately 53 percent of the population is Catholic.  Evangelical Protestants constitute approximately 20 percent of the population.  The largest evangelical Protestant groups are Pentecostals with 6 percent, Baptists with 5 percent, and the Christian Union Mission, with 4 percent.  Seventh-day Adventists constitute 7 percent of the population.  Other smaller religious groups include Anglicans, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Rastafarians, and Baha’is.  According to the census, 9 percent of the population professes no religious affiliation.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Religious groups produced live and recorded televised religious services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, broadcasting on radio, television, and social media.  Places of worship also provided drive-in services throughout the year.  The DAEC and other religious groups continued to operate counseling hotlines for persons experiencing fear, worry, or emotional stress because of COVID-19.

During the year, the Catholic church-associated Caritas Dominica Youth Emergency Action Committee’s (YEAC) trained individuals regardless of their religious background as first responders in cases of natural or manmade disasters.  YEAC used the opportunity to demonstrate and promote religious tolerance.  Interdenominational organizations continued their efforts to advance respect for religious freedom and diversity.  Interdenominational dialogue between the DAEC and the Christian Council occurred on a regular basis throughout the year.

Dominican Republic

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 10.6 million (midyear 2021).  According to a 2019 Latinobarometer survey, the population is 49 percent Catholic, compared with 55 percent in a 2016 Latinobarometer survey and 68 percent in 2008.  The 2019 survey indicates 26 percent of the population is evangelical Protestant, compared with 12 percent in 2008.  The 2018 Latinobarometer survey found 29.4 percent of the population has no declared religion or identify as atheist or agnostic, compared with 29.1 percent in 2017 and 13 percent in 2015.  Other faiths include Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), and nonevangelical Protestants.  According to a November 2020 estimate by the Dominican Council of Evangelical Unity, evangelical Protestants make up approximately 30 percent of the population, with the number of Pentecostals growing the fastest.

According to representatives of the Muslim community, there are approximately 3,000-4,000 Muslims throughout the country, a number that is increasing annually, according to news reports.  Jewish leaders state that most of the approximately 350 members of the Jewish community live in Santo Domingo, with a small community in Sosua.  There are also small numbers of Buddhists, Hindus, and Baha’is.

Most Haitian immigrants are Christians, including evangelical Protestants, Catholics, and Seventh-day Adventists.  According to the Dominican National Statistics Office, in 2017, the most recent survey year, there were 498,000 Haitian immigrants in the country.  An unknown number practice Voodou or other Afro-Caribbean beliefs such as Santeria.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to evangelical Protestant leaders, Catholicism, Catholic practices, and Catholic holidays formed a big part of the country’s culture, and Catholic traditions were deeply intertwined with many aspects of life, including government and politics, marriage, family gatherings, and education, among others.

Some non-Catholic religious leaders said non-Catholic religious groups should focus more on the value of cultural change to help the population understand and value religious freedom and the right to freely practice one’s religious beliefs.  Representatives of some non-Catholic religious groups also said they were concerned that both governmental and societal discrimination against non-Catholic groups would continue even if the law that would allow non-Catholic religious groups to receive the same benefits as the Catholic Church were passed, because of the entrenched position of Catholicism in the country.

The Interfaith Dialogue Table, comprising members of all major Protestant church councils, continued to work together and with other religious groups, including the Jewish community, to provide assistance to poor communities, regardless of the religious affiliations of members of those communities.

Ecuador

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 17.1 million (midyear 2021).  According to a Latinobarometro 2018 public opinion survey, approximately 92 percent of respondents have a specific religious affiliation or belief:  74.8 percent identify as Catholic; 15.2 percent as evangelical Christian; and 1.2 percent as Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Approximately 1.4 percent identify as members of other religious groups, including Seventh-day Adventists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), Jews, and other evangelical and nonevangelical Protestants.  Other religious groups include Anglicans, Baha’is, Episcopalians, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (Unification Church), Greek Orthodox-affiliated Orthodox Church of Ecuador and Latin America, Hindus, followers of Inti (the traditional Inca sun god), and practitioners of Santeria (primarily resident Cubans).  Estimates of the number of followers of these groups are not available.  Of the remaining respondents, 0.8 percent identify as atheists, while 6.1 percent have no religion.

Some groups, particularly those in the Amazon region, combine indigenous beliefs with Catholicism or evangelical Protestantism.  Pentecostals draw much of their membership from indigenous persons in the highland provinces.  There are Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the country, with the highest concentrations in coastal areas.  Buddhist, Church of Jesus Christ, Jewish, and Muslim populations are primarily concentrated in large urban areas, particularly Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Several religious leaders continued to express concern regarding what they considered a rise in secularism and societal discouragement of their participation in important legal and cultural discussions.  According to a Jewish leader, moral and ethical education tended to be relegated to religious leaders, whereas, he said, moral and ethical education should be the responsibility of all members of society.

In May, Jewish leaders said that during the military escalation between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza, two local newspapers ran opinion articles that included comments they considered antisemitic.  A May 29 opinion piece in El Universo newspaper by Julio Cesar Roca De Castro compared contemporary Israeli policies to the Nazis, stating, “The wall is reminiscent of the ghettos where Jews were confined and crowded, subjecting them to hunger and disease, as the Nazis did in Warsaw, whose inhabitants they exterminated when they rebelled.”  Jewish leaders publicly condemned the statements but reported no acts of aggression on their community, unlike in previous years.

Religious leaders said although the COVID-19 pandemic continued to challenge their communities, their congregations were meeting in person for religious services.  Participation, however, remained lower than before the pandemic, mainly due to continued caution about attending large in-person gatherings.

Egypt

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the population at 106.4 million (midyear 2021).  Most experts and media sources estimate that approximately 90 percent of the population is Sunni Muslim and 10 percent is Christian.  Approximately 90 percent of Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church, according to Christian leaders.

Other Christian communities together constitute less than 2 percent of the population.  These include Anglican/Episcopalian, Armenian Apostolic, Catholic (Armenian, Chaldean, Melkite, Maronite, Latin, and Syrian), and Orthodox (Greek and Syrian) Churches.  Most Protestant denominations are members of the umbrella group known as the Protestant Churches of Egypt, also known as the General Evangelical Council.  These include the Apostolic Grace, Apostolic, Assemblies of God, Baptists, Brethren, Christian Model Church (al-Mithaal al-Masihi), Church of Christ, Faith (al-Eyman), Gospel Missionary (al-Kiraaza bil-Ingil), First Grace (al-Ni’ma al-Oula), Second Grace (al-Ni’ma al-Thaneya), Independent Baptist, Message Church of Holland (ar-Risaala), Open Brethren, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Revival of Holiness (Nahdat al-Qadaasa), and Seventh-day Adventists.  There are an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 Jehovah’s Witnesses and fewer than 100 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), the vast majority of whom are expatriates.  Christians reside throughout the country.

Scholars estimate that Shia Muslims comprise approximately 1 percent of the population.  Baha’i representatives estimate the size of their community to be between 1,000 and 2,000 persons.  There are very small numbers of Dawoodi Bohra Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims as well as expatriate members of various other religious groups.

According to a local Jewish NGO, there are six to 10 Jews in the country.

There are no reliable estimates of the number of atheists; in 2020, local media sources quoted a former Minister of Culture and a scholar at al-Azhar University estimating numbers of atheists at “several million” and “four million,” respectively.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Terrorist groups, including Islamic State-Sinai Peninsula (or ISIS-SP, formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis), continued sporadic attacks on government, civilian, and security targets in the North Sinai Governorate.  According to an international NGO, at least 26 civilian deaths, 51 security force deaths, and 31 terrorist deaths occurred in the conflict in Sinai between January and July.  According to an ISIS media affiliate, ISIS-SP claimed 101 attacks resulting in 206 casualties during the year.

In April, ISIS-SP released a video that documented the killing of Nabil Habashi, a local Coptic Christian and cofounder of the only church in the district of Bir al-Abd, one of the focal points of ISIS-SP operations.  ISIS-SP kidnapped Habashi in November 2020, using the justification of “Christian support for the Egyptian military and state” and held him for ransom until killing him in February.  Pope Tawadros II released a statement mourning the “faithful son and servant” Habashi, offering condolences to his family and church, and “saluting the heroes of the Egyptian military and police.”  EIPR characterized the killing as a “murder based on religious identity.”

On July 27, Shenouda Salah Asaad, a Copt, was stabbed to death, allegedly by a Salafist neighbor, in al-Qusiyah, Assiut Governorate.  Salah’s wife was injured and hospitalized.  The investigative police in al-Qusiyah reportedly intensified efforts to arrest the perpetrator.  At year’s end, there had been no official confirmation of his apprehension.

In April, sectarian clashes in al-Mudmar village in Sohag Governorate resulted in at least one death and six injuries that required hospitalization.  Witnesses in al-Mudmar said that the events began with a dispute between two Copts, and later drew in a Muslim would-be mediator.  Following the violence, security forces moved into the village.  Eyewitness residents said the village generally experienced amicable relations between Muslims and Christians.

On October 11, local media reported that a female pharmacist working in Sharqia Governorate accused her coworkers of assaulting, harassing, and persecuting her for her decision not to wear a hijab.  The pharmacist filed a report with the Zagazig District police department against her colleagues, prompting the Governor of Sharqia to offer support, pending investigation by the prosecution.  The pharmacist also appealed to the Pharmacists Syndicate to intervene, and one of her colleagues documented the alleged assault in her workplace with a video that was widely circulated on Facebook.  One week after the pharmacist’s complaint, the Supreme State Security Prosecution ordered her detained for 15 days pending investigation on charges of “joining a terrorist group and spreading false news.”  In November and again on December 21, the State Security Prosecution Office extended the pharmacist’s detention by 15 days.  The pharmacist remained in detention at year’s end.

In September, the press reported that two doctors and another employee at a Cairo hospital had anonymously posted a video to social media of them bullying a nurse and demanding that he kneel and pray to a dog.  The nurse stated that it would be a sin for all of them if he complied.  The press reported that there was a “wave of indignation on social media.”   The Ministry of Health later said that it fired the senior doctor; the country’s Prosecutor General ordered the three men detained, pending an investigation on charges of bullying, abuse of power, and contempt of religion.  The case was referred to a criminal court, which sentenced the three to two years in prison in October.

Religious discrimination in private sector hiring continued, according to human rights groups and religious communities.

A July report by the NGO Coptic Solidarity stated that out of 141 athletes on the national Olympic team that competed in the 2020 Tokyo games (held in 2021), only one was a Copt.  The Olympic teams in 2012 and 2016 had similar breakdowns, which the NGO stated was due to “entrenched, deep-rooted, systematic, and systemic discrimination against the Copts.”

In February, Al-Monitor, a news website, reported that Christian soccer players formed a team, Je Suis Club, in 2016 to provide Christians playing opportunities.  The report stated that the main Egyptian teams, including Zamalek, Ahli, Ismaili, and the Alexandria Union, had only Muslim players on their rosters.

During a nationally broadcast television program, an al-Azhar University professor responded to the beating of a woman by her husband by saying that women tended to exaggerate when complaining, that no man would resort to this degree of violence unless strongly provoked, and that wives were guilty of bringing domestic violence upon themselves.  A local advocacy group for battered spouses posted the video on social media, criticizing the downplaying of spousal abuse by a member of the country’s religious establishment.  One of the professor’s female colleagues at al-Azhar’s Tadwein Center for Gender Studies denounced the professor’s televised statements and said Islam did not justify violence against women under any circumstances.

Reuters reported the country’s first all-female Muslim recitation choir, al-Hour, was challenging “deep-rooted taboos about women singing in public or reciting from the Quran.”  Al-Hour founder Nemaa Fathi said, “Having women in the Muslim religious chanting field not only breaks social stereotypes about female chanters.  It also gives a new, distinctive style to an art that has long been dominated by only men.”

The press reported that a video of a girls’ choir singing Christian hymns on the Cairo Metro was extensively reposted after initially having been posted by Nabila Makram, a Copt and Minister of Emigration and Expatriate Affairs.  One human rights lawyer characterized the singing as courageous, adding, “The reality is that Egyptian society is intolerant of Christians’ public expression of faith.”

In June, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar welcomed a proposal to establish a center in Egypt for Islamic studies, presented to him by a delegation from the Anglican Episcopal Church. The proposal was the first of its kind in the history of relations between al-Azhar and the Church.  Also included in the proposal were the establishment of an Islamic library, in cooperation with al-Azhar University.

In November, Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All Africa inaugurated the Patriarchal Center for Studies and Dialogue in the Holy Monastery of St. Georgios in Cairo as a new center for interfaith and intercultural dialogue.

In October, the Syndicate of Musical Professions in Egypt issued a decision banning its members from dealing with Egyptian rapper Marwan Pablo due to his having “defiled a religious invocation” during a concert in New Cairo.  In a statement, the syndicate said that Marwan “repeated a well-known religious invocation but that he replaced its words with vulgarity and emptied it of its moral content.”

According to a January 8 report on Al-Monitor, following a decision by the Government of Pakistan to ban the release of a British film, The Lady of Heaven, a number of social media activists, Islamic scholars, and Salafist imams called for a ban on screening the film in Egypt.  They urged the issuance of fatwas prohibiting the viewing of the film and sent demands to the United Kingdom to stop the international distribution of the movie.  According to press, the film portrayed the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, who also was the wife of Ali, fourth caliph of Sunni Muslims and first imam of Shia Muslims.  Several newspapers reported that the film featured the voice of the Prophet Muhammad as a narrator in the film.

On April 3, 22 royal mummies and 17 sarcophagi were transferred from the Egyptian Museum, in Tahrir Square, Cairo, to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilizations, also in Cairo.  During the transfer, prominent actors and actresses portrayed figures from the history of Egyptian civilizations, including the centuries-long coexistence of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – including prominent scenes within churches and synagogues.

The research and consulting firm PSB took a June poll of youth between the ages of 17 and 24 in 17 Arab states and reported 24 percent of Egyptian respondents said that their religion was the most important factor in their personal identity, which was lower than the regionwide result of 34 percent.  Other choices offered by the poll as possible responses included family/tribe, nationality, Arabic heritage, political beliefs, language, and gender.

El Salvador

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 6.5 million (midyear 2021).  According to a February survey by the University of Central America’s Institute of Public Opinion, 43.3 percent of the population identifies as Catholic, 33.9 percent as evangelical Protestant, and 18.6 percent with no religious affiliation.  Approximately 3 percent state “other,” which includes Anglicans, Jehovah’s Witnesses, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Muslims, Baha’is, Jews, Buddhists, and members of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness.  Approximately 1.2 percent of the population identifies as agnostic or atheist.  A small segment of the population adheres to indigenous religious beliefs, with some mixing of these beliefs with Christianity and Islam.  Muslim leaders estimate there are approximately 500 Muslims.  According to Imam Emerson Bukele, President Nayib Bukele’s half-brother, the 20,000 estimate in 2020 likely represents individuals of Palestinian descent, most of whom are Christian and not Muslim.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

On April 12, gang members assaulted an elderly priest, Father Gregorio Landaverde, in Santa Tecla, La Libertad Municipality, when he unknowingly drove into a gang-controlled neighborhood to find an alternative route around a traffic jam.  When Landaverde, pastor of the Asuncion Pleca Parish in the Delgado Municipality, stopped to ask for directions, gang members immediately surrounded him and searched his truck, where they found a machete that he had used the previous day to clear land for relatives, which gang members said made the priest a potential threat.  The gang members beat him with stones, took his wallet, and damaged his car.  Landaverde was hospitalized, and the parish church cancelled Mass until Landaverde recovered.

In January, Father Manuel Acosta, a professor of theology at the Jose Simeon Canas Central American University, told Catholic press outlet Crux that he was disturbed about the violence against Catholic priests, including the thus far unexplained killings of three priests in fewer than three years ending in 2020.  All were his former students.  “I had no words,” said Acosta recalling his thought the morning he heard of the killing in August 2020 of yet another former student, Father Ricardo Cortez, who was found dead after being shot in the head.

According to law enforcement representatives, gang members continued to extort organizations with known funding streams, including religious groups, demanding payments in exchange for allowing them to operate in some territories.  Reports of criminals targeting churches, stealing religious relics and other valuable cultural items, and violently assaulting parishioners continued.

According to media, on July 28, security guards killed one thief and injured another when they attempted to rob the Los Heraldos del Evangelio Catholic Church in the Santa Elena neighborhood of San Salvador.  A third assailant escaped.  Authorities investigated the incident and charged the injured suspect with trespassing; he remained in detention and awaited trial at year’s end.

Media again reported, and religious leaders also said, former gang members who joined evangelical Protestant churches were allowed to leave their gang to dedicate themselves to their faith only after they gained approval from their gang leaders.  According to the national police, conversion to an evangelical Protestant group was a way out of gang membership from which there was otherwise no exit.  Gangs continued to monitor former members for years after they left the gang to ensure they were routinely attending church services and following strict religious practices.  If the gang discovered the religious conversion was not authentic, the penalty for the deception was death.  For some gangs, even if a member was allowed to leave for religious reasons, the member still could be called to rejoin the gang as needed.  According to law enforcement representatives, the gangs used death threats against these former gang members or their families to force their return to the gang.

According to the Pew Research Center’s 12th annual study of restrictions on religion, issued in September but covering 2019, El Salvador had a moderate decrease in its social hostilities index compared with Pew’s 11th annual report issued in 2018 and covering 2019.  The social hostilities index measured acts of religious hostility by private individuals and societal organizations or groups.

Equatorial Guinea

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 857,000 (midyear 2021).  The most recent local census, conducted in 2015, estimates the total population at 1.2 million.  According to the most recent government estimate from 2015, 88 percent of the population is Roman Catholic and 5 percent Protestant.  Many Christians reportedly practice some aspects of traditional indigenous religions as well.  Two percent of the population is Muslim, mainly Sunni, according to the 2015 census.  Most of the Muslim population consists of expatriates from West Africa.  The remaining 5 percent adhere to animism, the Baha’i Faith, Judaism, or other beliefs.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were no reports of significant societal actions affecting religious freedom.

Eritrea

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 6.1 million (midyear 2021).  The UN estimates a population of approximately 3.5 million.  Reliable population data in the country is difficult to gather.  There are no reliable figures on religious affiliation.  The Pew Foundation in 2016 estimated the population to be 63 percent Christian and 37 percent Muslim.  Some government, religious, and international sources estimate the population to be 49 percent Christian and 49 percent Sunni Muslim.  The Christian population is predominantly Eritrean Orthodox.  Catholics, Protestants, and other Christian denominations, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Pentecostals, constitute less than 5 percent of the Christian population.  Some estimates suggest 2 percent of the population is traditionally animist.  The Baha’i community reports approximately 500 members, half of whom reside in the capital, Asmara.  Only one Jew is known to remain in the country and resides in Eritrea only on a part-time basis.

A majority of the population in the southern and central regions is Christian, while the northern areas are majority Muslim.  A majority of the Tigrinya, the largest ethnic group, is Christian.  Seven of the other eight principal ethnic groups, the Tigre, Saho, Afar, Bilen, Hedareb, Nara, and the Rashaida, are predominantly Muslim and reside mainly in the northern regions of the country.  The Kunama are diverse, with Christians, Muslims, and animists.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

While government control of all media and public discourse limited information available concerning societal actions affecting religious freedom, religious tolerance appeared to international observers to be widespread within society.  Churches and mosques are located in close proximity to each other, and most citizens congratulated members of other religious groups on the occasions of religious holidays and other events.  There were no reports of sectarian violence, and most towns and ethnic groups included members from all of the major religious groups.

Some Christian leaders continued to report Muslim leaders and communities were willing to collaborate on community projects.  Ecumenical and interreligious committees did not exist, although local leaders met informally.  Some shrines were venerated by both Orthodox and Muslim believers.  Some Muslims expressed privately their feelings of stress and scrutiny in professional and educational settings because of their religion.

Estonia

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 1.2 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2011 census (the most recent data available), 29 percent of the population is religiously affiliated, 54 percent do not identify with any religion, and 17 percent do not state an affiliation.  According to Estonian Council of Churches data from December 2020, 13 percent of the population belong to the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, while 13.9 percent belong to the Estonian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (EOCMP), and 2.3 percent belong to the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church.  The Union of Free Evangelical and Baptist Churches of Estonia and the Roman Catholic Church together comprise 1 percent of the population.  Other Christian groups, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, Methodists, Seventh-day Adventists, and Russian Old Believers, collectively constitute 1.1 percent of the population.  According to the 2011 census, there are small Jewish and Muslim communities of 2,500 members and 1,500 members, respectively.  Most religious adherents among the Russian-speaking population belong to the EOCMP and reside mainly in the capital or the northeastern part of the country.  According to 2011 census data, most of the country’s community of Russian Old Believers live along the west bank of Lake Peipsi in the eastern part of the country.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In August, unknown persons defaced a poster promoting vaccination with antisemitic graffiti in Tallinn.  City council member Vladimir Svet denounced the incident saying, “The district government takes such situations very seriously and condemns antisemitism and any incitement of hatred against any group.”  Police did not file formal charges due to what they stated was a lack of evidence and suspects.

According to government statistics, in 2020, the most recent year for which data was available, police registered three cases of physical abuse, breach of public order, or threats (as defined by law) that included hatred against persons belonging to religious or other minorities, compared with eight cases in 2019.  According to government sources, at least two of these cases were tied to the victim’s race or national origin.  Because religion and ethnicity are often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize incidents as being solely based on religious identity.

According to many religious and other civil society leaders, there was societal support for religious freedom and tolerance.

On September 5, the Jewish Community held its annual commemoration for the victims of the Holocaust at the memorial for the victims of Nazism at Kalevi-Liiva, with the participation of foreign diplomats and representatives of the state, municipalities, and public organizations.

Eswatini

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 1.1 million (midyear 2021).  Religious leaders estimate that 90 percent of the population is Christian, approximately 2 percent is Muslim (of whom many are not ethnic Swati, the dominant ethnic group in the country), and the remainder belongs to other religious groups, including those with indigenous African beliefs.  According to anecdotal reports, approximately 40 percent of the population practices Zionism, a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship (some adherents of which self-identify as evangelical Christians), while another 20 percent is Roman Catholic.  Zionism is widely practiced in rural areas.  Other religious groups represented include Anglicans, Methodists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Jewish and Baha’i communities.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Muslim leaders continued to report negative and/or suspicious views of Islam in society.  Muslim leaders and business owners said they felt their community was unfairly targeted during civil unrest, as a significant percentage of the businesses that were looted and burned were owned by members of the Muslim community, although sources stated that it was unclear if this was due to religious or racial/ethnic bias.  Other observers attributed the motivation for attacks on Muslim-owned shops during the protests to racism and a widely held perception that the Asian community had close ties to the King.  Because religion and ethnicity are often closely linked, with Muslims in the country being primarily of South Asian descent, it was difficult to categorize such incidents as being solely based on religious identity.

Due to complications from COVID-19 restrictions and ongoing civil unrest, the Baha’i community did not hold the planned interfaith devotional fellowship dialogues during the year, although Baha’i and Muslim faith groups sometimes collaborated on community service or development initiatives.

Ethiopia

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 110.9 million (midyear 2021).  According to 2016 U.S. government estimates, 44 percent of the population adheres to the EOTC, 31 percent are Sunni Muslim, and 23 percent belong to evangelical Christian and Pentecostal groups, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church, and Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus.  Most observers believe the evangelical Christian and Pentecostal proportion of the population has increased since the last national census was conducted in 2007.  The EOTC predominates in the northern regions of Tigray and Amhara, while Islam is most prevalent in Afar, Oromia, and Somali Regions.  Established Protestant churches have the most adherents in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s (SNNP) Region and Gambella Region and parts of Oromia Region.

Groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Eastern Rite and Roman Catholics, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, and practitioners of indigenous religions.  The Rastafarian community numbers approximately 1,000 and its members primarily reside in Addis Ababa and the town of Shashemene in Oromia Region.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Human rights groups stated that societal violence was on the rise, especially in the context of the conflict in the northern part of the country.  Because ethnicity and religion are often closely linked and because criminality, politics, access to resources, and historical grievances were also drivers of violence, it was difficult to characterize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.

In October, the Amhara Region Islamic Affairs Supreme Council said the TPLF had demolished a historic mosque in Zarema town, North Gondar, Amhara Region.  The secretary general of the council said the attack proved TPLF’s continued antireligious stand.  He said the TPLF had destroyed several other mosques and religious sites in the region and massacred religious students in madrassahs.

On March 5, according to the Addis Standard, members of the OLA killed 29 individuals in Abo Church in Debos Kebele, East Wollega, Oromia Region.  Witnesses said victims were marking the beginning of the EOTC’s two-month period of fasting.  Reports stated members of the OLA stormed into the church, immediately killing the church administrator.  The OLA members took the rest of the victims to a nearby forest and killed them.

In May, the EOTC stated that the government allowing Muslims to hold the Grand Iftar celebration in Meskel Square – of which the EOTC claimed traditional “ownership” – could threaten coexistence between the country’s Christians and Muslims.  The EOTC advised Muslims to hold the event at its usual venue, Abebe Bikila Stadium.  After the government disrupted the celebration on May 9 and despite the EOTC’s protests, the rescheduled celebration took place peacefully on May 11 in Meskel Square.

The Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC) expressed continued concern about what it said was the influence of foreign Salafist groups within the Muslim community.  The EIASC accused foreign Salafist groups of forcibly taking control of local mosques.  The EIASC said it continued to hold these foreign groups responsible for the exacerbation of tensions between Christians and Muslims and within the Muslim community.

According to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and the EIASC, the number of Islamic religious schools was growing.  Abdul Geni Kedir, a headmaster at one school, said that the expansion of the schools, which were “significantly contributing to the spread of the faith,” reflected the steady increase of the community’s influence in society.  He said, “Islamic education has been reinforced by the burgeoning Islamic media and related public activities.  Now, we have private newspapers, television stations, educational videos, and there is an increase in the production of multilingual traditional and modern Islamic hymns.”

Observers described a small revival of Waaqeffanna – an indigenous religion in Oromia – especially on university campuses.

The IRCE continued to include representatives from the EOTC, EIASC, Catholic Church, and several evangelical Christian groups, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church, and Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus.

Fiji

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 940,000 (midyear 2021).  According to the 2007 census (the most recent with a breakdown by religion), 64.5 percent of the population is Christian, 27.9 percent Hindu, and 6.3 percent Muslim.  Protestants make up 45 percent of the population, of which 34.6 percent is Methodist, 5.7 percent Assembly of God, 3.9 percent Seventh-day Adventist, and 0.8 percent Anglican.  Roman Catholics make up 9.1 percent of the population, and other Christian groups 10.4 percent.  There are small communities of Baha’is, Sikhs, and Jews.

Religious affiliation runs largely along ethnic lines.  According to the 2007 census, most indigenous Fijians, who constitute 57 percent of the population, are Christian.  The majority of the country’s traditional chiefs belong to the Methodist Church, which remains influential among indigenous persons, particularly in rural areas, where 44 percent of the population lives, according to the 2017 census.  Most Indian Fijians, who account for 37 percent of the total population, are Hindu, while an estimated 20 percent are Muslim and 6 percent Christian.  Approximately 60 percent of the small Chinese community is Christian.  The small community of mixed European and Fijian ancestry is predominantly Christian.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

On September 29, police investigated an alleged incident of criminal sacrilege involving Rajesh Goundar, a pastor of the El-Shaddai Assemblies of God Church, who was recorded on video demolishing a statue of a Hindu god at a house in Wairabetia, Lautoka.  Hindus in the country, including politicians and those from religious organizations such as the Sanatam Dharam Pratinibhi Saba who viewed the widely circulated video on social media, condemned the incident as an “act of sacrilege.”  Veena Wati, the owner of the home where the alleged desecration occurred, later explained in local media that she had consented to the removal of the statue from her family’s property.  Wati said that the “issue was blown out of proportion,” stating that parts of the video showing the family conducting what she called a peace mantra before removing the Hindu statue were edited out.  Wati and her family, recent converts to Christianity, stated that they resorted to breaking the idol when they couldn’t remove it from its foundation.  The Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission received at least three complaints regarding the incident and said it would investigate the issue and called for religious leaders in the country to promote religious tolerance and respect.  A police investigation remained pending at year’s end.

The Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, and Seventh-day Adventist Churches, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Hindu and Muslim groups operated numerous schools, including secondary schools, which were eligible for government subsidies based on the size of their student population.

Finland

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 5.6 million (midyear 2021). According to Finnish government statistics from December 2020 that count only registered members of registered congregations, 67.8 percent of the population belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (ELC) and 1.1 percent to the Finnish Orthodox Church, while 0.3 percent (approximately 17,000) have official membership in Islamic congregations, and 29.4 percent do not identify as belonging to any religious group.  The census combines other minority religious communities, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventists, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jews, and members of the Free Church of Finland, that together account for 1.4 percent of the population.

Multiple sources indicate the Muslim population has grown rapidly in recent years because of a significant inflow of immigrants.  Muslim religious leaders estimate the number of Muslims rose to 100,000 in 2018 (most recent data available), of which approximately 80 percent is Sunni and 20 percent Shia.  In 2017, the latest year for which statistics are available, the Pew Research Center estimated 2.7 percent of the population, or approximately 150,000 persons, were Muslim.  According to a survey by the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC), the Muslim population numbered approximately 65,000 in 2016.  According to the Islamic Society of Finland, discrepancies among these sources and between them and official government statistics may occur because only a minority of Muslims register with registered Islamic societies.  Apart from Tatars, who immigrated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well as during the Soviet Union period, most Muslims are immigrants or descendants of immigrants who arrived in recent decades from Somalia, North Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Syria, Turkey, and Iran.  There are 300 registered members of the Ahmadi community, according to leaders of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Finland.

In a report released in 2020, the Institute of Jewish Policy Research estimated the Jewish population at 1,300.  There are 18,000 members of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country, according to Church representatives.  According to Catholic Diocese statistics from 2021, there are 15,902 registered Catholics in the country.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In 2020, the latest period for which data were available, police reported 108 hate crimes against members of religious groups, including crimes involving assault, threats and harassment, discrimination, and vandalism, compared with 133 such incidents in 2019.  There were 39 incidents involving Muslims, 28 involving Christians, including two involving Jehovah’s Witnesses, 18 involving Jews, and 21 involving others or unknown religious groups.  Police did not, however, cite any details of the incidents or release information on how many were motivated solely by religion.  Because religion and ethnicity are often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.

Despite the ban on the self-described Pan-Nordic neo-Nazi NRM in the country, the group continued to operate a website, make statements promoting discrimination or violence against Jews and Muslims, and participate in demonstrations.  Authorities stated that in 2020, Finnish members of the NRM began operating as part of the Towards Freedom group, considered to be the NRM’s successor by the National Bureau of Investigation.  While Towards Freedom’s website remained active, it had not been updated since December 2020.  Former NRM members continued activities under new websites, including Partisaani, a far-right news aggregation website that spread anti-Muslim and antisemitic conspiracy theories and Finn Aid (Suomalaisapu), an organization that describes itself as a charity organization but also used anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric.  These outlets often featured the traditional NRM logo that includes neo-fascist imagery.

Finnish researchers studying online extremism stated that neo-Nazi activities decreased significantly during the year following the ban of the NRM.  Helsingin Sanomat reported in March, however, that the threat of terrorism posed by far-right groups, particularly as a response to racist and anti-Muslim “replacement theory” (which asserts that immigration and low birth rates among native populations will result in the replacement of native populations by foreigners of different races and religions), increased in the country, corresponding with the findings of a 2020 study by the National Bureau of Investigation.

In August, former Tampere City Council member and far-right party organizer Terhi Kiemunki led a protest organized by the Alliance of Nationalists commemorating the fourth anniversary of a terrorist attack by a self-identified soldier of ISIS in Turku, Finland.  While the Alliance of Nationalists stated that it did not take a position on the activities or opinions of its members or discriminate against other nationalities, religions, and ethnicities, the alliance hosted regular “White Lives Matter” events and promoted news articles describing “replacement theory” ideology on its webpage.  Leaders of the Alliance of Nationalists include former NRM members.  Police estimated attendance at the protest at more than 100 participants, fewer than both previous memorial demonstrations.  Police estimated attendance at a concurrent counterdemonstration by the anti-fascist group Turku Without Nazis as larger than the event sponsored by the Alliance of Nationalists.  Police arrested one person for harassing behavior, but police did not comment on whether the detainee took part in the protest or counterprotest.

Stickers and posters with antisemitic images and messages were placed on the synagogue of Helsinki’s Jewish Congregation, in neighborhoods with significant Jewish populations, and on public property throughout the year.  Sources stated the vandalism was both random and targeted.  Antisemitic graffiti and stickers bearing iconography of the NRM also appeared at LGBTQI+ Pride events.  Representatives of the Jewish community reported that despite available video and photographic evidence of those responsible, police made no arrests.

In September, anti-immigration activists organized a demonstration called Rise Finland (Nuose Suomi) in Helsinki’s Parliament Park to protest the reception of Afghan refugees in the country.  Speakers included former members of the NRM, and organizers advertised the event on the Norwegian branch of the NRM’s website and on Partisaani.  Speeches, broadcast live on YouTube, focused on what the organizers called “the Islamization of Finland” and called on Finns to take a stand for “Finnishness.”

In a Swedish documentary series released in Finland in January, Linda Karlstrom, the coach of the IK Kronan gymnastics club of Kronoby, made several remarks questioning the existence of the Holocaust.  The Swedish-speaking Sports Federation raised Karlstrom’s case, but the Gymnastics Association Disciplinary Committee did not punish her on free-speech grounds.  The disciplinary committee stated that, as a general rule, matters outside sports do not fall with its remit.  As of March, Karlstrom no longer coached at IK Kronan.

Anti-Muslim and antisemitic organizations were active across a variety of social media platforms.  “Replacement theory” references spread on Facebook, Twitter, the Russian social media network VK, and the American social media network Gab.  The European Jewish Congress and leaders of the Helsinki Jewish community reported antisemitic incidents in European social networks, including posts in Finnish, throughout the year.  Telegram, VK, Gab, and Twitter spread Holocaust denials and conspiracy theories of Jewish “world domination.” According to Helsingin Sanomat, the Finnish Football Association announced in May that it would donate Nike sports hijabs to every soccer player who wanted one.  The announcement was met with a backlash on Twitter, where a significant proportion of comments expressed opposition to the hijab.

NGOs working with migrants, including the Finnish Refugee Advice Centre, continued to raise concerns about the ability of religious minorities housed in migrant reception centers to worship without harassment from other migrants housed within the same center.  A representative of the center said converts to Christianity in migrant reception facilities continued to face harassment, including social exclusion, threats, and blackmail but that there were limited security and social services resources to combat these issues.

Leaders of Muslim religious organizations were divided concerning the need for additional houses of worship that could accommodate the growing and diverse Muslim community.  A representative of the CORE Forum said that Muslim groups continued to seek adequate houses of worship, but that they were hindered by insufficient funds from purchasing property, given that most Muslims did not belong to congregations registered with the government and did not choose to register.  Except for a handful of purpose-built mosques, most mosques were located in converted commercial spaces.  Other members of the Muslim community noted that, in sum, the spaces available were sufficient, but that persons from some religious or ethnic backgrounds may not feel comfortable using the currently available spaces.  According to one community leader, while the number of prayer rooms was sufficient, there were not enough spaces providing community services, particularly for women and children, or prayer services in Finnish.  Members of the LGBTQI+ Muslim community noted that there were no “safe spaces” for Muslims who identified as LGBTQI+ and, in particular, for LGBTQI+ Muslims in asylum-seeker reception centers.  Attempts to build a large grand mosque in the south of the country stalled; some Muslim community leaders identified politicization of zoning laws, anti-Muslim and racist attitudes in some local communities, and deep divisions across the diverse Muslim community as contributing factors.

Representatives of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Finland stated that other Muslim groups continued to block the group’s formal membership in interfaith organizations.  Representatives of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Finland said the group planned to construct a mosque and cultural center in the future and that although the mosque would be built solely with funds from the Ahmadi community, it would be open to all religious and nonreligious individuals.

The nondiscrimination ombudsman’s office reported receiving 34 complaints of religious discrimination in 2020 – 3 percent of total discrimination complaints – compared with 37 complaints in 2019.

The website Magneettimedia continued to post antisemitic content and in January published an article entitled, “Biden:  Jews in leadership positions in the White House, CIA, NSA, and Ministry of Finance,” and in April a piece entitled “World Power Aspirations of the Jewish Mafia.”  The website also warned of what it said was a coming confrontation among the Christian and Islamic and Jewish worlds that could lead to the destruction of Christianity.  Major companies and consumer brands continued to boycott the department store chain owned by the former owner of Magneettimedia, Juha Karkkainen, due to his antisemitic views.

In June, the Ministry of the Interior published a report by a working group dedicated to improving security at religious sites.  The report found that while nearly all (93 percent) Christian respondents reported feeling safe in or near their religious facilities, only 69 percent of Muslims and 33 percent of Jews reported feeling safe in the vicinity of designated religious spaces.  The report’s recommendations included improving state support for security for all religious communities.  According to the leadership of the Central Council of Jewish Communities, proposed budget cuts to synagogue security funding were a significant concern.  Representatives of the Ahmadi Muslim community said that they were not consulted in the production of the report and expressed additional security concerns, particularly about what they termed extremist groups.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, representatives of religious groups participated in virtual events hosted by other religious groups.  Finn Church Aid (FCA), associated with the ELC, again hosted an interfaith iftar, bringing together virtually representatives from the largest religious groups, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and municipal governments.  The theme of the event was “Loving Thy Neighbor in the Time of a Pandemic:  An Inclusive Approach,” and it discussed how interfaith dialogue and community organization might advance religious freedom during difficult times and restrictions, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic.

France

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 68.1 million (midyear 2021).  ccording to a January 2020 report released by the government-appointed Observatory for Secularism, based on a poll conducted in cooperation with polling company Viavoice, approximately 47 percent of respondents identify as Catholic, 3 percent Muslim, 3 percent Protestant, 2 percent Buddhist, 1 percent Jewish, 1 percent Christian Orthodox, and 1 percent other religious groups; 34 percent said they have no religious affiliation and 8 percent preferred not to respond.  According to the observatory’s 2019 report, there are 140,000-150,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses and 150,000-300,000 Hindus.  In a poll on secularism released in February and conducted with Viavoice, 35 percent of respondents say they are believers, 30 percent nonbelievers or atheist, 14 percent agnostic, and 13 percent indifferent.  Most observers, including the observatory in its 2019 report, estimate the number of Muslims in the country at three to five million, or between 4 and 7 percent of the population.  According to Church of Scientology leaders, there are approximately 40,000 followers in the country.

A poll by the research firm French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP) conducted August 24-25 found that 51 percent of respondents said they do not believe in God, and 49 percent said they do.  According to the IFOP poll, the highest percentage of believers (58 percent) was found among those 65 years and older and the lowest (45 percent) among those aged 35-49.  Other age groups were close to evenly split, with a slight majority of nonbelievers.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The Ministry of Interior reported registering 1,659 antireligious acts during the year, compared with the same period in 2019, when 1,893 acts were reported.  (According to the ministry, statistics from 2020, when it recorded 1,386 antireligious acts, were not comparable because of the COVID-19 lockdown.)  While the total number of acts reported decreased from 2019, the number of anti-Muslim acts increased by 38 percent to 213, from 154 in 2019 (234 in 2020).  Anti-Christian acts decreased 19 percent, to 857, from 1,052 in 2019 (813 in 2020), and antisemitic acts fell 14 percent to 589, from 687 in 2019 (339 in 2020).

On August 9, Emmanuel Abayisenga, a Rwandan asylum seeker, killed Father Olivier Maire, a Catholic priest in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sevre in the Loire Region.  Abayisenga was under judicial supervision while awaiting trial for allegedly setting fire to the Nantes Cathedral in 2020.  Since the end of his pretrial detention, following an assessment he was mentally unfit to remain in the judicial system, Abayisenga had been staying with the victim.  In an August 9 press conference, the regional deputy prosecutor said there was no initial indication of any terrorist motive.  Media reported the killing had prompted a strong public outcry; President Macron and Prime Minister Castex both tweeted their condolences, and Minister of Interior Darmanin offered his support to the country’s Catholics.  At year’s end, remained in a psychiatric hospital.

On May 29, a group of approximately 10 men jeered, whistled at, and physically attacked Catholics taking part in a procession in Paris commemorating Catholics killed during the 1871 Commune.  The perpetrators tore down flags and threw projectiles at the marchers, injuring two of them.  Interior Minister Darmanin condemned the attack on social media.  Authorities charged one suspect with “aggravated violence” and “violation of religious freedom”.  His trial was scheduled for 2022.

In September, press reported that five men beat a Jewish man wearing a kippah on a street in Lyon, after the man confronted them when the group called him “a dirty Jew.”  The man sustained minor injuries.  Police arrested one suspect, a teenager.  There was no further information on the case at year’s end.

On March 29, a Pakistani national in the country illegally attempted to attack with a knife three young Jewish men wearing kippahs as they were leaving a synagogue in Paris during Passover.  According to press reports, authorities indicted the man for making a “threat with a weapon” but not for an antisemitic hate crime, reportedly because of insufficient evidence, and then released him.  Authorities subsequently deported the man to Pakistan on April 16.  The president of the local Jewish community expressed relief at the man’s deportation.

In March, according to press reports, guards at a Jewish school in Marseille overpowered a man with a knife whom they suspected of planning to stab customers at a nearby kosher store and bakery.  The guards disarmed the man and police took him into custody.  There was no further information on the case at year’s end.

According to media reports, in November, police arrested a teenager who brandished a machete, hurled marbles, and shouted “dirty Jews” in front of a Jewish high school outside Lyon.  Police were investigating whether the teenager or his family had ties to terrorism.

On December 1, legal authorities announced the trial of a man known as Aurelien C., whom security forces arrested in 2020 in Limoges because they suspected him of planning an attack on the Jewish community, would begin in Paris in January 2022.  Aurelien C, a former member of both the military and the Yellow Vest protest movement, had posted on social media white supremacist conspiracy theories and both antisemitic and anti-Islamic comments, while glorifying terrorists such as the 2019 Christchurch and 2011 Oslo attackers.  Investigators reportedly found incendiary tools in his home that could be used as mortars and found evidence he had researched when Jewish religious sites would reopen in his town.  Aurelien C. remained in detention at year’s end.

On May 26, a priest at the Toulon Cathedral received a voicemail warning that someone would come to “kill people in the church” and “make the building jump [i.e., explode].”  Police secured the cathedral and arrested a minor in Annecy later that afternoon for what they said may have been a prank.  The priest and police admonished the public that such jokes were unacceptable, particularly in light of recent attacks on places of worship.

On April 17, authorities deported to Algeria an Algerian food delivery driver whom the Strasbourg Criminal Court had convicted on January 14 of antisemitic discrimination for refusing to transport orders of kosher food to Jewish customers.  Interior Minister Darmanin said the courier, who was in the country illegally, was deported after serving his four-month prison sentence.

Jehovah’s Witnesses officials reported 14 incidents during the year.  On December 31, a physical attack took place against a Jehovah’s Witness in a parking lot in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine.  The individual filed a lawsuit.

According to the Israeli government’s Aliyah and Integration Ministry figures released in October, 2,819 French Jews emigrated to Israel in the first half of the year, compared with 2,227 in all of 2019.  According to the same source, approximately 2,220 Jews left France for Israel during the first 11 months of 2020.

On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the kidnapping, torture, and killing of Ilan Halimi, a young Jewish man, the CRIF commissioned a survey from research firm Ipsos on the perception of antisemitism in France.  The survey was conducted between February 5 and 8 with a sample of 1,000 persons over the age of 18.  The poll showed at least 74 percent of respondents believed that antisemitism was a widespread phenomenon in the country.  The poll also found 56 percent believed antisemitism was more severe than 10 years previously and 88 percent believed that the fight against antisemitism should be a priority for public authorities.  According to the poll, 69 percent of respondents were aware of the Ilan Halimi case; 53 percent believed that antisemitism had the same roots as other forms of racist hatred, and 38 percent did not fully understand the meaning of “anti-Zionism” rhetoric.

The annual report of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, an advisory body to the Prime Minister, released on July 22, included the results of an Ipsos poll conducted in November 2020 and involving face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 1,323 residents above the age of 18.  The results were similar to a poll Ipsos conducted a year earlier.  According to the more recent poll, 47.6 percent (compared with 34.2 percent in 2019) of respondents believed Jews “have a particular relationship with money,” and 21.9 percent (18.6 percent in 2019) thought Jews had too much power in the country.  The poll found 46.1 percent (35.5 percent in 2019) of respondents had a negative image of Islam, and 58.9 percent (44.7 percent in 2019) considered it a threat to national identity.  The commission’s report again cited what it said was persistent societal rejection of Islamic religious practices, finding, for example, that 68.8 percent of respondents (45.5 percent in 2019) opposed women wearing a veil.

In September, the Brussels-Based NGO Action and Protection League issued the results of its European antisemitism survey based on data that in France was collected between February and June 2020.  According to the survey, 7 percent of 1,000 respondents ages 18-75 in France said they had negative feelings towards Jews.  Twelve percent said they would be “totally uncomfortable” or “uncomfortable” with having Jewish neighbors.  The survey cited stereotypical statements about Jews and asked respondents the degree to which they agreed or disagreed.  The proportion who responded “strongly agree” or “tend to agree” with the following statements were – “the interests of Jews in this country are very different from the interests of the rest of the population” (21 percent); “there is a secret Jewish network that influences political and economic affairs in the world” (28 percent); “Jews have too much influence in this country” (21 percent); “Jews will never be able to fully integrate into this society” (13 percent); “Jews are more inclined than most to use shady practices to achieve their goals” (15 percent); “many of the atrocities of the Holocaust were often exaggerated by the Jews later” (12 percent); “Jews are also to blame for the persecutions against them” (28 percent); “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes” (24 percent).

In a July 25 interview with weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, CRIF President Kalifat condemned the anti-COVID-19 vaccine movement’s use of references to the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis.  Kalifat said he was angry at those who “compare the implementation of the COVID-19 health pass, a tool intended to save lives, with the yellow star, which was itself the symbol of discrimination and the death of six million Jews [who] went up in smoke in Nazi crematoria.”  Kalifat said the pandemic was a pretext for online conspiracy theories accusing Jews and Israel of introducing the virus to profit from the vaccine.

According to a study by the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue, French antisemitic content in online media platforms Twitter, Facebook, and Telegram increased seven-fold in the first two months of the year, compared with the same period in 2020.  In addition to frequent antisemitic content related to COVID-19, the study found 55 percent of the content had to do with conspiracy theories about Jews controlling international, financial, political, and media institutions.

On February 1, on the occasion of an official visit to a CEF session by Chief Rabbi of France Korsia, CRIF President Kalifat, and Joel Mergui, then president of the Israelite Central Consistory of France (the main Jewish administrative governance body), the CEF expressed its strong opposition to antisemitism and concern for growing intolerance against Jews in the country.  In a statement released to mark the visit, the bishops said their warning of the dangers of rising antisemitism in the country was “all the more urgent” given a “trivialization of violence” raised through hate speech, especially on social media.  The bishops also urged “not only Catholics, but also all our fellow citizens to fight vigorously against all forms of political and religious antisemitism in and around them.”

A report covering 2019-20 and issued in December by NGO The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe stated that society in the country seemed to be increasingly divided between Christians, secularists, and Muslims, adding that the government’s secularism had resulted in strong pressures on Christians on moral issues in which Christians and secular society have different views, such as marriage, family, education, bioethics, and identity politics.  It also said media helped to perpetuate certain stereotypes about Christianity, leading to further division.  The NGO expressed concern about what it called a lack of respect for Christianity and a high number of attacks on Christians, churches, and Christian symbols, as well as reports by Christians of feeling Islamic oppression.  The report also stated authorities had noticed “the high number of serious attacks against churches, Christian buildings and symbols as well as against some citizens.”

In a report issued in March, NGO European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) stated that the overwhelming majority of converts to Christianity from Islam in the country experienced family and community contempt and persecution, most commonly in the form of verbal or physical aggression, threats, harassment, or rejection by members of the Muslim community.  ECLJ added that persecution was greater for women and girls who converted from Islam, a significant proportion of whom it said were threatened with being forcibly married, sent to their parents’ country of origin, or sequestered if they did not return to Islam.  The report stated that every year, 300 persons of Muslim origin were baptized into the Catholic Church and estimated that twice that number joined Protestant churches, concluding that there were at least 4,000 converts to Christianity from Islam in the country.

In September, religious leaders and other commentators criticized presidential candidate for 2022 Eric Zemmour’s statement that the Nazi-aligned Vichy regime “protected French Jews” during the Second World War.  In an October TV interview, Chief Rabbi Korsia called Zemmour, who is of Jewish heritage, an antisemite for his comments doubting the innocence of Alfred Dreyfus, famously exonerated of treason charges in 1906.  Zemmour was convicted in 2018 of incitement to religious hatred for making anti-Islamic comments.

On August 27, a fire, suspected to be arson, damaged a Protestant church in Behren-les-Forbach, in the eastern part of the country.  On Twitter, Interior Minister Darmanin strongly condemned the arson and expressed his “support to France’s Protestants.”  A gendarmerie investigation was ongoing at year’s end.

On April 12, students found a spray-painted crossed-out Star of David with the inscriptions “Death to Israel” and “Kouffar” (“nonbelievers” in Arabic and a pejorative term commonly used to describe Christians and Jews) on the facade of the Institute of Political Sciences, an institute of higher learning, in Paris.  The Union of Jewish Students of France called for the institute to take action “to fight the scourge of racist and antisemitic hatred within its walls.”  Higher Education Minister Vidal condemned the vandalism “in the strongest possible terms” on social media.  At year’s end, authorities had not identified any suspects.

According to media reports, on August 28, neighbors discovered antisemitic slogans, such as “Death to the Jews,” painted on the wall of the cemetery and an adjoining barn in Rouffach, located in Upper Rhine Department.  President of the Grand East Region Jean Rottner immediately condemned the incident on Twitter and called for an inquiry.

On August 11, local media in Brittany reported that a monument to French Holocaust survivor and European Parliament president Simone Veil in Perros-Guirec had been defaced three times with excrement and swastikas.  On August 24, following a joint investigation conducted by gendarmes and the Central Office for the Fight against Crimes Against Humanity, two men were arrested.  The local prosecutor announced on August 26 that the men were formally charged with aggravated degradation, aggravated public insult, and incitement to hatred charges, and were released on bail, with conditions.  A trial had not been scheduled by year’s end.

On August 7, antipolice graffiti was discovered on the walls of the Nour El Mohamadi Mosque in central Bordeaux, which was vandalized twice in 2020.  A police investigation was ongoing at year’s end.

On April 11, unidentified individuals defaced the Avicenne Muslim Cultural Center in Rennes with anti-Muslim graffiti, prompting a same-day visit by Interior Minister Darmanin and CFCM President Moussaoui.  The Rennes prosecutor opened an investigation for vandalism of a religious nature.  On April 29, vandals again defaced the Avicenne Muslim Cultural Center and a nearby halal butcher shop with anti-Muslim graffiti referencing a recent Islamist terror attack in Rambouillet, presidential candidate Melenchon, and right-wing monarchist group Action Francaise.  Action Francaise denied responsibility for the vandalism.  Elected officials and the regional prefect issued statements condemning the vandalism and affirming support for the Muslim community.  The CFCM also condemned the incident as “a new and cowardly” provocation.

On December 10, unknown persons vandalized dozens of tombs in the Muslim cemetery in the town of Mulhouse, knocking flowers and ornaments off the graves, according to press reports.  Mulhouse Mayor Michele Lutz condemned the vandalism.

On January 4, press reported local officials discovered swastikas and antisemitic graffiti spray painted on the walls of churches in Echouboulains and Ecrennes and the town hall of Vaux-le-Penil.  Vandals had painted near-identical graffiti a week earlier on graves at a local cemetery and at a nativity scene in the nearby towns of Fontainebleau and Melun.  The prefect of Seine-et-Marne Department and the mayor of Echouboulains condemned the vandalism, and Seine-et-Marne authorities opened an investigation.

On April 17, “The Return of Satan,” “Traitors,” and antisemitic graffiti were scrawled in red paint on the Saint-Sernin Basilica and in surrounding areas in Toulouse.  Mayor Jean-Luc Moudenc condemned the vandalism.  Local press said they believed far-right agitators could be behind the vandalism to create the impression of a Muslim attack on both Catholics and Jews.

The investigation of the 2020 killing of three Catholic worshippers in the Basilica of Notre Dame in the southern city of Nice continued at year’s end.  The suspect in the killings, identified as Brahim Aouissaoui, an asylum seeker from Tunisia who entered the country shortly before the attack, remained in prison.  The national counterterrorism prosecutor’s office said it was treating the attack as a terrorist incident.

On November 9, a Paris prosecutor requested a 32-year prison sentence for Yacine Mihoub, convicted of killing Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll in 2018 and 18 years in prison for his accomplice, Alex Carrimbacus.  On November 10, the Paris Criminal Court sentenced Mihoub to life imprisonment, with no possibility of parole before 22 years.  Carrimbacus was acquitted of murder but found guilty of theft and sentenced to 15 years in prison.  The court ruled the killing was fueled by “a broader context of antisemitism” and “prejudices” about the purported wealth of Jewish people.  The victim’s family said the verdict was “just.”  On November 15, Mihoub’s lawyer announced his client had appealed the ruling, paving the way for a second trial.

On August 27, the Paris Criminal Court concluded it did not have jurisdiction to hear a case involving two men who in 2020 shouted antisemitic insults and assaulted a Jewish man, stole his watch, and beat him unconscious.  The criminal court transferred the case to the Court of Assizes – which hears the most serious criminal cases – because the two men could face more than 15 years in prison on a charge of violent theft motivated by religious reasons.  At year’s end, a trial had not been scheduled, and the two men remained in detention.

On July 2, the Seine-Saint-Denis Criminal Court sentenced nine individuals to prison, with sentences ranging from four to 12 years for the violent September 2017 robbery of a Jewish family in Livry-Gargan, a northern Paris suburb.  The individuals were convicted of breaking into the home of Roger Pinto, the president of Siona, a group that represents Sephardic Jews, and beating Pinto’s son and wife.  The court confirmed the antisemitic nature of the robbery.  The Pinto family’s lawyer called the ruling “a victory for the law.”  The convicted individuals’ lawyer announced her clients would not appeal the ruling.

On July 8, the Colmar Court of Appeals declared a man accused of attempted murder after crashing his car into a mosque in Colmar in 2019 criminally not responsible for his actions and ordered he be sent to a psychiatric hospital instead.

On July 7, the Paris Criminal Court handed down suspended prison sentences ranging from four to six months to 11 of 13 defendants after they were found guilty of harassing and threatening a 16-year-old student, Mila, online in Lyon in 2020.  The 13 defendants represented a variety of backgrounds and religions; one had charges dismissed for procedural reasons, and another was acquitted.  The court considered the case a “real business of harassment.”  The student’s lawyer told the court Mila had received approximately 100,000 threatening messages, including death threats, rape threats, misogynist messages, and hateful messages about her homosexuality after she posted a vulgar anti-Islam video online.  The student said she posted the video in response to a vulgar attack on her sexuality by a Muslim.  Mila was also forced to change schools and continued to live under police protection through year’s end.  In July, the student met with Chemsedine Hafiz, Rector of the Great Mosque of Paris.

On September 22, four men and four women appeared before the Paris Criminal Court for posting antisemitic tweets against April Benayoum, the runner-up in the 2021 Miss France competition.  The eight were tried for “public insults committed because of origin, ethnicity, race, or religion.”  Benayoum received numerous antisemitic comments on social media after revealing that her father was Israeli during the televised competition in 2020.  Prosecutors requested suspended sentences of two months’ imprisonment.  On November 3, a Paris court ordered seven of the eight defendants to each pay fines ranging from 300 to 800 euros ($340-$910).  Each of the seven was also ordered to pay one euro ($1.13) in damages to the contestant and to each of several associations involved in combating racism and antisemitism which had joined the plaintiff in the lawsuit.  Four of the defendants were also ordered to attend a two-day civic class.  The court acquitted the eighth suspect, finding that his tweet did not target Benayoum directly.

On July 2, a Paris court sentenced French comedian Dieudonne M’Bala to four months in prison for “public insult of an antisemitic nature” and “contestation of a crime against humanity” for two 2020 videos regarding the Holocaust.  M’Bala appealed the decision.

On May 19, the Paris Court of Appeals condemned writer Alain Soral, commonly described in the press as a right-wing extremist, to four months in prison, with work release during the day, for incitement to religious hatred for blaming the 2019 fire in Notre Dame Cathedral on Jews from Paris.  In a separate case, the Court of Cassation on October 26 rejected Soral’s appeal of a 2020 ruling by the Paris Court of Appeals that convicted him for contesting crimes against humanity for his remarks regarding the Holocaust and ordered Soral to pay a fine of 5,000 euros ($5,700) or face imprisonment.

On October 19, a court in Metz sentenced teacher and former National Rally political candidate Cassandre Fristot to a suspended prison sentence of six months for “inciting racial hatred.”  Fristot held a placard with antisemitic slogans at an antivaccine protest in August, sparking wide condemnation and prompting Interior Minister Darmanin to ask the Prefect of Moselle to take legal action.  The court also ordered Fristot to pay fines of between one and 300 euros ($1.13-$340) to eight out of 13 groups, including CRIF and various NGOs, that joined the case as plaintiffs.  Education authorities also suspended Fristot from her teaching position on August 9, pending disciplinary action.

On May 18, the Lyon Criminal Court dropped charges against French-Palestinian activist Olivia Zemor, stating lack of evidence.  An Israeli pharmaceutical company had sued Zemor for defamation and incitement to economic discrimination after she posted an article on Europalestine, a pro-Palestinian website, accusing the company of being complicit in “apartheid and occupation.”

According to media, on October 26, a court in Val d’Oise, a region north of Paris, gave an optician a one-year suspended prison sentence for having a harassed a Jewish family returning from synagogue on August 21.  The woman repeatedly gave the Nazi salute, shouted “Heil Hitler,” and told the family, “Dirty Jews, you are the shame of France.”

On October 29, the Paris Criminal Court declared Jean-Marie Le Pen, the 93-year-old founder of the National Front party, now known as National Rally, not guilty of charges of inciting racial hatred for comments targeting a Jewish pop singer.  Asked in June 2014 about the French singer and actor Patrick Bruel, Le Pen referred to Bruel’s Jewish origins with a pun evoking the Holocaust, stating, “I’m not surprised.  Listen, next time we’ll do a whole oven batch!”  The court said Le Pen had clearly targeted Jews with his comment but that the statement did not amount to “inciting discrimination and violence.”

According to press reports, in September, the Correctional Tribunal of Toulouse acquitted Mohamed Tatai, the Rector of the Great Mosque of Toulouse, for a sermon he gave in Arabic in 2017 that prosecutors stated was antisemitic.  In the sermon, posted on a U.S. website, Tatai said, “The Prophet Muhammad told us about the final and decisive battle:  the last judgment will not come until Muslims battle Jews.”  The court ruled that Tatai, who said he was mistranslated, had no desire to incite hatred in his sermon.  Jewish leaders criticized the ruling.  Franck Teboul, the president of the Toulouse chapter of the CRIF, likened the decision to the Court of Cassation’s ruling not to convict the killer of Sarah Halimi, and commented, “…so you tell thousands at a mosque to kill Jews and hide beyond a centuries-old text.”  Abdallah Zakri, President of the Observatory for the Fight Against Islamophobia, called Tatai a moderate Muslim who had maintained good relations with Jews and Catholics and said his acquittal would undercut radical fundamentalists.

On January 5, the Correctional Court of Saint-Nazaire ordered a man to pay a 400-euro ($450) fine and complete an internship on citizenship for posting in 2020 on social media, “You want to honor [Samuel Paty]?  Go burn down the mosque in [the southern town of] Beziers to send the message that we are sick of it.”

On May 5, the Rhone Mosque Council published a request asking women not to attend mosques for the planned May 13 Eid al-Fitr prayer.  Kamel Kabtane, the Rector of the Lyon Great Mosque, said this decision was due to the COVID-19 crisis, and added that the elderly and weak were also advised to stay home.  He denied accusations of discrimination that were posted on social media stating individuals were trying to be malicious toward Muslims.  Kabtane also said mosques did not have sufficient capacity to hold all worshippers and cited a note from the Ministry of the Interior prohibiting prefects and mayors from renting them larger spaces.

On October 5, the Catholic Church’s Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church released its report on child abuse committed by Catholic priests, concluding that, not counting deceased victims, priests had abused 216,000 minors in the country between 1950 and 2020.  Adding claims against lay members of the Church, such as teachers at Catholic schools, the report said the number of victims might total 330,000.  Commission President Jean-Marc Sauve said the abuse was systemic and the Church had shown “deep, total, and even cruel indifference for years.”  CEF President Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort, who had requested the report along with Sister Veronique Margron, President of the Conference of Monks and Nuns of France, expressed “shame and horror” at the findings.  The CEF said it would financially compensate victims by selling its own assets or taking on loans if needed and that an independent national commission would be set up to evaluate the claims.  In a November 8 statement, CEF leadership recognized formally for the first time that the Church bore “an institutional responsibility” for the abuse and, in what they said was a gesture of penance, prayed on their knees at the sanctuary of Lourdes.

Gabon

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 2.3 million (midyear 2021).  Demographic studies do not track religious affiliation, and estimates from religious leaders and government agencies vary widely.  The Episcopal Conference of Gabon estimates approximately 80 percent of the population is Christian.  Of the Christian population, approximately two-thirds is Roman Catholic and one-third Protestant, which includes evangelical churches.  The High Council of Islamic Affairs estimates approximately 12 percent of the population is Muslim, including many noncitizen residents with origins in West Africa.  There are no published estimates of the Sunni/Shia percentages, although the Sunni are predominant.  The remaining 8 percent of the population practices animism or does not identify with any religious group.  Many individuals practice a syncretic faith such as Bwiti that combines elements of Christianity with traditional indigenous faiths, Voodoo, or animism.  Other traditional faiths in the country are Mwiri and Ndiobi.  Groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Jews and a growing Baha’i community that was established in the 1960s.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In February, Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim leaders met to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and official social distancing restrictions.

Gambia

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 2.2 million (midyear 2021).  Approximately 95 percent of the population is Muslim, most of whom are Sunni; the Ahmadiyya Muslim community states it has approximately 50,000 members.  Christians make up approximately 4.2 percent of the population, the majority of whom are Roman Catholics.  Religious groups that constitute less than 1 percent of the population include Baha’is, Hindus, and Eckankar members.  Individuals tend to mix indigenous (animist) beliefs with Islam and Christianity.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

SIC leaders continued to state that all religious organizations in the country were entitled to freedom of expression and assembly.  The SIC continued to state that Ahmadi Muslims did not belong to Islam, and it therefore did not include Ahmadi members in SIC events.  The Ahmadiyya community had deep links to the educational and medical sectors in the country; they operated one of the largest affordable sharia-compliant schools in the country.  The group proactively sought new adherents, predominantly by distributing printed material and preaching at health-care facilities.  Ahmadi Muslims said they believed themselves free to practice their religion without interference but expressed frustration with the SIC’s refusal to integrate them into the broader Muslim community.

Intermarriage between Muslims and Christians continued to be common.  However, due to cultural and gender norms, women were generally required to convert to their husband’s religion and raise all children in the husband’s religion.  It was not uncommon for persons of different faiths to live in the same dwelling, and observers said religious differences were widely accepted among family members and neighbors, with each jointly celebrating the religious events and holidays of the other.

Georgia

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 4.9 million (midyear 2021).  According to a 2021 Georgian National Statistics Service estimate, the population is 3.7 million.  According to the 2014 census, GOC members constitute 83.4 percent of the population, followed by Muslims at 10.7 percent and members of the Armenian Apostolic Church at 2.9 percent.  The remaining 3 percent includes Roman Catholics, Yezidis, Greek Orthodox, Jews, growing numbers of religious groups defined by the law as “nontraditional” such as Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, and individuals who profess no religious affiliation.

Ethnicity, religious affiliation, and region of residence are strongly connected.  Most ethnic Georgians affiliate with the GOC.  A small number of mostly ethnic Russians are members of several Orthodox groups not affiliated with the GOC, including the ROC, Molokani, Starovery (Old Believers), and Dukhobory (Spirit Wrestlers).  Ethnic Azeris are predominantly Shia Muslims and form the majority population in the southeastern region of Kvemo-Kartli.  Other Muslim groups include ethnic Georgian Muslims in Adjara region and Chechen Kists in the northeast; both groups are predominantly Sunni.  Ethnic Georgian Sunni Muslims are also present in the south-central region of Samtskhe-Javakheti.  Ethnic Armenians belong primarily to the Armenian Apostolic Church and constitute the majority population in Samtskhe-Javakheti Region.

Reliable information from the Russia-occupied regions of Georgia continued to be difficult to obtain.  According to the 2016 census conducted by de facto Abkhaz authorities (the most recent), there were 243,000 residents of Russia-occupied Abkhazia.  A survey conducted in 2003 by the de facto authorities listed 60 percent of respondents as Christian, 16 percent as Muslim, 8 percent as atheists or nonbelievers, 8 percent as followers of the pre-Christian Abkhazian religion, and 1 percent as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, or adherents of other religions.  The remaining 7 percent listed no preference.

According to a 2015 census conducted by de facto South Ossetian authorities, there were 53,000 residents of Russia-occupied South Ossetia, of whom the majority were Orthodox Christians.  Minority groups included Muslims and the Right Faith, a pre-Christian ethnic Ossetian religion.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

During the year, the Human Rights Department of the MOIA investigated 13 cases involving crimes reported as religiously motivated, compared with 22 cases in 2020 and 44 cases in 2019.  These included three cases of violence (zero in 2020); one case of domestic violence (zero in 2020); one case with multiple criminal code violations, including violence, a threat, and liability for a domestic crime; two cases of criminal threats (zero in 2020); one case of persecution (four in 2020); and five cases of damage or destruction of property (five in 2020).  In one case, a man abused his wife physically and psychologically because he was irritated by her praying.  Religious organizations and NGOs, which also tracked cases, said COVID-19 pandemic restrictions made gathering sufficient data on exact figures for the current or previous year difficult, but that due to government- and self-imposed COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on public activity, crimes committed against religious groups declined, compared with prepandemic years.

According to the Social Justice Center, on January 12, in Buknari Village, Chokhatauri District, Guria Region, a group of Christians assaulted two teenage Muslim boys, injuring the teens, who required medical treatment.  The incident reportedly occurred while the boys were going to or from a local prayer room established in a private home.  The center said authorities arrested, tried, and convicted one of the Christians and sentenced him to prison, but further details of the case were unavailable.  Following the assault, Muslims from the area and neighboring regions held demonstrations in the village, resulting in clashes between Muslim demonstrators and Christians.  Police intervened and SARI Chair Zaza Vashakmadze said that the Muslim community’s rights had been protected, a statement that many NGOs and members of the Muslim community disputed.

The Public Defender’s Office reported it received six complaints of discrimination or hate crimes based on religion during the year, compared with seven in 2020.  Three cases involved potential hate crimes.  One of these involved the religious conflict in Buknari and another stating that the investigation into events surrounding the dismantling of the mosque in Mokhe in 2014 was insufficient and was carried out only in response to a case at the European Court of Human Rights.  In the third case, on March 25, a person threw a Molotov cocktail in a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall in Mtskheta.  The attack destroyed several items, but the hall was unoccupied at the time and there were no injuries.  According to the Public Defender’s Office, authorities officially recognized the Jehovah’s Witnesses as targets of a religiously motivated crime in the incident.  At year’s end, the investigation of the attack was ongoing.  The other three complaints the Public Defender’s Office received involved discrimination cases, one pertaining to speech that incited discrimination because of religion; and two others alleging the Penitentiary Service did not post the list of food allowed for Muslims on religious holidays.  The Public Defender’s Office stated that cases from previous years remained largely unresolved, partly because of what it described as a lack of urgency and resources from the government.

According to media, in May, in Dmanisi City in Kvemo Kartli District, ethnic Georgians and ethnic Svan (an ethnic subgroup of Georgians) Christians clashed with ethnic Azeri Muslims when an ethnic Azeri shopkeeper refused to sell alcohol on credit to a group of ethnic Svans, who then attacked the shopkeeper and vandalized the store.  Fellow Azeris came to the shopkeeper’s defense, causing ethnic Georgians to enter the violence en masse on the side of the Svans.  Participants spoke of the violence, which had both ethnic and religious dimensions, in terms of “Muslims versus Christians.”  The media report stated that on May 18, the mufti of eastern Georgia, Etibar Eminov, and the head of the communications office of the patriarchate of Georgia, Andrija Dzhagmaidze, went to the district with Georgian Dream Member of Parliament Sozar Subari and persuaded the communities to cease hostilities.

During the year, the Prosecutor General’s Office prosecuted five individuals for crimes motivated by religious intolerance.  One was charged with persecution, one with domestic violence, one with rape and “disclosure of secrets of personal life,” and two with exceeding official powers.  On April 10, the Tbilisi City Court convicted an ethnic Azerbaijani Muslim man of “regular violence” and sentenced him to a two-year suspended sentence.  The appellate court upheld the conviction and sentence on November 29; the Prosecutor General’s Office appealed the decision to the Court of Cassation, arguing for a heavier sentence.  The Prosecutor General’s Office cited both religious and gender discrimination, stating the man had systematically assaulted his wife and threatened to kill her on several occasions from 2017 until April 2021 because she attended a Christian church and wore a cross.  The prosecutor’s appeal was pending at year’s end.

On September 16, the Tbilisi City Court convicted a man of rape and “unlawful obtaining, storage, use, dissemination of or otherwise making available secrets of personal life” and sentenced him to seven years in prison.  The Prosecutor General’s Office stated the man raped a female Jehovah’s Witness on two occasions and took sexually explicit photographs of her in 2020.  According to the prosecutor, the crime was motivated by religious and gender discrimination, and the defendant told the victim she deserved to be raped because she was a Jehovah’s Witness.

Jehovah’s Witnesses again said there were fewer attacks against members compared to prepandemic years because the group, in response to COVID-19 restrictions, shifted to online activities and ceased conducting public outreach, including door-to-door proselytizing.  At year’s end, Jehovah’s Witnesses had reported six religiously motivated incidents to the government, compared with eight in 2020.  Of the reported incidents, one involved attempted arson (the Molotov cocktail incident of March 25 in Mtskheta), two instances of vandalism against Kingdom Halls in Martkopi and Mtskheta, and three break-ins and/or thefts.  Jehovah’s Witnesses said at year’s end, the six cases remained under investigation, along with five of eight cases from 2020.  Of the other three 2020 cases, Jehovah’s Witnesses stated one investigation was ongoing; in another, the court found the attacker guilty of persecution; and in the third, charges were dropped after the vandal paid compensation for damages.

On December 24, 2020, the Tbilisi City Court upheld its earlier conviction in the case of an individual who verbally insulted, then physically attacked, a Jehovah’s Witness who had just left a religious service at a Kingdom Hall in Tbilisi.  The victim required medical treatment for injuries to his eye and lip, and the attacker was found guilty of “purposeful, less grave damage to health.”

During the year, some religious leaders stated SARI pressured AMAG as well as the Tbilisi Synagogue to publish statements against the LBGTQI+ advocacy organization Tbilisi Pride’s planned July 5 Tbilisi “March for Dignity.”  Tbilisi Pride subsequently cancelled the march on the day the march was to take place when approximately 3,000 violent individuals described as far-right actors, including some GOC priests, attacked journalists, destroyed Tbilisi Pride’s office, and attacked offices of sympathetic NGOs.

Representatives of the Public Defender’s Office’s Tolerance Center and minority religious groups continued to report what they termed a widespread societal belief that minority religious groups posed a threat to the GOC and to the country’s cultural values.  On January 14, the Public Defender’s Council of Religions issued a statement expressing concerns over discrimination and hatred of people based on religious grounds.  The statement cited violence against Islamic places of worship, the violence in Buknari, and a “wave of antisemitic speeches of the clergy.”  The statement said, “Insults and discrimination on religious grounds against people or religious communities, as well as manifestations of persecution, are disturbing.”

Minority religious communities, including Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, and Protestants, continued to report resistance from local communities to their establishment of places of worship and religious schools.  A Social Justice Center report on the January violence in Buknari said that since 2012, the Chokhatauri municipality had denied requests to build a mosque in Buknari after public opposition by the Orthodox community.  As a result, the Muslim community purchased a private house to use as a prayer room in 2020.

During the year, the Media Development Foundation (MDF) documented 117 instances of religiously intolerant statements on television, online, and in print by media representatives, political parties, clergy, public organizations, and others, compared with 30 such incidents in 2020.  Of these statements, it classified 89 as being directed against Muslims, while 28 were directed against various other religious groups.  Ten statements were made by politicians from the Alliance of Patriots (three against Catholics and one praising the GOC), Georgian Dream (one against Muslims), and Georgian Idea (two against Baptists and three against Muslims) Parties, 73 by media representatives, 10 by various other organizations, two by religious representatives (including GOC Deacon Davit Isakadze, who criticized environmental activist Maka Suladze for choosing not to wear a cross), and 22 by members of the public.  MDF attributed the increase in incidents in part to intolerant statements by television station Alt-Info, which began broadcasting during the year, and to reporting on the violence in Buknari.

In August, in an anti-COVID-19 vaccine video posted on Facebook, GOC Deacon Archil Mindiashvili stated the vaccines had not been tested on animals “because you, Judaists and Jews, are in a hurry to bring your Antichrist to the realm and conduct experiments on people.”  TDI characterized the February 8 sermon of GOC Bishop Saba Gigiberia as antisemitic.  In the sermon, Gigiberia linked COVID-19 vaccines to a conspiracy theory about Israel reconstructing the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

TDI reported that on January 4, GOC Archpriest Ilia Karkadze made antisemitic remarks in a sermon defending a 2020 sermon by Bishop Ioane Gamrekeli that was also antisemitic.  In his sermon, Karkadze repeated common antisemitic tropes about Jewish control of banks and the media.  He also cited 19th-century Russian monk Vasiliy Vasilyev, known as Monk Abel, who said Jews had “poisoned Russia.”  On January 1, Bishop Ioane stated that TDI was seeking to damage Georgian-Jewish relations.  On January 8, the GOC published a statement acknowledging that Archpriest Karkadze’s January 4 sermon was antisemitic, saying that it “represents completely groundless accusations against the Jewish people [and] individual representatives.  It is not based on the teachings of the Church and is inspired by antisemitic pathos [i.e., sentiment].”

On January 13, Alt-Info anchor Shota Martineko said in a broadcast, “… if within your influence sphere you give space to the religion contrary to yours, then you give it the means to defeat you.”

Germany

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 79.9 million (midyear 2021).  Unofficial estimates based on the census and figures provided by religious groups indicate approximately 27 percent of the population is Catholic and 25 percent belongs to the Evangangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD) – a confederation of Lutheran, Reformed (Calvinist), and United (Prussian Union) Protestant regional churches.  Other Protestant denominations, including the New Apostolic Church, Baptist communities, and nondenominational Christians, account for approximately 2 percent of the population.  Orthodox Christians represent 1.9 percent of the population.

According to government estimates published in April, approximately 6.6 percent of the population is Muslim, of which 74 percent is Sunni, 8 percent Alevi, 4 percent Shia, 1 percent Ahmadi, and 1 percent other affiliations such as Alawites and Sufis.  The remaining 12 percent of Muslims in the country say they are not affiliated with any of the above groups or are unwilling to disclose an affiliation.  Intelligence officials estimate there are approximately 12,150 Salafi Muslims in the country.  Estimates of the Jewish population vary widely; the Federal Ministry of the Interior estimates it at 95,000, while other estimates place the number at approximately 190,000 when including Jews who do not belong to a specific Jewish community.  According to the secular NGO Religious Studies Media and Information Service (REMID), Buddhists (270,000); Jehovah’s Witnesses (167,000); Hindus (100,000); Yezidis (100,000); members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ) (40,000); Sikhs (10,000-15,000); and members of the COS (3,400) together constitute less than 1 percent of the population.  All of REMID’s estimates are based on members who have registered with a religious group.  According to the nonprofit Research Group Worldviews Germany, approximately 39 percent of the population either has no religious affiliation or belongs to religious groups not counted in government statistics.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were numerous reports of antisemitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-Christian incidents across the country, including assaults, verbal harassment, threats, discrimination, and vandalism.  According to figures collected by the Federal Criminal Police Office, as of November 5, there had been 1,850 antisemitic crimes reported, including 35 involving physical violence leading to 17 persons injured.

In August, a group insulted and severely beat a young Jewish man wearing a kippah while he was sitting in a Cologne park.  The victim was hospitalized with broken bones in his face.  The two attackers were arrested and released; police investigations into the crime continued at year’s end.  Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker, Catholic Archbishop of Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, and President of the Jewish Community in Munich and Upper Bavaria Charlotte Knobloch condemned the attack, which police said they suspected was motived by antisemitism.

In Hamburg on September 18, a man and his companion shouted antisemitic slogans before attacking a 60-year-old Jewish man, leaving him hospitalized with potentially lifelong injuries, according to media reports.  Hamburg Anti-Semitism Commissioner Stefan Hensel said the attacker and his companions were shouting antisemitic and anti-Israel insults at a pro-Israel vigil in central Hamburg and, when vigil participants asked them to stop, the attacker punched the Jewish man in the face, breaking his nose and cheek bone.  Hamburg Deputy Mayor (equivalent to deputy governor) Katharina Fegebank condemned the attack.  Police arrested a 16-year-old suspect, Aram A., in Berlin in late September.

In May, during clashes in Gaza and Israel, there was an outbreak of antisemitic demonstrations, some of them violent, as well as vandalism and assaults across the country.  On May 10, unknown individuals burned a memorial plaque at the site of the former Duesseldorf synagogue, and on May 11, demonstrators burned Israeli flags in front of synagogues in Bonn and Muenster.  Demonstrators also threw stones at the Bonn synagogue.  Approximately 180 persons attended an anti-Israel demonstration in Gelsenkirchen May 12, chanting antisemitic insults describing Jews as subhuman.  Some made the hand signal of the Grey Wolves, a Turkish right-wing extremist group.

The NRW Interior Ministry reported a total of 77 incidents with antisemitic or anti-Israeli connections (the ministry did not separately categorize antisemitic from anti-Israeli incidents) at pro-Palestinian demonstrations in May, for which it believed at least 125 individuals were responsible; it identified 45 persons by name.

On May 15, 3,500 persons participated in a pro-Palestinian demonstration in the Neukoelln district of Berlin that turned antisemitic.  Demonstrators chanted antisemitic slogans and displayed signs equating Israel with the Nazis.  According to media reports, participants included members of the Grey Wolves and left-wing extremist groups.  After police tried to end the demonstration due to noncompliance with COVID-19 requirements, participants became violent, throwing bottles, stones, and burning objects at police and journalists covering the event.  Ninety-three police officers were injured, and 59 persons were arrested for battery, assaulting police, and other charges; police restored order after several hours.  Police investigations were underway at year’s end.  The then mayor of Berlin, Michael Mueller, condemned the demonstration as “unacceptable.”

In a statement delivered by the federal government spokesman, then Chancellor Merkel condemned the demonstrations and attacks on Jewish institutions as antisemitic abuses of the right to free assembly.  They had shown that those involved were not protesting a state or government but expressing hate against a religion and those that belong to it, she said.  Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also condemned the demonstrations and attacks, saying that that country “will not tolerate hate against Jews, no matter who it comes from … Nothing justifies threatening Jews or attacking synagogues in our cities.”  Then Bundestag President Wolfgang Schaeuble issued a statement that there was “no justification for antisemitism, hate, and violence at the protests,” while acknowledging the existence of antisemitism in the country.  Then Interior Minister Seehofer said that attacks on synagogues and spreading antisemitism would be met with the full force of the law.  President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Josef Schuster and Chairman of the Central Council of Muslims Mazyek also condemned the incidents.  The president of the Central Council of Jews and the German Conference of Bishops issued a joint press statement warning of growing antisemitism and a “combination of political conflict and religious fanaticism.”  Several state-level religious leaders and government officials, including DITIB Hesse Managing Director Onur Akdeniz, Bishop of Limburg Georg Baetzing, and Hesse Antisemitism Commissioner Uwe Becker, spoke out against antisemitic propaganda at the pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

In May, the Hessian State Criminal Police Office arrested a Berlin-based man, identified only as Alexander M., for sending more than 85 threatening letters with right-wing extremist content, sometimes including antisemitic content, to politicians, journalists, and other prominent figures from late 2018 through 2020.  Many of the most visible targets were Muslim women.  Among the recipients were the heads of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Central Council of Muslims in Germany.

In June in Moenchengladbach, two men assaulted a Jewish man, speaking to him in Arabic.  Police were investigating but had not identified any suspects at year’s end.

During a September 30 soccer match in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium between 1.FC Union Berlin and Haifa Maccabi – the first time an Israeli team had played in the stadium opened by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympic games – Maccabi supporters reported that some Union supporters threatened them, used antisemitic insults, and threw objects at them.  According to press reports, one Union fan also attempted to burn an Israeli flag.  1.FC Union apologized for the flag burning, insults, and physical attacks, all of which it termed antisemitic, and banned one person from attending games in the future.  Police were investigating at year’s end.

In April, on Easter Sunday, three unidentified men entered a church in Nidda, Hesse, shouted slogans such as “There is only one God, and that is Allah,” and “Allah is greatest,” and insulted a worshipper attending the church service.  The political crimes unit of the Hesse state police investigated the incident as a possible infringement of the free exercise of religion.

In September, a Halle police officer was suspended for repeatedly corresponding with Stephan Balliet, who had attacked the Halle synagogue on Yom Kippur in 2019.  The officer wrote Balliet at least 10 letters using a pseudonym and false address and reportedly expressed sympathy for the attacker, while minimizing his crimes, in conversations with colleagues.  The police officer had left the force as of October 31, according to newspaper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.

On June 15, the Erfurt newspaper Thueringer Allgemeine reported that local construction companies had repeatedly declined orders for the construction of a mosque in Erfurt because they feared their involvement would precipitate attacks on their vehicles by opponents of the mosque.  Another newspaper reported in 2020 that construction companies had also declined to participate in the mosque construction at that time.  Suleman Malik, the spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Erfurt, said the reaction of the construction companies had delayed the construction of the mosque by two years.

In July, according to press reports, the Duesseldorf Hyatt Hotel cancelled the reservation of the Baba Sheikh, the spiritual leader of the Yezidis, and his two companions.  The hotel said the cancellation was due to technical issues, apologized for the misunderstanding, and upheld the reservation.

In October, Jewish singer Gil Ofarim reported that hotel staff told him to remove his Star of David necklace during check-in at the front desk of Leipzig’s Westin Hotel.  Hotel employees denied doing so and filed a defamation suit against the singer.  In response, Ofarim accused employees of filing a false report.  Ofarim’s discrimination lawsuit against the hotel was pending at the end of the year.  According to the hotel, it conducted its own investigation that exonerated its employees.

Media again reported that women who wore a hijab faced employment discrimination and that discrimination was made easier by the customary practice of requiring photographs as part of job applications.  According to one March report, a job seeker who wore a headscarf said that she had to submit 450 applications before she got an interview, while hearing about others who did not wear headscarves and received interviews after four applications.

In June, a man attempted to set fire to the Ulm synagogue, resulting in limited damage to the building.  The suspect was a German-born Turkish national who fled to Turkey after the attack.  According to Baden-Wuerttemberg authorities, the Turkish government refused to extradite the suspect.  Following the incident, nearly 500 persons, including various city and state politicians, attended two separate support vigils, and the Baden-Wuerttemberg state parliament passed a resolution denouncing antisemitism.

In April, an unknown perpetrator shot at the Bochum synagogue and a nearby planetarium.  According to police, the attack destroyed windows in both buildings.  Police did not rule out an antisemitic motive for the crime.  In May, police announced they had surveillance camera footage and issued an appeal to the public to help identify the suspect.  The Bochum prosecutor’s office closed the investigation in December, citing insufficient evidence.

On July 24, unknown persons set on fire a banner announcing the construction of a new synagogue in Magdeburg.  Police were investigating the case.  The state of Saxony-Anhalt earmarked 2.8 million euros ($3.17 million) for the construction of the synagogue, out of a total construction cost of approximately 3.4 million euros ($3.85 million).

In June, a swastika was found painted on the Torah ark in a Jewish prayer room at Frankfurt International Airport.  The country’s Orthodox Rabbinical Conference denounced the act of vandalism, saying, “This hatred of Jews must finally stop.”

According to Ministry of Interior federal crime statistics, there were 2,351 antisemitic crimes committed during 2020 (the most recent year for which complete statistics were available), including 57 crimes involving violence.  This represented a 15.7 percent increase from the 2,032 antisemitic crimes reported in 2019, of which 73 were violent; federal crime statistics classified 2,224 crimes (94.6 percent) as motivated by far-right ideology.  RIAS attributed the increase in antisemitic crimes and incidents to the large number of demonstrations against measures to contain COVID-19 or to other COVID-related issues, and it reported 489 antisemitic incidents connected to the pandemic.

The federal OPC annual report stated that, of the 57 violent antisemitic crimes committed in 2020, 48 were motivated by right-wing extremism, a 14 percent drop compared to 2019, when it reported 56 such crimes.  According to the report, membership in right-wing extremist parties such as the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party dropped slightly, from approximately 13,330 persons in 2019 to 13,250 in 2020.

In May, the NRW commissioner for antisemitism published the second NRW antisemitism report, which cited 276 antisemitic crimes (down from 310 in 2019) registered in the state in 2020, of which 254 (down from 291) were motivated by right-wing ideologies.  The crimes ranged from verbal abuse to physical injury; all cases resulted in criminal investigations.  The NRW commissioner stated that 500 antisemitic incidents were reported to her office, including incidents that did not rise to the level of criminal complaints.

A July study by RIAS based on Jewish residents in the state and other sources found that antisemitism was an everyday experience of Jews in Baden-Wuerttemberg, ranging from mundane to virulent forms.  A leading Jewish community representative described antisemitism as “background noise of Jewish life.”  The study analyzed 671 antisemitic crimes that occurred in the state between 2014 and 2018.  A spokesperson of the state’s youth foundation pointed to an increasing online dimension to antisemitism, stating there were 200 such incidents reported in 2020, and 300 in the first half of 2021 alone.

RIAS, to which victims may report antisemitic incidents regardless of whether they file charges with police, reported 1,437 such incidents in the states of Berlin, Brandenburg, Bavaria, and Schleswig-Holstein in 2020, compared with 1,253 in 2019, an increase of 14.6 percent.

Lower Saxony’s government recorded 189 antisemitic crimes in 2020, down from 212 in 2019.  The Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania government counted 73 such crimes in 2020, up from 52 in 2019.

In 2020, the Ministry of Interior registered 929 crimes targeting Muslims and Muslim institutions, including 77 against places of worship and 51 incidents of battery.  The ministry classified most of these incidents as having been carried out by right-wing extremists.  Other recorded incidents included online hate speech against Muslims, hate mail, and aggressive public behavior against persons who appeared to be Muslim.

The Ministry of Interior counted 141 anti-Christian crimes in 2020, including seven cases involving violence, up from 128 in 2019, an increase of 10 percent.  The ministry classified 30 percent of these crimes as motivated by right-wing ideology and 12 percent as motivated by left-wing ideology.

In May, the Ministry of Interior presented its annual report on politically motivated crime, according to which police registered 1,026 crimes motivated by antireligious sentiment.

In January, an unknown person threw stones and paint at St. Luke’s, a confessional Lutheran church in Leipzig, breaking windows and damaging a newly restored mosaic.  An anonymous letter claiming responsibility for the attack was posted online; the writer accused Martin Luther of sexism and tyranny and called churches “one of the best targets” for attacks against western morals.  At year’s end, police had not identified a suspect.

In April, an unknown man broke the windows of the prayer room of a Hildesheim mosque and entered its courtyard before fleeing.  Police arrested and charged a suspect.  A trial was scheduled for 2022.

In August, a man assaulted a woman wearing a headscarf at a subway station in Berlin.  The unknown assailant beat her severely and tore off her headscarf while shouting xenophobic insults.  As she attempted to flee, he knocked her to the ground with his bicycle and left the scene.  The woman required hospitalization; the police unit responsible for hate crimes and political violence was investigating the incident at year’s end.

In September, unknown persons threw stones through six windows of what police called “a Muslim institution” in Zwickau, shattering them; media reports called the building a mosque, which had been the target of vandalism in the past.  Police had not arrested a suspect at year’s end.

In February, the Hamburg District Court found a man who had assaulted a Jewish student with a shovel in October 2020 guilty of attempted murder and aggravated battery.  The court, however, ruled the man was mentally ill and therefore not criminally liable, sentencing him to psychiatric institutionalization.  The man, who was wearing a military-style uniform, assaulted the student at a Sukkot celebration at the Hohe Weide Synagogue in Hamburg, leaving him with a serious head injury.

In January, the Hildesheim District Court in Lower Saxony ruled that a Hildesheim resident arrested in 2020 upon suspicion of planning attacks against Muslims and mosques was suffering from a severe mental illness and could not be held responsible for his behavior.  It ordered him placed in temporary psychiatric care.  Police had found weapons in his apartment, and the suspect had said in an online chat that he wanted to carry out an attack similar to the 2019 mosque attacks in New Zealand and “kill Muslims.”

On June 16, the Bavarian Court of Administrative Appeals ruled in favor of a COS member whose 2018 application for a 500 euro ($570) electric bicycle subsidy was rejected by the city of Munich because she refused to sign a written statement pledging not to employ COS methods or spread COS ideas.  The state of Bavaria and some other states and many cities require persons to sign such a declaration before they can accept public employment or government grants.  The court ruled that, as a citizen, the plaintiff had a right to the subsidy from the city, just like anyone else.

In July, the Court of Justice of the European Union, addressing appeals in two cases, one from Hamburg and one from Bavaria, ruled that employers could ban employees from wearing headscarves under certain circumstances.  Both cases were brought by employees who did not wear headscarves when they started their jobs but decided to do so after returning to work from maternity leave.  Their employers refused to allow them to do so, saying that the employees had to project a neutral image to clients.  The court agreed with the employers.  Muslim organizations and NGOs criticized the verdict, saying it made it difficult for Muslim women to choose a profession.

In September, a trial of two individuals arrested for the vandalism of a Jewish cemetery in Geilenkirchen began.  According to police, the pair knocked over more than 40 gravestones in the cemetery and defaced gravestones with blue paint and Nazi symbols in 2019.  They were charged with property damage and disturbing the peace of the dead.  Prosecutors said both were members of a Neo-Nazi group.  The trial started in September and continued at year’s end.

In September, the Moenchengladbach District Court convicted a man of placing a bloody pig’s head, plastic bags filled with blood, right-wing extremist slogans, and swastikas in front of the al-Rahman Mosque in Moenchengladbach in 2019 and sentenced him to four months’ probation.

In October, a man claiming that Christianity is a false religion forcibly removed sacred religious objects from a church in Nordhausen, Thuringia, including its crucifix and a medieval wooden altarpiece, damaging both.  Police stated they intended to press charges against the man, whose asylum claim had been denied.

The Catholic Church and the EKD continued to oppose the COS publicly.  “Sect commissioners” or “departments on sects and worldview matters” of the EKD and the Catholic Church continued to investigate “sects and cults” and publicize what they considered to be the dangers of those groups.  On its website, the EKD Center for Questions of World Views continued to warn the public about what it said were the dangers posed by multiple religious groups, including the COS, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (Unification Church), Bhagwan-Osho, Transcendental Meditation, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Universal Life, and continued to produce literature criticizing the groups.

In September, the Brussels-based NGO Action and Protection League issued the results of its European antisemitism survey based on data from December 2019-January 2020.  According to the survey, 10 percent of 1,000 respondents ages 18-75 in Germany said they had negative feelings towards Jews.  Fifteen percent said they would be “totally uncomfortable” or “uncomfortable” with having Jewish neighbors.  The survey cited stereotypical statements about Jews and asked respondents the degree to which they agreed or disagreed.  The proportion who responded “strongly agree” or “tend to agree” with the following statements were – “the interests of Jews in this country are very different from the interests of the rest of the population” (23percent); “there is a secret Jewish network that influences political and economic affairs in the world” (15 percent); “Jews have too much influence in this country” (12 percent); “Jews will never be able to fully integrate into this society” (20 percent); “Jews are more inclined than most to use shady practices to achieve their goals” (15 percent); “many of the atrocities of the Holocaust were often exaggerated by the Jews later” (8 percent); “Jews are also to blame for the persecutions against them” (7 percent); “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes” (23 percent).

In a nationwide, representative survey conducted for the Alice Schwarzer Foundation, Giordano Bruno Foundation, and WZB Berlin Social Science Center published on June 11, 65 percent of respondents said it was “right” that freedom of religion applied to Muslims as well as Christians, whereas 18 percent said it was “not right” and 17 percent were unsure.  When asked whether “Islam is part of Germany,” 44 percent said “yes, but only peaceful, non-radical groups” and 44 percent answered “absolutely not,” excluding all Muslim groups.  Only 5 percent said they would completely agree that Islam was part of the country.  The survey also showed support for a ban on burqas among the general population had grown to 73 percent, from 56 percent in 2016.  Another 17 percent supported a ban in certain situations (32 percent in 2016), and 5 percent were generally opposed to such a ban (8 percent in 2016).  Majorities also supported banning headscarves for certain groups:  61 percent supported headscarf bans for public school teachers, 58 percent for public-sector employees, 56 percent for child-care workers, and 53 percent for girls younger than 14 years of age.

In February, Bundestag member Norbert Roettgen removed a social media post and image of a discussion he had held with Muslim students after the post was flooded with anti-Muslim insults.  Roettgen said he removed the image to protect the identities of the participants and decried what he described as the anti-Muslim hate the post had exposed.

In September, authorities initially did not allow a woman in Bergheim, Hesse, to cast her vote at a local polling station because she was wearing a headscarf and a medical mask.  Poll workers insisted she remove her headscarf to identify herself, stating that the law required that a person’s face not be covered when voting.  According to the electoral committee, the scarf only covered the woman’s hair and neck, not her face.  The woman protested to city election authorities and was later allowed to vote while wearing the headscarf.  The city apologized for the incident.

The far-right group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident (PEGIDA) continued to organize weekly demonstrations in Dresden, although media reports indicated significantly fewer demonstrators than in years prior to 2020.  Approximately 300 to 400 supporters continued to join PEGIDA rallies, even after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Participants regularly expressed anti-Muslim sentiments during the rallies, including by carrying posters expressing opposition to women who wore religious head coverings.  Authorities approved the demonstrations contingent upon participants adhering to masking and social distancing requirements.

Protesters at demonstrations against COVID-19 restrictions in Berlin, Kassel, Munich and other cities continued to use antisemitic rhetoric, including equating vaccines or the anti-COVID lockdown to Nazi-era persecution of Jews, or asserting that Jews were responsible for unleashing the corona virus.  For the year ending on March 17, RIAS registered antisemitic incidents, none of them violent, at 324 separate demonstrations against restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  For example, in March, numerous antisemitic acts, including ones trivializing the Nazi regime and the Holocaust, were reported at a large demonstration against COVID-19 measures in Kassel.

In May, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Schuster remarked on the connection between COVID-19 conspiracy theories and antisemitism, saying, “The old antisemitic narrative of the Jewish world conspiracy has been adapted to the current situation.”  Federal Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight Against Anti-Semitism Felix Klein also cited the role of the internet, saying, “In times of crisis, people are more open to irrational explanations, including antisemitic stereotypes…. What is new, however, is that…groups that previously had little or nothing to do with each other are now making common cause at demonstrations against the corona measures or on the [inter]net.”

In June, the U.S.-based newspaper The Algemeiner cited a study by the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue that found German-language antisemitic posts in major online platforms in January and February had increased 13-fold over the same period a year earlier.  According to the report, antisemitic narratives related to COVID-19 were frequent, and the most common narratives, 89 percent of the content, pertained to conspiracy theories about Jews controlling financial, political, and media institutions.

In May, NRW Antisemitism Commissioner Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger and the University of Bielefeld published a study on the influence of rap on antisemitic attitudes in young people.  The study found listeners of rap were more likely to have antisemitic and misogynistic views and were more prone to believe in conspiracy theories.

In July, a woman from Cologne was fined 700 euros ($790) for incitement for sharing an antisemitic Facebook post.  The woman said she had not read the full text of the post.

Approximately 20 churches continued to use bells bearing Nazi symbols and inscriptions.  A church in Berlin removed such a bell, and some churches in other part of the country said they had plans to do so.  In June, the Association of Protestant Churches in Central Germany held a conference on the issue; the association also offered financial support to churches under its jurisdiction to cover the cost of new bells.

In October, Cologne Lord Mayor Henriette Reker announced a two-year test phase for Muslim communities to issue calls to Friday prayer using outdoor speakers, if they applied to do so.  The call to prayer may only be made between noon and 3 p.m. and is limited to a maximum of five minutes.  The volume is to be based on the location of the mosque.  Of approximately 35 mosque congregations, two had requested permits by early December.

Ghana

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 32.4 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2010 government census (the most recent available with this data), approximately 71 percent of the population is Christian, 18 percent is Muslim, 5 percent adheres to indigenous or animistic religious beliefs, and 6 percent belongs to other religious groups or has no religious beliefs.  Smaller religious groups include Baha’is, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, and followers of Shintoism, Eckankar, and Rastafarianism.

Christian denominations include Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Christian Methodist Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran, Eden Revival Church International, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventist, Pentecostal, Baptist, Eastern Orthodox, African independent churches, the Society of Friends, and numerous nondenominational Christian groups, including charismatic churches.

Muslim communities include Sunnis, Ahmadiyya, Shia, and Sufis (Tijaniyyah and Qadiriyya orders).

Many individuals who identify as Christian or Muslim also practice some aspects of indigenous beliefs.  There are syncretic groups that combine elements of Christianity or Islam with traditional beliefs.  Zetahil, a belief system unique to the country, combines elements of Christianity and Islam.

There is no significant link between ethnicity and religion, but geography is often associated with religious identity.  Christians reside throughout the country; the majority of Muslims reside in the northern regions and in the urban centers of Accra, Kumasi, and Sekondi-Takoradi.  Most followers of traditional religious beliefs reside in rural areas.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to NGO International Christian Concern, a U.S.-based Christian advocacy organization, three members of the Action Prayer Ministry in Kumasi were wounded when armed assailants attacked their all-night prayer service on February 6.  According to police and congregation members, gunmen fired into the congregation at 2:00 am, slightly injuring three individuals.  Police responded and found church members restraining one of the attackers.  The perpetrators were later found to be members of armed gangs who sought to extort money from church members.

Muslim and Christian leaders continued informal dialogue between their respective governing bodies and the National Peace Council.  Faith leaders said they regularly communicated among themselves on religious matters and ways to address issues of concern or sensitivity.  Religious institutions played a key role in providing vulnerable citizens a social safety net during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were Muslim-Christian and intra-Muslim tensions in the country, with the latter being found largely in northern areas.  Researchers described the main cause of intra-Muslim tensions as doctrinal differences, with different groups interpreting the Quran and hadith differently.  They stated the Ahlus-Sunnah wal Jamaa viewed the Tijaniyya as heretics and innovators, while the latter viewed the former as ignorant and resistant to change.  According to sources, chieftaincy, land tenure, and politics played an important role in exacerbating intra-Muslim tensions between the two major chieftaincies in the Dagbon region.

Greece

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 10.6 million (midyear 2021).  According to research polls, 81 to 90 percent of the population identifies as Greek Orthodox, 4 to 15 percent atheist, and 2 percent Muslim.

Approximately 140,000 Muslims live in Thrace, according to government sources using 2011 data; they are largely descendants of the officially recognized Muslim minority according to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.  According to a Pew Research Center study released in November 2017, an additional 520,000 Muslims – mostly asylum seekers, refugees, and other migrants from Southeastern Europe, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa – reside throughout the country, many clustered in communities by their countries of origin or in reception facilities.  Government sources estimate half reside in Athens.

Members of other religious communities that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Old Calendarist Orthodox, Catholics (mostly Roman Catholics and smaller numbers of Eastern Rite Catholics), Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, members of polytheistic Hellenic religions, Scientologists, Baha’is, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sikhs, Seventh-day Adventists, Buddhists, and members of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).  Independent and media sources estimate Ethiopian Orthodox number 2,500 and Assyrians less than 1,000.  According to the Armenian Orthodox Archbishop, interviewed in 2018, approximately 100,000 Armenian Orthodox live in the country.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to statistics issued by the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) on acts of discrimination and violence in 2020, the most recent available, 74 of the 107 incidents recorded targeted migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers on the grounds of ethnicity, religion, or skin color, compared with 51 cases of the 100 incidents recorded in 2019.  Because religion and ethnicity are often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many incidents as solely or primarily based on religious identity.

In the same report, RVRN reported that police received 31 reports of accusations of violence sparked by religion, compared with 36 in 2019.

In September, the Brussels-Based NGO Action and Protection League issued the results of its European antisemitism survey based on data from December 2019-January 2020.  According to the survey, 25 percent of 1,000 respondents ages 18-25 in Greece said they had negative feeling toward Jews.  Thirty-six percent said they would be “totally uncomfortable” or “uncomfortable” with having Jewish neighbors.  The survey cited stereotypical statements regarding Jews and asked respondents the degree to which they agreed or disagreed.  The proportion who responded “strongly agree” or “tend to agree” with the following statements were:  “the interests of Jews in this country are very different from the interests of the rest of the population” (45 percent); “there is a secret Jewish network that influences political and economic affairs in the world” (58 percent); “Jews have too much influence in this country” (40 percent); “Jews will never be able to fully integrate into this society” (36 percent); “Jews are more inclined than most to use shady practices to achieve their goals” (44 percent); “many of the atrocities of the Holocaust were often exaggerated by the Jews later” (33 percent); “Jews are also to blame for the persecutions against them” (37 percent); “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes” (46 percent).

In October, the Piraeus First Instance Court sentenced a man to five years in prison for attacking a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Aspropyrgos, Attica.  The court ruled that the crime was motivated by hate.  The man was convicted of issuing threats and insults and committing bodily harm.

On January 15, police in the northern city of Drama arrested the perpetrator of an act of vandalism carried out in December 2020 at a local Jewish monument.

At least three instances of antisemitic graffiti and vandalism were widely reported.  In addition to damage to a portion of a 115-foot mural at the Thessaloniki New Train Station honoring Holocaust victims a few days after the mural was created, vandals on August 5 opened a grave and destroyed its headstone in the Jewish cemetery of Ioannina in Epirus.  KIS issued a statement condemning this “shameful act.”  In a March 18 statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its “abhorrence of any actions that insult the memory of the victims of Nazi barbarity.”  “We once again underscore the importance of rejecting racism, hatred and fanaticism, and the need to defend our moral values,” the statement concluded.  According to media reports, local artists and social activists worked together to restore the mural.  On September 10, a different grave was vandalized at the same cemetery.  Similar incidents at the same cemetery occurred in previous years.

On January 10, unidentified vandals sprayed red paint on the facade of the Orthodox Christian cathedral in Heraklion, Crete, according to media reports.  Police launched investigations in all cases but made no arrests.

On April 1, KIS addressed a letter to the mayor of Xanthi, writing that unknown individuals had removed a commemorative plaque, placed in 2001 outside a tobacco warehouse to mark the location where local Jews began their transfer to concentration camps in World War II.  KIS underscored the importance of collective memory in a city that lost 99 percent of its Jewish population.

KIS continued to express concern regarding political cartoons and images in which political controversies were illustrated with Jewish sacred symbols or comparisons to the Holocaust.  On January 18, KIS issued a statement protesting a sketch that showed the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp in a political cartoon opposing an education bill on universities.  KIS called the cartoon, which appeared in the newspaper Efimerida ton Syntakton on January 16, “a hideous and vulgar instrumentalization of the Holocaust for political purposes.”

On March 9, KIS issued a statement denouncing columnist Elena Akrita for comparing life in an Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II to life in contemporary Greece, drawing parallels between attacks against protesters opposed to pandemic restrictions and the Holocaust.  KIS, in a statement, noted that “Greek Jews … will never stop denouncing any attempt to denigrate and instrumentalize the Holocaust, which leads to the oblivion and distortion of history.”

According to a report published on January 13 by the Ministry of Education and Religion, there were 404 cases of vandalism/theft/desecrations against religious sites in the country in 2020, with most (374) targeting the Orthodox Church, seven the Catholic Church, four the True Orthodox Christians (Old Calendarists), 10 categorized as antisemitic, and nine targeting Islamic sites.  This number represented a decrease from 524 incidents reported in 2019.

Grenada

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 113,000 (midyear 2021).  According to the latest government estimate (2011 estimate), 49.2 percent of the population identifies as Protestant (Pentecostal 17.2 percent; Seventh-day Adventist 13.2 percent; Anglican 8.5 percent; Baptist 3.2 percent; Church of God 2.4 percent; evangelical Protestant 1.9 percent; Methodist 1.6 percent; and other 1.2 percent).  Approximately 36 percent identifies as Roman Catholic; 1.2 percent as Jehovah’s Witnesses; 1.2 percent as Rastafarian; 5.5 percent as other; 5.7 percent as having no religious affiliation; and 1.3 percent as unspecified.  Smaller groups include Brethren, Baha’is, Hindus, Moravians, Muslims, Mennonites, Church of Jesus Christ, and the Salvation Army.  There is a small Jewish community.  All these groups have fewer than 1,000 members.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The CCG, an ecumenical Christian body that includes Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian members, continued to serve as a forum to promote mutual understanding, unity, and tolerance among religious organizations despite restrictions on all gatherings, including religious services, during the COVID-19 pandemic that were in place from September through October.  These organizations continued to encourage discussions with different faith-based Christian and non-Christian organizations.  The CCG and the Alliance of Evangelical Churches met with religious organizations and government representatives to agree on COVID-19-related restrictions involving religious groups during the outbreak of COVID-19 cases in August.

In September, the Alliance of Evangelical Churches held a National Day of Prayer under the theme “Heal our Land” that was broadcast live on all social media platforms.

Guatemala

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 17.4 million (midyear 2021).  According to a 2016 survey by ProDatos, approximately 45 percent of the population is Catholic and 42 percent Protestant.  Approximately 11 percent of the population professes no religious affiliation.  Groups together constituting approximately 2 percent of the population include Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, adherents of Mayan and Xinca spiritual practices, and followers of Afro-Indigenous Garifuna cosmovision.

Non-Catholic Christian groups include the Full Gospel Church, Assemblies of God, Central American Church, Prince of Peace Church, independent evangelical Protestant groups, Baptists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), Episcopalians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Russian Orthodox, and Seventh-day Adventists.

Catholics and Protestants are present throughout the country, with adherents among all major ethnic groups.  According to leaders of Mayan spiritual organizations, as well as Catholic and Protestant clergy, many indigenous Catholics and some indigenous Protestants practice some form of syncretism with indigenous spiritual rituals, mainly in the eastern city of Livingston and in the southern region of the country.  In the Western Highlands, this syncretism is also prevalent, although there are Mayans whose belief systems are mainly based on Mayan spirituality.

According to Buddhist community representatives, there are between 8,000 and 11,000 Buddhists, composed principally of individuals from the Chinese immigrant community.  Muslim leaders state there are approximately 2,000 Muslims of mostly Palestinian origin, who reside primarily in Guatemala City.  According to local Ahmadi Muslims, there is a small Ahmadiyya Muslim community of approximately 70 members.  According to Jewish community leadership, approximately 1,000 Jews live in the country.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to reports from nongovernmental organizations, on January 4, unidentified assailants brutally killed Mayan spiritual guide Jesus Choc Yat in Quiche, located northwest of Guatemala City – shackling him to a pickup truck for hours and then dousing him with gasoline and setting him ablaze.  Choc Yat had arrived in Quiche to perform Mayan rituals in the community.  Sources close to Mayan spiritual leaders reported that community leaders in Quiche and Choc Yat’s family were afraid to denounce the killing and make it more public because sentiments against Mayan spiritual practice were prevalent in the area.  Reportedly, some of the killers may have been associated with a local evangelical Protestant group.  The same sources stated the killing and lack of arrests or prosecution demonstrated that the 2020 case of Domingo Choc had not raised more awareness, tolerance, or protection of Mayan spiritual practitioners.

Mayan spiritual leaders reported continued societal discrimination.  According to an anthropologist, evangelical Protestant missionaries in Chichicastenango, located northwest of Guatemala City, distributed fliers asking for donations to build new churches to fight against “satanic” practices, referring to Mayan spiritual practices.  A Catholic parish priest in Izabal reported that this kind of practice was widespread; he mentioned similar efforts by small unorganized evangelical Protestant churches denouncing Mayan spiritual practices in their local publications and announcements online.

Some Catholic clergy continued to report receiving electronic threats and harassment targeting them because of their association with environmental protection and human rights work.  For example, the director of the Office of Human Rights of the Catholic Church reported that during the year, his office received anonymous social media threats.  Some Catholic clergy reported they continued to receive anonymous threats, mostly on social media, because of the Church’s support of transitional justice cases stemming from civil war-era military abuses of indigenous populations.

According to law enforcement professionals working in the penal system, gang members often converted to evangelical Protestant religious groups in prison as an alternative to gangs and as an option to safely leave gangs; unless a gang leader converted before leaving a gang, the gang would likely kill him or her.  Community evangelical leaders who visited prisons to provide aid or incarcerated religious community leaders who guided spiritual practices in prison conducted the conversions.

According to Mayan spiritual groups, some landowners continued to deny them access to locations on their private property that Mayans considered sacred to them, including caves, lagoons, mountains, and forests.  According to one Mayan source, there was no recourse available through the government for Mayans to obtain access to these private lands.

According to Religions for Peace, whose membership comprises representatives from the Catholic Church, the Evangelical Alliance, individual evangelical Protestant churches, the Muslim and Jewish faiths, and Mayan spirituality groups, it continued to seek to resolve misunderstandings among religious groups and to promote a culture of respect.  Some political organizations, including the Municipal Indigenous Council in Solola, rotated leadership between Catholic and Protestant representatives.  Guardians of the Dignity of the State, an interfaith group with members from the Tibetan Buddhist, Protestant, and secular communities, continued to promote social activism and change, including working with Mayan spiritual leaders.

According to representatives from the Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ, evangelical Christianity was growing, and while there was no central leadership, the Evangelical Alliance comprised approximately 67 percent of the country’s evangelical Protestant congregations.  According to alliance leadership, the alliance was unable to meet more than one or two times during the year because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Guinea

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 12.9 million (midyear 2021).  According to the SRA, approximately 85 percent of the population is Muslim, 8 percent is Christian, and 7 percent adheres to indigenous religious beliefs.  Much of the Muslim and Christian populations incorporate indigenous rituals into their religious practices.  Muslims are generally Maliki Sunni; Sufism is also present.  Christian groups include Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and several evangelical groups.  There is also a small Baha’i community, in addition to small numbers of Hindus, Buddhists, and adherents of traditional Chinese religious beliefs among foreign residents.

Muslims constitute a majority in all four regions of the country.  Christians are concentrated in large cities, including Conakry, in the south, and in the eastern Forest Region.  Adherents of indigenous religious beliefs are most prevalent in the Forest Region.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to media and Catholic Church sources, a series of long-running property disputes between the Catholic Saint-Jean Monastery in Kendoumaya, Lower Guinea, and local Muslim Susu villagers continued during the year.  Villagers continued to claim parcels of land near the monastery, which they began selling to third parties in 2020.  In addition, according to media sources, villagers said they believed that the Church had not honored its commitments from earlier negotiations to pave the main road from Coyah to Kendoumaya, provide electricity to the village, and build a local school.  The Church stated that it made no such commitments.

On September 22, local Muslim Susu residents attacked Saint-Jean Monastery, seeking to occupy more of the disputed land.  After a monk fired warning shots from a shotgun to disperse the crowd, villagers assaulted and dragged him to the home of a local neighborhood elder, then returned him to the monastery.  Security forces later arrived to disperse the crowd.  No charges were filed and there were no arrests.  The monk suffered only minor injuries.  By year’s end, several lawsuits over the land dispute continued in the courts.  On June 15, the Coyah Court of First Instance ruled in favor of the Catholic Church regarding one of the disputed parcels of land.  The court also awarded 150 million francs ($16,200) to the Church as compensation for damages suffered due to local citizens’ occupying and dividing some of the property since the dispute began in 2016.  On October 22, the Church held a press conference at which it publicly requested the transitional government uphold and implement the June 15 court ruling, but the transition government took no action on the issue by year’s end.  A 2020 appeal by the Church against a separate lower court ruling in favor of the villagers was pending with the Supreme Court at year’s end.

In parts of the country, including the middle and upper regions, particularly strong familial, communal, cultural, social, or economic pressure continued to discourage conversion from Islam, according to observers.

Guinea-Bissau

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 2.0 million (midyear 2021).  Estimates of the religious composition of the population vary widely, but according to the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project (2020), approximately 46 percent are Muslim, 31 percent follow indigenous religious practices, and 19 percent are Christian.  Groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and those unaffiliated with any religious group.

The Fula (Peuhl or Fulani) and Mandinka (Malinke) ethnic groups are the most numerous followers of Islam.  Muslims generally live in the north and northeast, and most Muslims are Sunni; Shia communities exist as well.  Adherents of indigenous religious beliefs generally live in all but the northern parts of the country.  The Christian population, including Roman Catholics and Protestants, is primarily drawn from the Pepel, Manjaco, and Balanta ethnic groups and is concentrated in Bissau and along the coast.  Catholics represent more than half of the Christian population, while Brazilian Protestant and other Protestant denominations maintain a significant number of congregations and missions throughout the country.  Large numbers of Muslims and Christians hold indigenous beliefs as well.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The NGO Human Rights League Guinea-Bissau (HRL) highlighted 50 reported instances of persons being accused of witchcraft since 2019.  Of those, 20 resulted in deaths, with six killings reported in 2021, according to HRL.  An HRL representative said that the trend during the past three years represented a substantial increase in cases and that there was a significant overlap between witchcraft and indigenous religious beliefs.  HRL conducted research to determine why persons were being accused of witchcraft, and it promoted a campaign with religious leaders and village chiefs focused on training and capacity building.  HRL also indicated that it was trying to raise awareness within the government, which had not introduced legislation related to witchcraft.

HRL indicated that its three main objectives included training qualified individuals who can train others to resist various forms of religious radicalization, gathering information to identify signs of religious extremism, and promoting a large conference in Bissau on the issue.  HRL further indicated that its local office was partnering on these initiatives with Chatham House in England and the Timbuktu Institute (African Center for Peace Studies) in Senegal.

Other religious leaders said that different ethnic and religious groups were still mostly respectful and tolerant of one another throughout the country.  Some religious leaders, however, expressed concern regarding the spread of religious extremism.  They identified education as the key mitigating factor to combat the spread of religious extremism, which they believed was a particular risk when young students traveled abroad and were exposed to what they said was a more radical practice of Islam.  One leader stated that children must be taught at a young age to build a strong base of traditional beliefs before being tempted to go abroad, where their beliefs may be easily manipulated.  This leader also emphasized the need to educate youth in modern schools, with a focus on teaching values that promote social and religious peace.  Another individual assessed that Islamic schools offered only Arabic and Quranic studies, many of them connected to newly constructed mosques, and left students isolated from the rest of society.  In response, he noted that his organization built a network of 12 conventional schools offering a government-approved curriculum.

One Muslim leader noted instances which, he said, highlighted religious tolerance, including examples of Muslim families who sent their sons to live with Christian families, in some cases for multiple years.  In these instances, the Muslim sons continued to practice Islam while learning about a different culture and religion.  The Muslim leader also said there were examples of children who attended conventional schools of different faiths while continuing to practice their own religion.  The interim Bishop of Bissau indicated that Catholic schools accepted all students who met the basic criterion of having moral values.  He said the Catholic Church wanted to provide an opportunity for all children to gain an education and to respect the values of different faiths.

Guyana

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 788,000 (midyear 2021).  According to the 2012 national census, the most recent, 64 percent of the population is Christian, 25 percent Hindu, and 7 percent Muslim (mainly Sunni).  Less than 1 percent belongs to other religious groups, which include Rastafarians, Baha’is, Afro-descendent Faithists, and Areruya, an indigenous faith system.  An estimated 3 percent of the population does not profess a religious affiliation.  Among Christians, Pentecostals comprise 23 percent of the population; Roman Catholics, 7 percent; Anglicans, 5 percent; Seventh-day Adventists, 5 percent; Methodists, 1 percent; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, less than 1 percent, and other Christians, 21 percent, which includes those belonging to the Assembly of God Church, Church of Christ, and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, among others.

The membership of most religious groups includes a cross section of ethnic groups, although nearly all Hindus are of South Asian descent, and most Rastafarians are of African descent.  Most Muslims are of South Asian descent, but there is also a significant Afro-Muslim population.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The IROG, whose membership includes approximately 40 religious bodies and organizations, continued its stated purposed of promoting social cohesion and respecting religious diversity through its programs and initiatives.  IROG hosted a series of events during UN World Interfaith Harmony Week in February, including a panel discussion at the University of Guyana and an interfaith program of prayers and reflection.  In March, IROG launched the Women of Faith Network to promote the participation of women from different faith traditions in peace building.  In August, during a roundtable discussion, IROG participants, including representatives of Baha’i, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and Rastafarian groups, stated their religious groups did not discriminate against members of the LGBTQI+ community but did not condone the open practice of their lifestyle.

Because religion, ethnicity, and politics are often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize issues as being solely based on religious identity.  According to religious leaders, there was a high degree of religious tolerance, but politics inflamed ethnic tensions, especially around national elections.  They said faith could be a vehicle for healing ethnic tensions, but they were wary of proceeding too deeply into the political sphere, explaining it could lead to claims of bias and therefore diminish their stature and ability to impartially carry out their work.

Haiti

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 11.2 million (midyear 2021).  According to the government’s 2017 Survey on Mortality, Morbidity, and Use of Services, the most recent study available, Christians who self-identified as either Protestant, Episcopalian, Methodist, Seventh-day Adventist, or Jehovah’s Witness together comprise 52 percent of the population, Catholics 35 percent, Vodouists 2 percent, and 11 percent do not state a religious preference.  An estimated 60 percent of Protestants in the country belong to the Protestant Federation.  These include Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, the Salvation Army, Seventh-day Adventists, and some Baptists.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states it has 24,000 adherents, mostly in Port-au-Prince.  The president of the National Council for Haitian Muslims states there are approximately 6,000 adherents across three branches of Islam – Sunni, Shia, and Ahmadiyya; only members of the Sunni and Shia communities belong to the council.  The Jewish community has approximately 20 individuals.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Religious leaders said that rising general insecurity was the issue with the most impact on religious freedom and that armed criminal gangs consistently targeted religious leaders and congregants during the year.  Media reported gangs targeted and killed several religious leaders during the year.  Gang members killed Catholic priest Andre Sylvestre on September 8, after he completed a transaction at a bank in Cap Haitian.  400 Mawozo gang members killed prominent sculptor and houngan (male Vodou priest) Anderson Belony on October 12 during an attack on the artisanal village of Noailles in Croix-des-Bouquets.  The gang also vandalized artists’ studios, as well as Vodou shrines and sacred works.  On September 26, unknown gunmen killed Baptist deacon Sylner Lafaille while he was entering his church in Morne A Tuff for Sunday morning services.  They kidnapped his wife Marie Marthe Laurent Lafaille during the incident and subsequently released her on October 1, after receiving a ransom for an undisclosed amount.  On November 11, unknown bandits in Croix-des-Bouquets believed to be 400 Mawozo gang members attempted to kill Baptist Pastor Stanis Stifinson in an attack that killed his young daughter.  Pastor Stifinson and his young son escaped the attack and survived bullet wounds.

Religious leaders stated that the rising level of violence against them and their communities was a new phenomenon, resulting in numerous victims and significant challenges for the continuation of religious services.  Religious leaders said religious communities were targeted not because of their religion, but rather because gangs believed religious organizations had access to money.  Despite saying that they lived in constant fear, religious leaders stated that the cause was general insecurity, not any particular animosity towards them as religious leaders.  One Vodou leader stated that Vodouists were less likely to be kidnapped due to the perception that Vodouists were poor, while many believed Protestant churches had rich foreign donors.

Media also reported kidnappings for ransom of numerous religious leaders and their congregants during the year.  By year’s end, police had not opened cases or made arrests in any of the crimes.  According to media reports, on each occasion, gangs demanded ransoms in the order of millions of dollars and sometimes received payments for undisclosed amounts.  On January 8, unknown gunmen kidnapped Sister Dachoune Severe, a nun from the Catholic congregation the Little Sisters of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, in front of her convent in Carrefour and held her until January 10.  Media reports did not mention whether a ransom was paid.  On April 1, unknown gang members kidnapped Seventh-day Adventist clergyman Audalus Estime and three congregants while they were performing music streamed live on Facebook, YouTube, and local radio from a stage in the Gilead Adventist Church in Diquini 63.  They were held until April 5, when unknown individuals paid a ransom for an undisclosed amount.  On April 11, 400 Mawozo gang members kidnapped 10 Catholic clergy, including a French priest and nun, in Croix-des-Bouquets.  Gang members released three of the hostages on April 23 and the others on April 30.  Media reports did not mention whether ransoms were paid.  The Catholic Church postponed numerous church services during the week following the kidnapping (April 11-20) and, after 10 days without progress on the release of the clergy, the Church expanded its protest to a three-day cessation of all activities in all Catholic institutions (April 21-23).  The three-day cessation of activity included the full closure of churches, schools, universities, nonprofit organizations, and Catholic-owned businesses; essential workers at Catholic hospitals and clinics were exempt from the stoppage.  On October 3, 400 Mawozo gang members kidnapped a Haitian-American pastor and two congregants of the Jesus Center Protestant church in Delmas 29 and held them until October 26, when unknown individuals paid a ransom for an unconfirmed amount.  On October 9, unknown gang members kidnapped Pastor Eliodor Devariste of the Free Methodist Church of Parc Chretien in Delmas 28 and held him until October 11, when unknown individuals paid a ransom on his behalf.  The Protestant community led protests as five more persons, some confirmed to be Protestant congregants from local churches, were kidnapped the same week from the same Delmas neighborhood.  It was unclear how long these individuals were held or if ransoms were paid on their behalf.

On October 16, 400 Mawozo gang members kidnapped 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian (including five children) from the Amish Mennonite missionary group Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) in Croix-des-Bouquets.  The gang released two missionaries on November 21 for medical reasons and another three missionaries on December 5 after, according to the Haitian National Police, individuals unaffiliated with CAM paid a ransom.  The remaining 12 missionaries escaped on December 16; conflicting reports later emerged in the media as to whether individuals unaffiliated to CAM had also paid ransoms on behalf of these victims prior to their escape.

Vodou leaders cited historical injustices and stated that there was still stigmatization against their religion.  They said that some individuals in the Protestant community constituted a considerable concern to them and possibly a threat to their religious freedom.  One Vodou leader said, “Some Protestant pastors preach that Vodou is an evil superstition, and they could ask their followers to attack us if we decide to organize marches.  Our students who attend Protestant schools are forced to deny their identity.”  Another Vodou leader said, “In the past, stigmatization was mostly from the Catholics, who led campaigns against us, but now it mostly comes from Protestant pastors.”

In October, National Council for Haitian Muslims President Landy Mathurin stated, “All Haitians are at risk of violence, not Muslims in particular.”  He continued to say that Muslims did not face any stigmatization and were generally well respected in the country, with Muslim women feeling comfortable wearing the hijab in public.  He said that many young persons tolerated and respected Islam because of some famous Haitian singers and musicians who converted to the faith.

Religions for Peace (RFP), an interfaith organization that included leaders from the Catholic, evangelical Protestant, Episcopalian, and Vodouist communities on its coordinating committee, led many efforts to pursue collaborative religious advocacy.  Throughout the year, RFP issued several open letters calling for peace, solidarity, and respect for human dignity, notably in response to rising violence and kidnappings, the July 7 assassination of President Moise, and an earthquake on August 14.  RFP also acted from September 2019 until April 2021 as the chief facilitator of a peace dialogue that aimed to broker a solution to the Moise-era political and insecurity crisis.  RFP stated in October that it was exploring how a representative from the Muslim community could join the organization as a full council member.  Although formal talks with the Muslim community had not begun by year’s end, Imam Abou Jahman of the Allahou Akbar Spiritual Center in Carrefour-Feuilles often cosigned RFP’s open letters.  Unaffiliated with RFP, Pastor Jean Bilda, President of the Council of Evangelical Churches of Haiti, said his group enjoyed and promoted “harmonious” cooperation with the government, leaders of other religions, and other Protestants.

Honduras

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 9.3 million (midyear 2021).  According to a CID Gallup poll released in 2020, 48 percent of the population identifies as evangelical Protestant and 34 percent as Roman Catholic.  Other religious groups, each representing less than 5 percent of the population, include The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), Episcopalians, Lutherans, the Antiochian Orthodox Apostolic Catholic Church, Muslims, Jews, Baha’is, the Moravian Church, and several Anabaptist and Mennonite groups.  Evangelical Protestant churches include the Church of God, Assemblies of God, Abundant Life Church, Living Love Church, International Christian Center, and various Great Commission churches.  Several evangelical Protestant churches have no denominational affiliation.  The Moravian Church has a broad presence in the La Mosquitia Region in the eastern part of the country.  Some indigenous and Afro-descendent groups practice African and Amerindian faiths or incorporate elements of Christianity, African, and Amerindian religions into syncretistic religious practices and beliefs.

According to a representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Association, there are 79,518 members.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses community states it has 23,016 members.  The Muslim community states it has 2,695 members, mostly Sunni; approximately 90 percent are converts.  The Antioquia Orthodox Apostolic Catholic community has approximately 5,000 members.  The Baha’i Faith community counts 1,031 members.  The Jewish community estimates it has 275 members.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Muslim community representatives said they continued to receive derogatory messages on social media from members of the evangelical Protestant community, such as “stop infesting our country with false doctrines.”

The FIH reported one of its member churches received negative messages on social media after a pastor died in September of COVID-19.  The messages stated the pastor’s death was a punishment from God because the pastor had made public statements discouraging individuals from getting vaccinated.

Seventh-day Adventists reported the continued refusal of certain private institutions, including places of employment and schools, to permit them to observe Saturday as their Sabbath.  They cited several factories in the department of Cortes and the Catholic University of Honduras in La Ceiba.

Hong Kong

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 7.3 million (midyear 2021).  According to SAR government statistics, there are more than one million followers of Taoism and approximately one million followers of Buddhism; 800,000 Protestants; 404,000 Catholics; 300,000 Muslims; 100,000 Hindus; and 12,000 Sikhs.  The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, which recognizes the Pope and maintains links to the Vatican, reported approximately 621,000 followers (404,000 local residents and 217,000 residents with other nationalities).  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported it has approximately 25,100 members.  According to the World Jewish Congress, there are approximately 2,500 Jews, primarily expatriates.  Small communities of Baha’is and Zoroastrians also reside in the SAR.  Confucianism is widespread, and in some cases, elements of Confucianism are practiced in conjunction with other belief systems.  The Falun Dafa Association estimates there are approximately 500 Falun Gong practitioners.

There are numerous Protestant denominations, including Baptist, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Lutheran, Methodist, Anglican, the Church of Christ in China, Seventh-day Adventist, and Pentecostal.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In June, an unknown group hung banners around each of the seven Catholic churches that were planning to hold a memorial Mass for the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.  The banners contained photographs of Cardinal Joseph Zen, an outspoken critic of the CCP, with the word “devil,” as well as slogans, including “A Cult Has Invaded the Faith” and “Incitement in the Name of Worship.”

Media reported that on May 17, Pope Francis named Reverend Stephen Chow Sau-Yan as the new Bishop of Hong Kong.  Chow, head of Hong Kong’s Jesuit order, replaced Cardinal John Tong, who had served as interim bishop since 2019.  According to one senior cleric, “The security law has made the job a lot more tricky and the pressure is intense.”  The Holy See and the PRC do not have formal diplomatic relations, but the 2018 Sino-Vatican agreement reportedly gives both Chinese authorities and the Holy See a role in the process of appointing bishops in mainland China.  According to Reuters, Vatican officials said the agreement did not apply to Hong Kong; however, some senior clergy stated the PRC was seeking to extend its control over the Diocese of Hong Kong.  The Vatican-affiliated outlet AsiaNews stated Chow was a “balanced” choice between prodemocracy and pro-Beijing camps.  On May 18, Chow told media, “Religious freedom is our basic right.  We want to really talk to the government not to forget that.  It is important to allow religious freedom, matters of faith – not just Catholic – but any religion should be free.”

Observers reported Christian churches in Hong Kong continued to provide underground churches in mainland China with spiritual and monetary support, including Bibles and Christian literature and visits from church members.  Some Hong Kong churches reported that they were able to conduct cross-border online services, while others, including the Catholic Church, reported PRC authorities prohibited individuals in mainland China from attending their online services.

Hungary

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 9.7 million (midyear 2021). According to the 2011 national census (the 2021 census was postponed because of COVID-19), which included an optional question on religious affiliation, of the 73 percent of the population that responded, 51 percent identified as Roman Catholic, 16 percent as Hungarian Reformed Church (Calvinist), 3 percent as Lutheran, 2 percent as Greek Catholic, and less than 1 percent as Jewish; 23 percent reported no religious affiliation; and 2 percent said they were atheists.  Other religious groups together constituting less than 5 percent of the population include Greek Orthodox, the Faith Congregation (a Pentecostal group), the COS, Russian and other Orthodox Christian groups, other Christian denominations, Buddhists, Muslims, and the Hungarian Society for Krishna Consciousness.  The Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship (MET or the Hungarian Evangelical Brotherhood) has approximately 8,500 members, according to a 2013 news report, and the Hungarian Pentecostal Church approximately 9,300 members, according to the 2011 census.  Local Jewish organizations estimate approximately 100,000 citizens with Jewish heritage live in the country, primarily in Budapest.  Other religious groups are distributed throughout the country.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In January, the independent online news outlet 444.hu published a documentary about the crimes committed by a group of Hungarian Arrow Cross Party members against Jewish inhabitants of Budapest’s twelfth district during World War II, and about the controversial turul statue erected in the district in 2005.  While the statue officially commemorates civilian victims of the Allied bombing and the Soviet siege of Budapest in 1944-45, experts have stated that the turul bird (a large, mythical bird of prey) was a well-known symbol of right-wing extremist groups during the interwar period and that the statue continued to serve as a gathering place for such groups.  Historians said in 2019 that the names carved into the statue contain at least 22 Arrow Cross gang members who massacred Jews in Budapest, including current Fidesz district mayor Zoltan Pokorni’s grandfather.  In a press conference on February 1, Pokorni, who in 2020 had ordered that his grandfather’s name be removed from the statue, rejected historians’ suggestion that the memorial be turned into one for fallen World War I soldiers.  He proposed that the statue remain but that it should include “a very detailed guide” to the turul symbol.

In September, the Brussels-Based NGO Action and Protection League issued the results of its European antisemitism survey based on data from December 2019-January 2020.  According to the survey, 25 percent of 1,000 respondents ages 18-25 in Hungary said they had negative feeling toward Jews.  Thirty-six percent said they would be “totally uncomfortable” or “uncomfortable” with having Jewish neighbors.  The survey cited stereotypical statements regarding Jews and asked respondents the degree to which they agreed or disagreed.  The proportion who responded “strongly agree” or “tend to agree” with the following statements were:  “the interests of Jews in this country are very different from the interests of the rest of the population” (34 percent); “there is a secret Jewish network that influences political and economic affairs in the world” (39 percent); “Jews have too much influence in this country” (28 percent); “Jews will never be able to fully integrate into this society” (30 percent); “Jews are more inclined than most to use shady practices to achieve their goals” (27 percent); “many of the atrocities of the Holocaust were often exaggerated by the Jews later” (16 percent); “Jews are also to blame for the persecutions against them” (31 percent); “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes” (39 percent).

The Foundation reported 30 antisemitic incidents in 2020, the most recent data available, compared with 35 in the previous year.  These were six cases of vandalism, one threat, one case of discrimination, and 22 cases of hate speech.

In July, Mazsihisz president Andras Heisler presented the results of a 2019-2020 survey prepared by Median independent public opinion pollster and commissioned by Mazsihisz.  Heisler stated that while the number of physical attacks and vandalism cases was low compared with Western Europe, hate speech, conspiracy theories, and antisemitism in public life increased between 2019 and 2020, and the Mi Hazank Party, widely described as extreme right, was among the most common perpetrators of antisemitic incidents and hate speech.  According to the survey, there were 70 antisemitic incidents in 2020, up from 53 in the previous year.  Citing 2019 data, head of the Median public opinion pollster Endre Hann said that 36 percent of Hungary’s adult population could be characterized by some degree of antisemitism, including antisemitic prejudice and attitudes toward Jews.

Muslim organizations stated they did not collect statistical data because, according to one member, they lacked the capacity to do so.  However, OMH reported that while physical assaults were rare, verbal insults and hateful emails and phone calls were frequent, in particular against persons wearing headscarves or who had darker skin and spoke a foreign language.  For instance, according to OMH, individuals often referred to Muslims as “terrorists” and told them to “get out of here.”

OMH also reported a higher number of online insults on social media during the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.  According to OMH, the majority of the population regarded Muslims with suspicion.

As in previous years, domestic and international extreme-right and neo-Nazi groups marked the anniversary of the breakout attempt by Hungarian and German troops on February 11, 1945, during the Soviet Red Army’s siege of Budapest.  Despite COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on public gatherings, approximately 100 persons took part in an organized reenactment hike along the route of the attempted siege-breakers in Budapest.  The Hungarian chapter of the international neo-Nazi group Blood and Honor organized the event.  Ahead of the event, one of its organizers published an opinion piece in the government-aligned media outlet Magyar Nemzet entitled “Glory to the Heroes.”  In the article, the author compared Hungarian and German soldiers who attempted the breakout to the great heroes of Hungarian history.

In June, a soccer fan affiliated with Kispest, a Budapest Honved football club, posted a photo on social media with a text that ended, “Heil Hitler.”  In September, independent media reported that Kispest Youth, also called Militant Jugend Kispest, painted swastikas and 88 (a common symbol for “Heil Hitler,” as H is the eighth letter of the alphabet) onto buildings in the Kispest district and wore red-white-black shirts with swastikas on photos that were posted on social media.

In July, TEV reported that swastikas were painted on a company’s building in Szeged and on the pavement in Szolnok.  Also in July, a private property in Leanyfalu displayed a picture of Hitler with the text “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer.”  Police initiated an investigation.  In 2020, an SS flag was hung from the facade of the same house.  Police first dismissed that case, but the prosecutor’s office reopened it as involving public use of a totalitarian symbol.  In June, a passerby told two Jewish teenagers in Budapest to “go to Auschwitz,” and in May, a guard at a drugstore in Budapest was fired for calling a customer a “filthy Jew.”

According to press reports, a team of international volunteers was working to restore the neglected Kozma Street Cemetery in Budapest, one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the world, with an area of 77 hectares (190 acres) and containing approximately 300,000 graves.  At midyear, the volunteers had reportedly cleaned up 20 percent of the cemetery.

In October, the Christian-Jewish Council, an informal platform for discussion among Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, and Baptist Churches and Jewish groups, held a conference on the role of families in religion, with the participation of members of Christian and Jewish groups.

During a visit to the country in September, Pope Francis met with representatives of Christian churches and Jewish communities and said that antisemitism is a “fuse which must not be allowed to burn.”

Iceland

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 354,000 (midyear 2021).  According to January figures from Statistics Iceland, members of the ELC make up 62.3 percent of the population; persons not belonging to any religious group, 7.6 percent; Roman Catholic Church, 4.0 percent; Free Lutheran Church in Reykjavik, 2.7 percent; Free Lutheran Church in Hafnarfjordur, 2.0 percent; Asatruarfelagid (Icelandic paganism), 1.4 percent; Icelandic Ethical Humanist (Sidmennt) 1.1 percent; and other Christian, non-Christian, and “life-stance” groups, 15.0 percent.  The Association of Muslims in Iceland estimates there are approximately 3,000 resident Muslims, primarily of immigrant origin.  The Jewish community reports there are approximately 300 resident Jews.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Jewish community leaders noted a slight increase in antisemitic rhetoric on social media during violence between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas in May.  One incident involving a verbal confrontation, in which a man yelled at a person wearing a Star of David, occurred in the same time period.

Muslim community leaders voiced concerns about the ability to access physician-performed circumcisions.  They said they had received reports of doctors being reluctant to perform circumcisions except for medical reasons.  The Icelandic Medical Association Code of Ethics states, “A physician is free to follow his conscience and conviction” and may refuse to perform a medical act “which he considers unreasonable or unnecessary.”

Religious groups reported generally good relations with the government and society at large.  Some religious leaders expressed frustration with increased secularism and low levels of religiosity in society.

A Gallup Iceland poll conducted in February and released on February 20 found 32 percent of the public expressed trust in the ELC, compared with 31 percent in 2020, 34 percent in 2019, 33 percent in 2018, 41 percent in 2009, and 61 percent in 1999.

The Forum for Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation, whose membership consists of registered religious and life-stance groups – including the ELC as well as other Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist groups – met virtually three times.  Public health concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic prevented in-person forum meetings for most of the year.  Although the interfaith forum allowed unregistered groups to apply to join it, none had done so by year’s end.

The Islamic Foundation of Iceland organized community information and integration programs for Muslim migrants with representatives from local government and legal offices on such issues as voting and women’s rights.  The foundation also provided translation assistance to asylum seekers.

India

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 1.3 billion (midyear 2021).  According to the 2011 national census, the most recent year for which disaggregated figures are available, Hindus constitute 79.8 percent of the population, Muslims 14.2 percent, Christians 2.3 percent, and Sikhs 1.7 percent.  Groups that together constitute fewer than 2 percent of the population include Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians (Parsis), Jews, and Baha’is.  In government statistics, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs officially identifies as Hindus more than 104 million members of Scheduled Tribes – indigenous groups historically outside the caste system who often practice indigenous religious beliefs – although an estimated 10 million of those listed as Scheduled Tribe members are Christians according to the 2011 census.

According to government estimates, there are large Muslim populations in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, and the Union Territories of Lakshadweep and Jammu and Kashmir.  In Lakshadweep and Jammu and Kashmir, Muslims account for 95 percent and 68.3 percent of the population, respectively.  Slightly more than 85 percent of Muslims are Sunni, with the remainder mostly Shia.  According to media reports during the year, there are an estimated 150,000 Ahmadi Muslims in the country.  According to government estimates, Christian populations are distributed throughout the country but in greater concentrations in the northeast as well as in the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Goa.  Three northeastern states have majority Christian populations:  Nagaland (90 percent), Mizoram (87 percent), and Meghalaya (70 percent).  Sikhs constitute 54 percent of the population of Punjab.  The Dalai Lama’s office states there are significant resettled Tibetan Buddhist communities in Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, and Uttarakhand States, and Delhi.  According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and media reports, there are approximately 100,000 Tibetan Buddhists in the country.  According to media reports, approximately 40,000 Muslim Rohingya refugees from Burma live in the country.  UNHCR estimated it received 1,800 requests for refugee registration since August 2021 and projects it will receive 3,500-5,000 refugee registration requests by the end of 2022.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

On May 17, a Hindu group in the Mewat region of Haryana stopped the car in which Muslim Asif Khan was riding, verbally abused Khan and the other passengers, yelled “kill Muslims,” forced Khan to chant Hindu prayers and killed him when he tried to escape, according to media reporting.  Police opened an investigation but made no arrests by the year’s end.

On June 20, media reported that a Hindu mob killed four Muslim men in the Khowai District of Tripura on suspicion of being cattle thieves.  According to media, the men were killed when they were intercepted at Maharanijur transporting five cows in a truck.  Police arrested three persons in connection with the killing and two others for spreading communal hatred on social media.  There were no further developments in this case reported by year’s end.

On June 21, Muslim Aijaz Dar was beaten to death in Rajouri District of Jammu and Kashmir.  He was returning home after buying a buffalo when suspected cow vigilantes attacked him with stones and sticks, according to media reports.  Police arrested five suspects, but there were no further developments reported by year’s end.

According to media reports, on September 28, Muslim Arbaaz Aftab Mullah was decapitated in Khanapur village in the Belgavi District of Karnataka due to his relationship with a Hindu woman.  Police arrested 10 individuals, including members of the Hindu organization Sri Rama Sene, described as radical, the woman’s parents, and the man hired to kill Mullah.  There were no further developments by year’s end.

On April 3, police in Mangaluru, Karnataka arrested four Hindu activists and members of the Hindu nationalist group Bajrang Dal who were accused of stabbing to death a Muslim man traveling with a Hindu woman.  The woman who filed the police complaint against the assailants stated the victim was her friend for many years and was accompanying her on a bus to a job interview when he was killed.  She said the assailants stopped the bus, then attacked her and the other victim.  After police made the arrests, local Bajrang Dal members reportedly defended the attack claiming that they wanted to save the woman from “falling prey to love jihad.”  One local Bajrang Dal leader told media, “Our responsibility is to rescue girls from our community.”

According to EFI, a group of Hindus killed Pastor Alok Rajhans in the Balangir District of Odisha on May 20.  Police opened a case and arrested two suspects, but they were released shortly thereafter, according to Irish NGO Church in Chains.

On May 20, according to ICC, a group of Hindu nationalists attacked the family of Pastor Ramesh Bumbariya at his home in the Bansawra District in Rajasthan, killing the pastor’s father and beating the pastor and other family members when they refused to renounce their Christian faith.  The police arrested seven persons for the killing and the investigation continued at year’s end, according to Church in Chains.

Terrorist groups Lashkar-e-Taiyaaba and Hizbul Mujahideen killed several civilians and migrant laborers belonging to the minority Hindu and Sikh communities in the Muslim-majority Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir during the year.  In October, 11 civilians including two schoolteachers – Supinder Kour and Deepak Chand – were killed in targeted attacks.  Kour, a Sikh, and Chand, a Hindu, were killed on October 7 after terrorists forcefully entered their school in Srinagar and identified them as belonging to minority communities.  On October 5, local businessman Makhan Lal Bindroo, a member of the Hindu Pandit caste, was fatally shot at his pharmaceutical shop.  According to media reports, the killings caused widespread fear among Hindus and Sikhs in the Kashmir valley, leading hundreds to depart Jammu and Kashmir.

On October 15, Sikh farm laborer Lakhbir Singh was killed, and his mutilated body tied to a barricade.  In several videos released on social media, Nihang Sikhs claimed responsibility for the killing, saying Singh insulted the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book.  Police arrested four members of the Nihang Sikh community and charged them with murder.

On December 19, an unidentified man was reportedly beaten to death by a group of Sikhs at a gurudwara (temple) in Kapurthala, Punjab, on suspicion that he had insulted the Nishan Sahib, the Sikh flag.  Police and Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi stated that there was no evidence that the victim had committed sacrilege.  Police arrested gurudwara caretaker Amarjit Singh on charges of murder.

On September 23, two Muslim men in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, were beaten for carrying meat in their vehicle.  According to media reports, members of a cow-vigilante group attacked the two and posted video of the assault on social media.  The attackers claimed the Muslim men were carrying beef in violation of the state’s anti-cow slaughter law and the state government’s order banning the sale and transport of any meat in Mathura.  Police arrested the victims under the anti-cow slaughter law and violation of the meat ban order.  None of the attackers were arrested.  A Mathura council member said the two lacked the permit and refrigerator required to transport perishable goods such as meat.  He also said the two men had been jailed.  There was no further information available on the case by year’s end.

In September, the BBC reported views from freelance journalists and political opposition members that the number of attacks against the country’s Muslim community had increased in recent years as well as their views that the government often declined to condemn such attacks.

According to UCF, the number of violent attacks against Christians in the country rose to 486 during the year, from 279 in 2020.  According to UCF, most of the incidents were reported in states ruled by the BJP and included attacks on pastors, disruptions of Christmas celebrations, and vandalism.  A joint report entitled Christians under Attack in India, drafted by NGOs United Against Hate, the Association for Protection of Civil Rights, and the UCF, noted that more than 500 incidents of violence against Christians were reported to the UCF hotline during the year.  The report stated that 333 of 486 incidents were recorded in Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka States.  The report stated that only 34 FIRs were filed against the perpetrators through the year.  At the end of the year, 19 cases were pending against Christians in nine states under the conversion restriction laws, although no Christian had been convicted in the country for illegal religious conversion during the year, according to the report.

In a December New York Times article, Hindu nationalist Dilip Chouhan, who was recorded on video breaking into a church in Madhya Pradesh with a gun strapped to his back, said that senior police officials told him authorities would not pursue charges against him.  Instead, several local pastors were arrested on charges of illegal conversions.  Chouhan said his organization has more than 5000 members.  BJP youth leader Gaurave Tiwari said opposing forced conversion was an important issue for the party.  In Chhattisgarh State, BJP youth conducted several anti-Christian marches.  In September, a group of young BJP workers from the same chapter entered a Chhattisgarh police station, hurled shoes at two pastors and beat them up, reportedly in front of police officers.  Rahul Rao, an office holder in the BJP youth cell, was charged with assault by police and released on bail.  The article also quoted a leaked letter from a top police official in Chhattisgarh ordering police to “keep a constant vigil on the activities of Christian missionaries.”  Media reported the Chhattisgarh government transferred the senior police official from the station hours after the incident.  The investigation continued at the end of the year.

On September 18, media reported police arrested Christian pastor Ravi Gupta from Bihar’s Supaul District was arrested for converting 30 Hindu families to Christianity in his native village.  Members of Vishna Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu nationalist organization affiliated with the RSS, detained Gupta and handed him over to police.  There were no further developments on this case reported by year’s end.

On September 21, according to media reports, a village council in Mangapat Sirsai in the West Singhbhum District of Jharkhand ostracized three tribal families who converted to Christianity.  In the presence of local police officials, the council reportedly asked the families to convert back to the local tribal Sarna religion and subsequently barred them from free movement inside the village when they refused to do so.  According to the district president, the council took the action to counter the influence of Christian missionaries, whom he said had been quite active in the area, luring tribe members with land and money to convert them.

On June 30, approximately 20 members of the Hindu organization Bajrang Dal allegedly attacked Pastor Hemant Meher in the Jajpur District of Odisha, according to a July 10 report from ICC.  The report said the group filmed the incident and beat the pastor before handing him over to the police and saying he had been forcibly converting people to Christianity.  According to ICC, police released Meher without charge, urging him to file a complaint against his assailants.  ICC said Bajarang Dal members attacked Meher again on July 1, forcing him to flee the area.

In April, media reported that a Muslim man posed as a Hindu to marry a Hindu woman in the Fatehabad District of Haryana.  The man allegedly revealed his religious identity seven years into the marriage and attempted to forcibly convert her to Islam.  When his wife refused, he forced her and their child out of their home.  She pressed the local police to take action.  Initially they took no action, but later, according to media reports, police opened an investigation and promised to take action against the police personnel who refused to register her original complaint.  There was no further action reported on this case by year’s end.

The Union of Catholic Asian News service and major international media reported that on January 26, approximately 100 Hindu activists attacked a prayer service at the Satprakashan Sanchar Kendra, a Catholic media center in Indore in Madhya Pradesh, accusing the center of conducting religious conversions.  The pastor told media the assailants beat worshippers and yelled at them.  He said when police arrived, they only jailed the pastors and other church elders for violating Madhya Pradesh’s new law outlawing conversions.  The pastor said he and eight other church leaders were jailed for two months before being released, and still faced charges.  According to national media, police pressed trespassing charges against 15 persons and opened investigations into the incident.  Their cases were pending in court at year’s end.

On January 5, according to media sources, members of the Hindu nationalist group Bajrang Dal disrupted a Christian prayer meeting in Uttar Pradesh.  The pastor told media the group beat them and forced them to chant Hindu prayers, threatening to kill them if they did not.  The Hindus turned the pastor and four others over to police, who charged them with forced conversion, based on the comments of one of the Hindus.  Police also seized copies of the Bible and musical equipment, according to media reports.  On January 6, the pastor and eight others filed a police report.  There were no further developments reported on the case during the year.

On January 6, a Christian group in Uttar Pradesh filed a complaint against members of VHP for disrupting a prayer meeting.  The Christians said 20 VHP members, including one police officer, entered their meeting uninvited, beat some worshippers, and damaged the facility.  Police charged five of the Christians with illegal conversion, according to media reports, but there were no further developments on this case reported by year’s end.

Media reported that on August 29 a group of more than 100 individuals targeted a Christian pastor for alleged religious conversion in Polmi village in Kabirdham District of Chhattisgarh.  The reports stated that the group physically abused the pastor and vandalized his residence during a prayer service.  Police opened an investigation into the incident.

On October 3, according to Catholic news agency Agenzia Fides, there were 13 instances of violence and threats committed by Hindus against Christian communities in Uttarakhand, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh states, and in New Delhi.  Drawing on reporting from EFI, Agenzia Fides said these incidents included disrupting worship services and prayer meetings and beating worshippers; police arresting pastors for forced conversion, based on complaints filed by Hindus; and Hindu groups vandalizing Christian places of worship.

In October, Giani Harpreet Singh, leader of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, a Sikh religious organization, and head priest of the Sikh community, said that Christian missionaries were “running a campaign for forced conversions in border areas of Punjab.”

NGO Sabrang reported that in Uttarakhand on October 3, 200 local members of Hindu organizations Bajarang Dal, VHP, and the youth wing of the BJP disrupted a worship service in Roorkee, shouting Hindu slogans, beating worshippers, and ransacking their meeting room.  According to media, police charged the assailants with rioting, vandalism, trespassing, and deliberately injuring others.

In September, Vellappally Natesan, a prominent Hindu Ezhava leader and patron of the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena political organization in Kerala, stated it was not the Muslim community but Christians who were at the forefront of conversions and “love jihad” in the country.

According to media, Hindu nationalist groups disrupted nine Christmas prayer meetings, six in Uttar Pradesh, two in Haryana, and one in Assam, vandalizing church property in some of the incidents.  In Agra, Uttar Pradesh, the regional general secretary of Bajrang Dal told the media that Christian missionaries used the season to “allure children by making Santa Claus distribute gifts to them and attract them towards Christianity.”

The investigation continued into the September 2020 killing of Hindu woman Priya Soni.  Soni was beheaded reportedly for refusing to convert to Islam after marrying Muslim Ajaz Ahmed in a civil ceremony, in Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh.  Police arrested Ahmed and Shoaib Akhtar, also a Muslim, for the crime and they remained in custody at year’s end.

In June, the Sikh minority community in Jammu and Kashmir protested over allegations of the forced conversion of two Sikh women, who subsequently married Muslim men.  A Sikh delegation met national Home Minister Amit Shah and requested passage of a conversion restriction law “similar to the one in Uttar Pradesh” in Jammu and Kashmir.

On August 6, according to The Christian Post, a Sikh family in Punjab attacked a Christian woman, her sister, and mother for their beliefs.  The report said that the attackers choked one victim unconscious.  Police opened an investigation, but there were no further developments by the end of the year.

On October 6, Sikh leaders in Punjab started a campaign in rural areas to counter the potential conversion of lower income Sikhs to Christianity.  The head priest of the Punjab Sikh community said, “Christian missionaries have been running a campaign in the border belt for forced conversions over the past few years.  Innocent people are being cheated or lured to convert.  We have received many such reports.”  He also called forced conversions [to Christianity] “a dangerous attack on the Sikh religion.”

In its Freedom in the World 2021 report, Freedom House downgraded the country from free to partly free due to “rising violence and discriminatory policies affecting the Muslim population” and crackdowns on dissent.

A Pew Research study “Religion in India:  Tolerance and Segregation,” released in July and based on interviews conducted in 2019 and 2020, found that 84 percent of those surveyed across different faiths said that “respecting all religions was very important to truly being Indian”; 80 percent said that “respecting other religions was very important to their religious identity”; and 91 percent said they were “very free to practice their own religion.”  These numbers ranged from highs of 93 percent of Buddhists and 91 percent of Hindus, and lows of 82 percent of Sikhs and 85 percent of Jains saying they are very free to practice their religion, with Christians and Muslims at 89 percent.  The survey also showed, however, that 83 percent of all respondents believed communal violence between religious groups was “a problem” for the country.  The study’s overview stated that Indians’ commitment to tolerance was accompanied by a strong preference for keeping religious communities segregated, which was true even for religious minority communities.  Large majorities of those surveyed said they did not have much in common with members of other religious groups, and large majorities in the six major religious groups said their close friends came mainly or entirely from their own religious community.  Nearly two-thirds of Hindus (64 percent) said it was very important to be Hindu to be truly Indian.  According to the report, Hindus who strongly link Hindu and Indian identities were more likely to also support religious segregation.

In its report covering the year, Christian NGO Open Doors said that overall violence against Christians and pressure against Christians “in all spheres of life” remained “very high.”  The NGO said the persecution of Christians had intensified as Hindu nationalists “aim to cleanse the country of their presence and influence.”  This led to the targeting of Christians and other religious minorities, including the use of social media to spread disinformation and stir up hatred.

On December 17-19, during a gathering in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, several Hindu leaders and activists called publicly for violence against religious minorities.  Yati Narasinghanand, characterized as a Hindu extremist, announced a reward of 10 million rupees ($135,000) for any Hindu leader who would lead a militant movement against Islam and Christianity.  Narasinghanand also called upon Hindus to “take up weapons” against Muslims and wage a war against “Islamic jihad” for the protection of Hindus.  Another Hindu religious leader, Sadhvi Annapurna, called for creation of a nation exclusively for Hindus and for raising an army against Muslims.  Uttarakhand police subsequently booked seven persons including Narasinghanand and Annapurna, on multiple charges under the criminal code, including promoting enmity between religious groups, deliberately intending to outrage religious feeling by insulting religious groups, and acting prejudicial to social harmony.  The spokesperson for the Uttarakhand government and director general of police condemned the statements and said that police would “take required action” against those responsible.  On December 26, a group of attorneys, including a former judge on the Patna High Court, wrote the Supreme Court urging action in the case, and stating that the speeches made at the event in Haridwar were not merely hate speeches but “an open call for the murder of an entire community” which not only posed “a grave threat to the unity of the country, but also endangered the lives of millions of Muslim citizens.”

According to media reports, on October 1, Hindu nationalists held a rally in the Surguja District of Chhattisgarh to protest a perceived spike in forced conversion of Hindus to Christianity in the area.  Media reported that World Hindu Congress leader Swami Parmatmanand attended the protest and called for those who engage in forced conversions to be beheaded.  Police took no action against him, according to the Chhattisgarh-based Christian community.

On August 8, a video was widely circulated on social media of a group shouting threats to kill Muslims and demanding that Muslims convert to Hinduism to remain in the country.  The incident took place during a demonstration near parliament in New Delhi in which the crowd was protesting colonial-era laws still in force, according to media reports.  MP Asaduddin Owaisi, a Muslim, stated in parliament that “genocidal slogans” were used against Muslims during the incident.  Media reported that several prominent Hindu activists took part.  Police officials told the media they were viewing video to identify suspects and had filed an FIR against “unknown persons” for shouting the threats.

On June 29, Hindu religious leader Mahamandaleshwar Yatindra Nath Giri in New Delhi stated that parliament should adopt a new constitution banning madrassahs, declaring religious conversion a crime, and punishing couples that have more than two children.

On October 15, Muslim cleric Abbas Siddiqui said persons who insulted the Quran should be “beheaded.”  Siddiqui’s comments were aired in a video shown by media.

Media and one NGO reported that on October 20, Hindu groups affiliated with the RSS, Hindu Jagran Manch, and the VHP attacked and vandalized at least six mosques and more than a dozen shops and houses belonging to Muslim communities across Tripura State, reportedly in retaliation for attacks on minority Hindus in Bangladesh during the Durga Puja festival there.  The NGO Centre for Study of Society and Secularism reported that attackers damaged 11 mosques, six shops, and two homes.  The NGO also said that the authorities took stronger action against the journalists and activists who were reporting the violations than on the rioters themselves.  The government rejected this claim and stated that action was taken against journalists for their “inflammatory social media posts” about the event.  Tripura police registered a case against Ranu Das, a leader from the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (the youth wing of the BJP) who allegedly threw stones at a mosque and burned Muslim properties, for provocation to cause riot, intent to hurt religious feelings, and causing public enmity.  The suspect fled and had not been arrested by year’s end.

According to media reports, on October 2, unidentified individuals vandalized a Hindu temple in the Anantnag District of Jammu and Kashmir.  Police opened an investigation into the incident.

EFI said that on January 20, members of the Bajrang Dal demolished the boundary wall of a church in the Mahabubabad District of Telangana, saying the church building was too close to a Hindu temple.

According to Pastor Upajukta Singh, in June Hindu villagers destroyed the homes of eight Christian families, expelling them from Ratagaya village.  The victims filed a police complaint.

In May, Hindu Jatav Dalit community villagers of the Muslim-majority Noorpur village in Aligarh District of Uttar Pradesh stated to media that Muslims were harassing them and discriminating against them.  The villagers also said Muslims stopped a marriage procession from passing in front of a mosque in the village.

Indonesia

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 275.1 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2010 census, 87.2 percent of the population is Muslim, 7 percent Protestant, 2.9 percent Roman Catholic, and 1.7 percent Hindu.  Those identifying with other religious groups, including Buddhism, traditional indigenous religions, Confucianism, Gafatar, other Christian denominations, and those who did not respond to the census question, comprise 1.3 percent of the population.

The Muslim population is overwhelmingly Sunni.  An estimated one to five million Muslims are Shia.  Many smaller Muslim groups exist; estimates put the total number of Ahmadi Muslims at 200,000 to 500,000.

Many religious groups incorporate elements of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, making it difficult to disaggregate the exact number of followers.  An estimated 20 million persons, primarily in Java, Kalimantan, and Papua, practice various traditional belief systems, often referred to collectively as aliran kepercayaan.  There are approximately 400 different aliran kepercayaan communities throughout the archipelago.

The Sikh population is estimated between 10,000 and 15,000, with approximately 5,000 in Medan and the rest in Jakarta.  There are very small Jewish communities in Jakarta, Manado, Jayapura, and elsewhere, with the total number of Jews estimated at 200.  The Baha’i Faith and Falun Dafa (or Falun Gong) communities report thousands of members, but independent estimates are not available.  The number of atheists is also unknown, but the group Indonesian Atheists states it has more than 1,700 members.

The province of Bali is predominantly Hindu, and the provinces of Papua, West Papua, East Nusa Tenggara, and North Sulawesi are predominantly Christian.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

On May 11, four Christian farmers in Poso Regency, Central Sulawesi, were killed by the East Indonesia Mujahedeen, designated by the Indonesian government as a terrorist group.  The same group was accused of killing four residents of Sigi Regency, Central Sulawesi, in November 2020.  According to the Voice of America, local police said the attackers were motivated by “terrorism and robbery.”  A spokesperson for President Widodo condemned the incident, promising that the terrorists responsible for the attack would be caught.  On September 18, security forces killed the group’s leader Ali Kalora in a firefight.  At year’s end, security forces continued operations seeking to apprehend the remaining members of the group.

On March 28, two suicide bombers, later identified as a married couple, attacked the Catholic Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar, South Sulawesi Province, killing both assailants and injuring 20 bystanders.  Police said the wounded included four guards and several churchgoers.  The attack occurred during a Palm Sunday Mass.  Police identified the two bombers as members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an organization designed by the Indonesian government as terrorist, that was previously responsible for the 2018 bombings of three churches in Surabaya, East Java.  In a televised address, President Widodo called for calm and said “the state guarantees the safety of religious people to worship without fear.”  Religious Affairs Minister Qoumas publicly called on police to improve security at houses of worship.  In May, press reported that police had arrested 53 individuals in connection with the bombing.

On May 28, police arrested 11 suspected JAD members in Merauke, Papua, for an alleged plot to kill Catholic Archbishop of Merauke Petrus Canisius Mandagi and planning attacks at several Christian churches in easternmost Papua Province.  Police told press that the suspected members were affiliated with those responsible for the March bombing in Makassar.

Shia and Ahmadi Muslims reported feeling under constant threat from “intolerant groups.”  Anti-Shia and anti-Ahmadi rhetoric was common in online media outlets and on social media.

Individuals affiliated at the local level with the MUI used rhetoric considered intolerant by religious minorities, including fatwas declaring Shia and Ahmadis as deviant sects.  The national MUI did not address or repudiate local MUI officials who called for such fatwas.  In August, the National MUI Conference released a recommendation that the MORA should always consult with MUI prior to making decisions related to Ahmadi, Shia, and Baha’i issues.  In March, the local MUI for Pandeglang Regency, Banten Province, declared the Hakekok Balatasutak, a local religious group, as deviant and stated that its members needed counseling to be brought back to the correct religious path.  Following the destruction of an Ahmadi mosque in Sintang Regency, West Kalimantan, in September, the local MUI signed an agreement with the local FKUB to “embrace” the local Ahmadi community to ensure they returned to the correct teachings of Islam.

On August 12, Muhammad Roin, chair of the Wast Java chapter of the Indonesian Islamic Propagation Council, stated that “Shi’ism” was not part of Islam and was a deviant sect.  He called on the local government and police in West Java to stop any Shia plans to commemorate Ashura.

According to the Setara Institute’s annual report on freedom of religion in the country, nonstate actors conducted 185 actions infringing on freedom of religion in 2020, up from 168 actions in 2019.  These actions included 62 cases of intolerance, 32 cases of reporting blasphemy, 17 cases of refusing the creation of a house of worship, and eight cases of forbidding worship.

On June 3, hundreds of Nahdlatul Ulama members in Banyuwangi Regency, East Java, demonstrated against the construction of a Muhammadiyah-affiliated mosque in their community.  Soon afterwards, the local heads of Nahdlatual Ulama and Muhammadiyah met and publicly stated they were able to resolve the dispute.  Several points from the Nahdlatul Ulama-Muhammadiyah meeting included agreement that Muhammadiyah complete administrative requirements for mosque construction and that both parties encourage communication between their followers at the local level.

On September 20, the Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board issued a letter to all institutions affiliated with Nahdlatul Ulama to cease collaborative programs and projects with the two international organizations, the American Jewish Committee and the Institute for Global Engagement, as well as the Leimena Institute, a Christian think tank based in the country.  No reasons were given in the letter for the decision.  Activists reported their view that the letter undermined religious freedom and was spearheaded by certain factions in NU that viewed the actions of these minority religious organizations as “disruptive” to the country’s social fabric.  As of the end of the year, the Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board had not publicly provided a reason for why it issued the letter.

A conspiracy theory blaming Jews for the COVID-19 pandemic spread widely online, leading Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Mahfud MD to state that the COVID-19 pandemic was not the result of a Jewish conspiracy.  Mahfud stated that even some academics and professors had reiterated this conspiracy theory and that he wanted to stop its spread since it distracted from efforts to combat the pandemic.

Christian news sites reported that approximately 12 elementary school children, ages nine to 12, vandalized a Christian cemetery in Solo (Surakarta), Central Java Province, on June 21.  According to local authorities, the children attended a school near the cemetery.

On June 10, residents of Ponorogo Regency, East Java, rejected a plan to convert a house into a church in their neighborhood.  Media reported that one of the local leaders had rejected the plan because the house owner had not asked for permission from majority Muslim local community before pursuing the plan.  Yohanes Kasmin, who led the congregation asking for the conversion, said the dispute was a result of a misunderstanding and that since its creation the congregation had never had a permanent place of worship.

In April, Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists joined with local Muslims in Blitar Regency, East Java, to help build a mosque.  Members of the community told the press that the Hindu-majority community had a long history of interfaith cooperation.

According to a May survey by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting, a public opinion pollster, 88 percent of Indonesians were aware of the conflict between Israel and Palestinians, and of those respondents, 65 percent agreed that the conflict was between Judaism and Islam, 14 percent disagreed, and 22 percent said they did not know.

Many of the largest and most influential religious groups and NGOs, including Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, officially endorsed and advocated for tolerance, pluralism, and the protection of minority groups on numerous occasions.  In July, the secretary general for the Supreme Council of Nahdlatul Ulama and the World Evangelical Alliance signed a statement of cooperation establishing a working relationship to promote intercultural solidarity and respect.

According to the “Who Cares about Free Speech” report by the Future of Free Speech, a collaborative project of NGOs and academic organizations, only 26 percent of citizens surveyed in February supported the freedom to express opinions offensive to religion, while the other 74 percent agreed that the government should be able to prevent people from saying things offensive to religion.

According to a September survey by Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting, 16 percent of respondents indicated their support of a government that operated based on the teachings of Islam, while 77 percent stated the government should not be based on any single religion.

The MORA’s Religious Harmony Index for 2020 found a decrease in religious harmony from 2019 to 2020.  The index used a survey of 1,220 respondents in 34 provinces to measure harmony across three dimensions:  tolerance, equality, and solidarity.  The index was scored from 0 to 100, with 100 being the most harmonious.  The national score for 2020 was 67.46, down from 73.83 in 2019.  A MORA policy paper stated four likely reasons for this decrease:  increased prejudice directed at different groups, especially against adherents of aliran kepercayaan, Ahmadi and Shia Muslims, and atheists; a decrease in the tolerance subindex, with 38 percent of respondents saying they would be bothered if a house of worship belonging to another faith was built near them; a decrease in the equality subindex, with 36 percent of respondents stating they would not support someone from a different faith becoming president; and a decrease in the solidarity index, with 36 percent of respondents saying they would not support other faiths in hosting religious events or celebrations.  According to the survey, more than 50 percent of respondents reported never having direct contact with people from a different faith.

On December 20, the MORA announced results from the 2021 Religious Harmony Index, finding that overall religious harmony score had increased to 72.39.

Iran

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the population at 85.9 million (midyear 2021).  According to Iranian government estimates, Muslims constitute 99.4 percent of the population, of whom 90-95 percent are Shia, and 5-10 percent are Sunni, mostly Turkmen, Arabs, Baluchis, and Kurds, living in the northeast, southwest, southeast, and northwest provinces, respectively.  Afghan refugees, economic migrants, and displaced persons also make up a significant Sunni population, but accurate statistics on the breakdown of the Afghan refugee population between Sunni and Shia are unavailable.  There are no official statistics available on the number of Muslims who practice Sufism, although unofficial reports estimate several million.

According to U.S. government estimates, groups constituting the remaining less than 1 percent of the population include Baha’is, Christians, Yarsanis, Jews, Sabean-Mandaeans, and Zoroastrians.  The three largest non-Muslim minorities are Baha’is, Christians, and Yarsanis.

According to Human Rights Watch data, Baha’is number at least 300,000.

The government Statistical Center of Iran reports there are 117,700 Christians in the country.  Some estimates, however, suggest there may be many more than actually reported.  According to Boston University’s 2020 World Religion Database, there are approximately 579,000 Christians.  NGO Open Doors USA estimates the number is 800,000, and Elam Ministries, a Christian organization, estimates there could be between 300,000 and one million.

Estimates by the Assyrian Church of the total Assyrian and Chaldean Christian population put their combined number at 7,000.  There are also Protestant denominations, including evangelical groups, but there is no authoritative data on their numbers.  Christian groups outside the country disagree on the size of the Protestant community, with some estimates citing figures lower than 10,000.  Many Protestants and converts to Christianity from Islam reportedly practice in secret.

There is no official count of Yarsanis, but HRANA and the NGO Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) estimate there are up to two million.  Yarsanis are mainly located in Loristan and the Kurdish regions.

According to recent estimates from Armenian Christians who maintain contact with the Christian community in the country, their current numbers are approximately 40,000 to 50,000, significantly lower than the peak of 300,000 estimated prior to 1979.  The number of Roman Catholics in the country is estimated to be 21,000.

According to Zoroastrian groups and the government-run Statistical Center of Iran, the population includes approximately 25,000 Zoroastrians, although the World Religion Database estimates this number to be 64,000.

According to the Tehran Jewish Committee, the population includes approximately 9,000 Jews, while representatives of the Jewish community in the country estimated their number at 15,000 during a 2018 PBS News Hour interview.

The population, according to government media, includes 14,000 Sabean-Mandaeans.

According to the 2011 census, the number of individuals who are nonreligious rose by 20 percent between 2006 and 2011, which supports observations by academics and others that the number of atheists, agnostics, nonbelievers, and religiously unaffiliated living in the country is growing.  The 2020 World Religion Database estimates their number to be 239,000.  Often, however, these groups do not publicly identify, as documented by Amnesty International’s report on the country, because those who profess atheism are at risk of arbitrary detention, torture, and the death penalty for apostasy.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Yarsanis outside the country reported that widespread discrimination against Yarsanis continued.  They stated Yarsani children were socially ostracized in school and in shared community facilities.  Yarsani men continued to face employment discrimination.  According to reports, Shia preachers continued to encourage social discrimination against Yarsanis.

According to a media reporting, Yarsani graves were neither safe from attacks nor from disrespect, and Yarsani cemeteries and mausoleums were repeatedly damaged and destroyed in the city of Kermanshah and elsewhere in the country.

Violence and social stigma continued to target Baha’i individuals, according to Baha’is and those who advocated for their rights, and perpetrators reportedly continued to act with impunity.  There continued to be reports of non-Baha’is dismissing or refusing employment to Baha’is, sometimes in response to government pressure, according to BIC and other organizations monitoring the situation of Baha’is.  BIC continued to report instances of physical violence committed against Baha’is based on their faith.

Baha’is reported there were continued incidents of destruction or vandalism of their cemeteries.  IranWire reported that in September, HRANA released a video showing the partial destruction of a Baha’i cemetery in the village of Kata, Dena County, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province.  According to HRANA, the attack occurred on September 8.  In a manner that would have been difficult without machinery, much of the cemetery’s exterior wall and bathroom had been knocked to the ground and stone shrines were smashed.

In July, IranWire reported an Assyrian Christian nicknamed “Farough” suffered employment discrimination following a workplace injury at an industrial factory in 2016 in which he lost three fingers on his right hand.  Farough said that when he returned to the factory after his recovery, “They were supposed to do an expert examination and pay me blood money, but when I was paid, I realized that the amount I received was much lower based on the fact that I was a religious minority.”  Farough said a Muslim colleague with similar academic credentials was promoted and given a raise.  “I meanwhile have all the right conditions for employment and career advancement but, just because I am a Christian, I am deprived of any promotion.”

According to human rights NGOs, including CSW, Open Doors USA, and others, converts from Islam to Christianity faced ongoing societal pressure and rejection by family or community members.

Shia clerics and prayer leaders reportedly continued to denounce Sufism and the activities of Sufis in both sermons and public statements.

Sunni students reported that professors continued to routinely insult Sunni religious figures in class.

IranWire reported that according to a survey released by Iran Open Data in October, 48 percent of 2,000 adult respondents said they drank alcohol.  When asked about drinking frequency, 24 percent of respondents reported that they “sometimes” drank, while 9 percent said they drank “weekly,” and 6 percent said they drank “daily.”  Fifty-two percent of participants said they did not drink alcohol.

Iraq

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 39.7 million (mid-year 2021).  According to 2010 government statistics – the most recent available – 97 percent of the population is Muslim.  Shia Muslims, predominantly Arabs but also including Turkoman, Faili Kurds, and others, constitute 55 to 60 percent of the population.  Sunni Muslims are approximately 40 percent of the Muslim population, of which Arabs constitute 24 percent, Kurds 15 percent, and Turkomans the remaining 1 percent.  Shia, although predominantly located in the south and east, are the majority in Baghdad and have communities in most parts of the country.  Sunnis form the majority in the west, center, and north of the country.

According to Christian leaders as well as NGO and media reports, fewer than 250,000 Christians remain in the country, down from a pre-2003 population estimate of between 800,000 and 1.4 million persons.  Approximately 67 percent of Christians are Chaldean Catholics (an eastern rite of the Roman Catholic Church), and nearly 20 percent are members of the Assyrian Church of the East.  The remainder are Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, and Anglican and other Protestants.  There are approximately 2,000 members of evangelical Christian churches in the IKR, while an unknown number, mostly converts from Islam, practice secretly.

According to Yezidi leaders, most of the 400,000 to 500,000 Yezidis in the country are located in the north, with approximately 150,000 remaining internally displaced as of August, compared with 200,000 to 230,000 remaining displaced as of October 2020.  The Shabak number between 350,000 and 400,000, three-fourths of whom are Shia.  Most Sunni Shabak and some Shia Shabak reside in Ninewa.  According to Kaka’i (also known as Yarsani) activists, their community has approximately 120,000 to 150,000 members located in the Ninewa Plain and in villages southeast of Kirkuk as well as in Diyala and Erbil; the KRG estimates there are 225,000 to 250,000 Kaka’i in the IKR.

Estimates of the size of the Sabean-Mandean community vary, but according to Sabean-Mandean leaders, 10,000 to 15,000 members remain in the country, mainly in the south, with between 450 and 1,000 living in the IKR and Baghdad.  Armenian leaders report a population of approximately 12,000 Armenian Christians, both Armenian Apostolic Church (Armenian Orthodox) and Armenian Catholic in the country, including in the IKR.  Baha’i leaders report fewer than 2,000 members, spread throughout the country in small groups, including approximately 100 families in the IKR.  Leaders of the Kavkaz (the unified name for the Circassians, Chechnya, and Dagestan) community report a population of approximately 50,000 members, located in Baghdad, Ninewa, Sulaymaniyah, Erbil, Kirkuk, and Diyala Provinces.  Most identify as Sunni Muslims who migrated from the Caucasus to Iraq during the wars between the Ottoman and Russian empires following forced displacement.

According to media organizations, following the death by stroke of a Jewish doctor, Dhafer Eliyahu, in March, only four Jewish citizens remain in federal Iraq.  According to unofficial statistics from the KRG Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs (MERA), there are possibly as few as 100 to as many as 250 Jewish families in the IKR; Jewish leaders report that most do not openly acknowledge their religion for fear of persecution or violence by extremist actors.  According to the KRG MERA, there are approximately 15,000 to 20,000 Zoroastrians in the IKR.  A Zoroastrian religious leader said there are approximately 30,000 Zoroastrians throughout the country.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), approximately 1.2 million persons remain displaced within the country, predominantly in Ninewa, Dohuk, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Kirkuk Provinces, compared with 1.5 million persons at the end of 2020.  According to the KRG’s Joint Crisis Coordination Center (JCC), there are approximately 664,909 IDPs in the IKR as of December 2021, compared with 700,000 in 2020.  According to the JCC, there are 247,422 Syrian, 8,746 Turkish, 9,700 Iranian, and 752 Palestinian refugees, and 507 individuals of other nationalities in the IKR.  Forty percent of the IDPs throughout the IKR are Sunni Arabs, 30 percent Yezidis, 13 percent Kurds (of several religious affiliations), and 7 percent Christians.  Other minority religious groups comprise the remaining 10 percent.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were continued reports of societal violence by sectarian armed groups across the country except in the IKR.  Although media and human rights organizations said security conditions in many parts of the country continued to improve, reports of societal violence, mainly by pro-Iran Shia militias, continued.  Members of non-Muslim minority groups reported abductions, threats, pressure, and harassment to force them to observe Islamic customs.  Many Shia religious and government leaders continued to urge PMF volunteers not to commit these abuses.  Because religion and ethnicity are often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.

The KRG reported that ISIS forces killed one Kaka’i during the year and that there were several attacks and raids of villages in the territories whose control is disputed by the national government and the KRG.  Although Kaka’i human rights activists did not report any serious attacks by ISIS during the year, they said fear of future attacks and a feeling of general insecurity caused Kaka’i members to evacuate several towns in Diyala and Kirkuk Provinces.

Sources in the Yezidi community estimated the number of children born of Yezidi mothers and ISIS fathers ranged from several dozen to several hundred.  Yezidi leaders said societal stigma made it difficult to obtain accurate numbers.  According to Yezidi sources, Yezidi leaders had excommunicated some Yezidi women who had children born of sexual violence by Muslim men when the women were captives of ISIS.  Due to the position of Yezidi leaders and many in the community that children born of rape were neither welcomed nor recognized as Yezidis, also the case under Iraqi law, many female Yezidi survivors of ISIS said they were compelled to leave their children in orphanages in Syria or Iraq so they could rejoin their community.  According to Yezidi sources, these children were also under threat of honor and retribution killings.  Many Yezidis feared that the children would grow up radicalized due to the possibility of their exposure to radicalization in IDP camps or informal settlement areas and because they had experienced rejection.  Some of the women said they preferred to stay in the camps’ harsh environment with their children rather than leave them behind

On June 8, a delegation of primarily Sunni faculty from the University of Ninewa College of Law visited Yezidi IDPs living in the Shariya camp in Dohuk Province to observe conditions and provide moral support as a gesture of Sunni solidarity with the Yezidis after 400 tents burned down.  On June 14, the General Secretariat of the Imam Hussein Holy Shrine announced the dispatch of relief materials to Yezidi IDP families in Shariya camp, at the direction of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Sheikh Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalai.

Christians in the south and in PMF-controlled towns on the Ninewa Plain, as well as Sabean-Mandeans in Basrah, Dhi Qar, and Maysan Provinces, reported they continued to avoid celebrating their religious festivals when these observances coincided with Shia Islamic periods of mourning, such as Ashura.  There were continued reports that members of non-Muslim minority groups felt pressured by the Muslim majority to adhere to certain Islamic practices, such as wearing the hijab or fasting during Ramadan.  Non-Shia Muslims and non-Muslim women said they continued to feel societal pressure to wear hijabs and all-black clothing during Muharram, particularly during Ashura, to avoid harassment.  According to representatives of Christian NGOs, some Muslims continued to threaten women and girls, regardless of their religious affiliation, for refusing to wear the hijab, for dressing in Western-style clothing, or for not adhering to strict interpretations of Islamic norms governing public behavior.  Outside the IKR, numerous women, including Christians and Sabean-Mandeans, said they opted to wear the hijab after experiencing continual harassment.

On November 28, Maysan police reported an individual threw an improvised explosive device at a Christian family house in Maysan Province, Amara City, causing material losses but no casualties.  According to press reports, the family had a liquor license and sold alcohol from their house.  Maysan Province police issued a statement saying the reason for the attack was not to affect demographic change or based on ethnic grounds, but rather due to commercial rivalry.  On November 29, Namer Slewa the Christian owner of the house, told media that unlicensed but influential Muslim alcohol sellers planned the attack to run Slewa out of business.  According to Slewa, this was the third time the same business rivals had attacked him, adding that on one occasion, they injured his employees.

On October 19, Basher Shemoon, a Christian member of the Ninewa Plain elders’ council, reported that Shabak Shia had raised religious banners and pictures throughout the city of Bartella, including on the ancient Christian Church of the 40 Martyrs, blocking all the streets inside the city.  He said the actions were part of an effort to intimidate Christian residents during a Shia ceremony.

In October, head of the interreligious Masarat Foundation for Cultural and Media Development Saad Salloum said institutes training religious leaders and journalists had begun using a curriculum focused on understanding the country’s different religions as part of a three-year pilot program prior to the curriculum’s adoption for use in public schools.  Salloum said the Masarat Foundation was also establishing a news agency dedicated to diversity publications and that the foundation’s research on hate speech had revealed an overall reduction of such speech against minorities.  The foundation was created in 2020 with the goal of developing a special curriculum for understanding different religions in the country, to be taught through the Iraqi Institute for Religious Diversity.  Founded by religious leaders, academics, and civil society activists in 2019, the Iraqi Institute for Religious Diversity continued to develop curricula on Christianity, Yazidism, Sabean-Mandeanism, Judaism, the Baha’i Faith, Zoroastrianism, and Kaka’ism.

In a lecture posted on YouTube on April 10, Shia scholar Sheikh Saad al-Mudaris said, “Jews are pleased with Charles Darwin’s theory that mankind is descended from apes, since this removes their shame of being descendants of those whom Allah had turned into apes and pigs.”  He said Jews spread Darwinism around the world and that they used their money to force universities and institutes to spread the theory.

Ireland

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 5.2 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2016 census, the most recent, the population is approximately 78 percent Roman Catholic, 3 percent Church of Ireland (Anglican), 1 percent Muslim, 1 percent Orthodox Christian (including Greek, Russian, and Coptic Orthodox), 1 percent unspecified Christian, and 2 percent other religious groups, while 10 percent stated no religious affiliation, and 3 percent did not specify their religion.  There are small numbers of Presbyterians, Hindus, Apostolic Pentecostals, Pentecostals, and Jews.  The census estimates the Jewish population at 2,500.  The number of Christians and Muslims from sub-Saharan Africa, Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East, Muslims and Hindus from South Asia, and Orthodox Christians from Eastern Europe continues to grow, especially in larger urban areas.  NGOs such as Atheist Ireland and the Humanists Association of Ireland said the census overestimates religious affiliation by asking “What is your religion?” which they said was a leading question.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The NGO Irish Network Against Racism recorded 334 incidents of hate speech involving race and religion in 2020, of which 69 targeted Muslims and 23 targeted Jews.  In one case, housemates subjected one Muslim man to theft, abuse, and harassment over a period of months.  The principal at one community college used explicitly anti-Muslim slurs against Muslim students.  The NGO recorded nine incidents of discrimination against Muslims in access to goods and services but did not give details.  It stated that most victims of religious discrimination and racist incidents did not report them to the police.

In October, researcher David Collier published a report on antisemitism in the country that documented antisemitic content posted online by members of the Dail and members of the public.  The author stated that most of this content occurred in the context of criticizing Israeli policies, but it also contained Holocaust denial and antisemitic tropes about Jews controlling world finance.  The report included numerous examples of politicians and members of the public sharing social media posts from other sources that contained Holocaust denial, “Zionist” conspiracy theories, and antisemitic tropes.  In his report, Collier stated, “It seems accurate to suggest that antisemitism is driving their [politicians’ and anti-Israel activists’] obsessive anti-Israel activity.”  Collier recommended that Ireland, which is a member of the IHRA, adopt IHRA’s non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism.

The WRC reported it received 30 complaints of employment discrimination based on religion or belief in 2020, compared with 36 in 2019.

On July 20, approximately 500 Muslims performed prayers to mark Eid al-Adha in Dublin’s Croke Park.  Shaykh Umar al-Qadri, chair of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, organized the event, which, as in 2020, was held outdoors due to COVID-19 restrictions, in cooperation with the Gaelic Athletic Association.  Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish community leaders, as well as members of government, attended.

Israel, West Bank and Gaza

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 8.8 million (midyear 2021).  According to the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) classification system (2020 data), approximately 73 percent of the population is Jewish, 18 percent Muslim, 2 percent Christian, and 1.6 percent Druze.  The remaining 5 percent consists of those the CBS classifies as “other.”  This includes those who identify as Jewish but do not satisfy the Orthodox Jewish definition of “Jewish” that the government uses for civil procedures, such as many immigrants from the former Soviet Union.  There are also relatively small communities of Samaritans, Karaite Jews, Messianic Jews, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and members of the Baha’i Faith.  The majority of non-Jewish citizens are of Arab/Palestinian origin.  This includes approximately 77 percent of the country’s 182,000 Christians, according to the CBS as of December.  Non-Arab/Palestinian Christians are mainly those who emigrated from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s as descendants of Jews or alongside Jewish family members and their descendants.

According to the annual religion and state poll conducted by religious freedom NGO Hiddush, 57 percent of Jewish citizens do not affiliate with any religious group, 19 percent are “Zionist Orthodox,” 11 percent “ultra-Orthodox,” 6 percent “Reform,” 5 percent “Conservative,” and 2 percent “National Orthodox.”

The Arab/Palestinian Muslim, Druze, and Christian communities are located throughout the country.  In the Galilee region, some communities are homogenous, while others feature a mix of these groups.  There are dozens of Muslim-majority communities in the Negev.  In addition to an Alawite community in Ghajar, there are several Druze communities in the Golan Heights.

In 2019, the most recent year for which results are available, the CBS and the Jerusalem Institute estimated 563,200 Jews, 345,800 Muslims, and 16,150 Christians lived in the current municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, accounting for approximately 99 percent of the city’s total population of 936,400 as of 2019.

According to government and NGO data, there are approximately 330,000 foreign workers in the country, including 97,000 documented Palestinian workers; 31,000 undocumented Palestinian workers; 98,000 migrant workers with permits, 77,000 non-Palestinian undocumented workers (either migrant workers without a permit or tourists who overstayed their visa); and 31,000 asylum seekers, of whom an unknown number work.  Foreign workers and asylum seekers include Protestants, Roman Catholics, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventists, Orthodox Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims.  According to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Catholics among the foreign worker population include 19,000 Filipinos, 15,000 Indians, 5,655 Sri Lankans, 2,500 Colombians, and 1,100 individuals from other South American countries.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Because religious and national identities were often closely linked, it was often difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.

In September, authorities charged Muad Hib with murder for killing his mother and hiding her body in August, after she converted from Islam to Orthodox Christianity.  Prosecutors stated that her conversion was the motive for the killing.

Amid tensions in Jerusalem and violence in Gaza, ethnic-based violence and civil unrest broke out during a one-week period in May in a number of mixed Jewish-Arab cities in the country, including Lod, Acre, Jaffa, Haifa, and Ramle.  Incidents of violence included automobile vandalism; gunshots fired at a group of Jewish individuals, stone throwing by both Jewish and Arab protestors; arson attacks on synagogues; and desecration of Muslim gravestones.  Armed Jewish Israelis clashed with Palestinians in East Jerusalem neighborhoods.  Responding to the violence, the government reassigned additional security personnel, including border police from the West Bank, to augment INP personnel.  The INP reported it made approximately 1,550 arrests, with the overwhelming majority of the arrestees being Arab/Palestinian citizens.  Security officials said the arrested Jewish citizens were predominately “middle-aged nationalist extremists.”

On May 12 in the mixed Jewish-Arab town of Lod, Jews shot and killed Moussa Hassouna in clashes between residents.  Later on May 12, Arab/Palestinian citizens in Lod stoned the car of Jewish resident Yigal Yehoshua who died on May 17 after being hit in the head with a thrown brick.  In the northern city of Acre on May 11, Arab/Palestinian citizens set fire to a hotel leading to the death of 84 year-old retiree Aby Har-Even on June 6.  On May 19, teenager Mohammed Mahamid Kiwan died after he was shot on May 18 at the Mei Ami junction on Route 65.  His family said police were responsible.

According to the Lod Municipality, Arab/Palestinian citizens perpetrated five arson attacks against four synagogues in the city, and shattered windows of two additional synagogues.  Media reported that Jewish individuals threw stones at worshippers at the Lod Dahmash Mosque on May 12 during prayer time and shattered the windows of the mosque.  On May 13, unknown individuals desecrated an Islamic Cemetery in Lod, tried to set it on fire, and broke 10 of its gravestones.

In the aftermath of the civil unrest, the state filed indictments against 150 persons.  Some NGOs said most were against Arab/Palestinian citizens and expressed concern that the INP disproportionately targeted Arab/Palestinian citizens.  A significant number of demonstrations calling for calm and coexistence were held in multiple cities after the civil unrest.

On September 9, three minors attacked a worshipper and caused damage to a synagogue in Acre.  The police later arrested and released the suspects to house arrest.

In April, during the period leading up to the civil unrest, Palestinian youth in Jerusalem physically attacked ultra-Orthodox individuals and posted the attacks on the social media app TikTok.  The first video of a young Palestinian Jerusalemite slapping a Yeshiva student on the Jerusalem Light Rail was posted on the social network on April 15.  According to the government, the police opened 14 investigations and arrested 31 suspects for being involved in such attacks.  Four of the cases led to indictments, and one suspect was convicted and sentenced to 10 months imprisonment, six months probation and a fine of 2,500 shekels ($810).  On July 1, police arrested Palestinian Jerusalemites for defiling graves in the Har Hamenuchot Cemetery while filming themselves on TikTok.

Racial and religiously motivated attacks by Jewish individuals and groups continued to take place during the year against individuals – particularly Arab/Palestinian citizens of the country and Palestinians of the West Bank and their property – with the stated purpose of exacting a “price” for actions taken by the government against the attackers’ interests.  The attacks occurred against both Christian and Muslim targets.  The NGO Tag Meir continued to organize visits to areas where these attacks occurred and sponsored activities promoting tolerance in response to the attacks.  On March 12, Jewish individuals set cars on fire and sprayed graffiti with a Star of David and the writing: “enough with intermarriage” in the village of Ein Naqquba in the central part of the country.

According to Tag Meir, the assailants also poured gasoline on the home of two families, including on the window of the room of a six-year-old and a seven-year-old, and tried to set it on fire.  Tag Meir stated that “only a miracle” prevented a disaster similar to that of the 2015 Duma arson attack in the West Bank, which resulted in the death of a Palestinian couple and their infant child.  The INP opened an investigation on March 12.

On March 25, unknown individuals spray-painted the words “deport or kill” on a car in the predominantly Arab town of Kfar Qasim.  They also punctured the tires of dozens of cars and spray-painted Stars of David on them.  Police opened an investigation into the case.

On March 1, unknown assailants set fire to the entrance of the monastery of the Romanian Church in Jerusalem near the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim.  The local priest put out the fire quickly.  According to Church officials, this was the fourth act of vandalism in 2021 that targeted the same monastery.  Christian representatives said they believed religious Orthodox Jews were the probable assailants.  The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem said the arson was “a sign of hatred for the Christian religion” among some Israelis.

On April 5, arson attacks took place against two synagogues in Bnei Brak and Ramat Gan.  On May 8, according to media reports, police arrested an individual from Rosh HaAyn for committing the attacks.

Swastikas were painted on synagogues several times during the year.  On July 31, unknown individuals painted swastikas on the structures of two synagogues in Bnei Brak.  The individuals also left photos of Shira Banki, a 16-year-old who was stabbed to death at the Jerusalem Pride Parade in 2015, at the sites.  On August 26, individuals painted swastikas on the door of a Tel Aviv synagogue.

On November 6, ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Meir Mazuz said that Jews from the former Soviet Union and Reform Jews were nonbelievers who were destroying Judaism in the country.

Christian clergy and pilgrims continued to report instances of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem harassing or spitting on them.

During the year, ultra-Orthodox women attacked members of Women of the Wall during their monthly prayers at the Western Wall.  For example, on June 11, ultra-Orthodox protesters shredded and desecrated dozens of prayer books belonging to Women of the Wall.

On July 17, during the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av, a day of fasting when Jews commemorate the destruction of the temples, activists of Liba Yehudit, a national-ultra-Orthodox NGO described by Haaretz as “ultra-extreme,” put up a makeshift partition in the middle of the egalitarian prayer area of the Western Wall Plaza, intended to divide those praying by gender, and yelled and cursed to disrupt those praying there for the holiday.  According to Haaretz, “hundreds of right-wing, Orthodox Jews, mostly teenagers” disrupted the reading of the Book of Lamentations by a female member of the Conservative movement, which organized the annual event.  Haaretz described Liba as “an extreme right-wing group, which has been trying to prevent the non-Orthodox from having access to a new and revamped prayer plaza at the southern end of the site.”

On July 18, on Tisha B’Av, Prime Minister Bennett tweeted thanks to the Public Security Minister and the Israel Police Inspector General for “maintaining freedom of worship for Jews on the Mount.”  On November 19, the Prime Minister’s Office said that the government’s policy regarding the status quo at the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, which prohibits non-Islamic worship, had not changed and what Bennett actually meant was that both Jews and Muslims had “freedom of visitation rights.”

In March, during Passover, an unknown individual spread hametz outside of synagogues in Bnei Brak and Ramat Gan.

According to missionary organizations, societal attitudes toward missionary activities and conversion to other religions continued to be negative.  Some Jews continued to oppose missionary activity directed at Jews, saying it amounted to religious harassment, and reacted with hostility toward Jewish converts to Christianity, such as Messianic Jews.

On June 2, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, police closed an investigation of a 2019 complaint regarding an attack on two Jehovah’s Witnesses members during door-to-door activity in Bat Yam.  The police stated there were no grounds for a further criminal investigation.  After the initial complaint was filed, police summoned one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and told her that the individual who had attacked her later submitted a complaint against her for making threats and trespassing in her efforts to convert him to Christianity.

According to media reports, members of the NGO Lehava used violence and incited violence against Palestinians and Arab/Palestinian citizens of the country during the period of civil unrest in May.

Lehava continued to criticize or assault Arab men who were in relationships with Jewish women and to harass “mixed” couples.  On June 9, the police interrogated Lehava Director Ben-Zion Gopstein on suspicion of incitement to violence following posts in social media regarding intermarriage.  A trial against Gopstein for offenses of incitement to terrorism, violence, and racism, which began in 2020, was ongoing at year’s end.

The NGO Yad L’Achim continued to disrupt instances of cohabitation between Jewish women and Arab men and viewed itself as a “Jewish rescue corps” which recovers Jewish women from “hostile” Arab villages, according to Yad L’Achim’s website.

In October, the Jerusalem Post reported that police arrested several members of La Familia, often described in the press as an ultranationalist fan club for the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team, following the group’s violent attack on a fan who was cheering the team’s Muslim player.  In May, a court agreed to a request by the team, which disavowed La Familia, to ban three of the group’s leaders from attending the team’s games.

There continued to be reports of ultra-Orthodox Jews in public areas of their neighborhoods harassing individuals who did not conform to Jewish Orthodox traditions, such as driving on Shabbat or wearing clothing that they perceived as immodest.  The harassment included verbal abuse, spitting, and throwing stones, and kicking cars driving on Shabbat.

Tension continued between the ultra-Orthodox community and other citizens, including concerns related to service in the IDF, housing, public transportation, participation in the workforce, and adherence to COVID-19 regulations.

On April 30, a deadly stampede occurred at Mt. Meron during the annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer, with an estimated 100,000 persons in attendance.  Press reports stated that 45 men and boys were killed, and approximately 150 were injured in the deadliest civil disaster in the country’s history.  Many commentators suggested the ultra-Orthodox community’s extensive autonomy in the country was a major contributing factor to the catastrophe, with ultra-Orthodox MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) calling for greater government control over the pilgrimage site.  On June 20, the government approved the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the event.

Although the Chief Rabbinate and rabbis of many ultra-Orthodox denominations continued to discourage Jewish visits to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount site due to the ongoing halakhic (Jewish legal) debate about whether it is permissible or forbidden for Jews to enter the Temple Mount, some Orthodox rabbis continued to say entering the site was permissible.  Many among the self-identified “national religious” Zionist community stated they found meaning in visiting the site.  Groups such as the Temple Institute and Yaraeh continued to call for increased Jewish access and prayer there as well as the construction of the third Jewish temple on the site.  In some cases, Israeli police prevented individuals from praying and removed them; in other cases, reported by the Waqf, on social media, and by NGOs, police appeared not to notice the activity.

According to local media, some Jewish groups escorted by Israeli police performed religious acts such as prayers and prostration.  Some Jewish visitors publicly noted that the INP was more permissive to them in permitting silent prayer.

NGOs reported that some LGBTQI+ minors who revealed their sexual orientation in religious communities faced expulsion from their homes and stigmatization by rabbis.  NGOs noted reports of mental illness among the LGBTQI+ minor community because of this treatment, leading some to attempt suicide.  Other NGOs noted that an increasing number of rabbis, educators, and community leaders in Orthodox Jewish communities were adopting a more inclusive approach to LGBTQI+ minors.

Several religious NGOs, Orthodox and non-Orthodox, conducted private, unrecognized religious services such as marriages and conversions, and issued unrecognized Kashrut certificates to provide an alternative to the Chief Rabbinate for Jews who could not or did not want to use the Rabbinate’s services.  According to the NGO Panim, 2,486 weddings took place outside of the rabbinate’s authority in 2019, compared with 2,610 in 2018.  These included unofficial Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and secular ceremonies.

According to Bar Ilan University’s Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women, thousands of Jewish women were trapped in various stages of informal or formal get refusals, especially in the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities.  The Rackman Center stated that in some instances a woman’s husband made granting a get contingent on his wife conceding to extortionate demands, such as those relating to property ownership or child custody.  According to the Center for Women’s Justice, one in three Jewish women who divorced faced such demands.

NGOs, including Mavoi Satum and Itim, promoted the use of prenuptial agreements to prevent cases of aginut (in which a woman whose husband is unwilling or unable to grant her a get).  Such agreements provide financial incentives paid by a refusing spouse until the termination of the marriage.

Analysis by Natanel Fisher at the Sha’arei Mishpat Academic College of Law and Science based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics found that approximately 85,000 married couples in Israel, constituting 7 percent of all married couples in the country, involved a Jewish and a non-Jewish partner.  In 90 percent of the cases, the non-Jewish partner was “without religious classification,” in most cases from the former Soviet Union, and while many of them consider themselves Jewish, the rabbinate did not recognize them as such.  The article stated that nearly 60 percent, or 52,000 out of 87,000 such couples involve a woman who is not Jewish, which means that their children would not be considered Jewish either.

A variety of NGOs continued to try to build understanding and create dialogue among religious groups and between religious and secular Jewish communities, including Neve Shalom-Wahat al-Salam, the Abraham Fund Initiative, Givat Haviva, the Hagar and Hand-in-Hand integrated Jewish-Arab bilingual schools, Hiddush, Israeli Religious Action Center, Mosaica, Tag Meir, and Interfaith Encounter Association.  For example, the number of children studying at integrated Yad BeYad Jewish-Arab schools in the school year beginning in September was 2,000, up from 1,800 in the previous year.

Despite the labor law, some foreign domestic workers stated that some employers did not allow their domestic workers to take off their weekly day of worship.

In April, the news website Al-Monitor reported that approximately 20 families from the Gur Hasidic community had bought apartments in the southern city of Dimona.  In response, one resident wrote on social media, “It’s not suitable… An extreme group like this can only ruin it.”  Dimona’s mayor, in a radio interview, suggested that the Gur Hasidim should go elsewhere.

In its annual Israel Religion and State Index poll of 800 adult Jews conducted in July and published in September, the NGO Hiddush reported that 65 percent of respondents, the same result as the 2020 poll, identified as either “secular” (48 percent) or “traditional-not-religious” (17 percent), with positions regarding public policy on religion and state close to the positions of secular Israelis.  Of those surveyed, 81 percent supported freedom of religion and conscience, and 59 percent supported the separation of religion and state.  Sixty-one percent supported equal status for the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform traditions.  A large majority did not see the need for religious conversion approved by the Chief Rabbinate as a condition for the state to recognize the Judaism of new immigrants, with 35 percent considering conversion via the Chief Rabbinate necessary, compared with 34 percent in the previous year.  Thirty-five percent stated immigrants should be recognized as Jewish if they identify as such, and 35 percent stated immigrants should be recognized as Jewish if they undergo either an Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform conversion.  Of those surveyed, 23 percent accepted the position of the ultra-Orthodox parties that yeshiva students should be exempted from military or civic service.

According to the Hiddush poll, 63 percent of the country’s adult Jewish population supported recognition by the state of freedom of choice in marriage, doing away with the rabbinate’s monopoly, and equally recognizing civil and non-Orthodox religious marriages.  According to the same survey, 51 percent of the public stated that had they been allowed a choice, they would not have married in an Orthodox ceremony, compared with 35 percent who expressed the same sentiment in 2009, 39 percent in 2013, and 47 percent in 2016.  Eighty-one percent supported freedom of religion and conscience while 59 percent supported separation of religion and state.  According to the poll, the majority (73 percent) did not observe Shabbat according to religious law.

In a report released December 22, the government’s Central Bureau of Statistics stated that 84 percent of the country’s Christian community said that they were satisfied with life in the country.  Also, according to the study, Arab Christian women had some of the highest education rates in the country.

Italy

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 62.4 million (midyear 2021).  A 2020 study by the independent research center The Center for Studies of New Religions (CESNUR) estimates 67 percent of the population is Catholic, 24 percent atheist or agnostic, 5 percent non-Catholic Christian, 4 percent Muslim, and 1 percent followers of other religions.  Non-Catholic Christian groups include Eastern Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Assemblies of God, the Methodist and Waldensian Churches, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), the Union of Pentecostal Churches, and several other smaller Protestant groups, including other evangelical Christian groups.  According to the national branch of the Church of Jesus Christ, there are approximately 26,000 adherents in the country.  CESNUR also estimates that non-Christian religious groups that together account for less than 10 percent of the population include Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Baha’is, Buddhists, Sikhs, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and Ananda Marga Pracaraka Samgha, an Indian spiritual movement.  According to a 2020 study conducted by SWG, an independent research center, 50 percent of the population identifies as Catholic, 25 percent identifies as atheist or agnostic, 17 percent other religious groups and 8 percent unaffiliated.

The UCEI estimates that the Jewish population numbers 28,000.  According to the legal counsel of the Italian Federation of Progressive Judaism, the organization has between 500 and 600 members.

According to CESNUR, approximately 1.76 million foreign Muslims and 500,000 Italian Muslims – almost 4 percent of the population – live in the country.  According to the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and the National Agency for Statistics (ISTAT), most growth in the Muslim population comes from large numbers of immigrants from Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, the majority of whom live in the north.  Muslims with Moroccan and Albanian roots make up the largest established groups, while Tunisia and Bangladesh are increasingly prominent sources of Muslims arriving as seaborne migrants.  The MOI reports Muslims in the country are overwhelmingly Sunni.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

During the year, the CDEC recorded 200 incidents of antisemitism, compared with 224 incidents in 2020 and 251 in 2019.  Of these, at least 117 involved hate speech on social media or the internet.  Reports of antisemitic incidents published on CDEC’s website included discrimination, verbal harassment, particularly at soccer matches and other sporting events, online hate speech, and derogatory graffiti.  Internet and social media hate speech and bullying were the most common forms of antisemitic incidents according to the CDEC, which continued to operate an antisemitism hotline for victims of, and witnesses to, antisemitic incidents.  According to Milena Santerini, the National Coordinator for the Fight Against Anti-Semitism, the number of antisemitic incidents was vastly underreported.  Santerini also reported that Facebook had removed only a small percentage of posts containing antisemitic material.

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe reported that 158 cases of grave desecration and 47 attacks on places of worship occurred in the country in 2020, compared with 152 and 42 cases, respectively, in 2019.  The national police’s Observatory on Security against Acts of Discrimination (OSCAD) reported 448 crimes of discrimination in 2019, the most recent available data, of which 92 were based on religious affiliation and 216 on ethnicity, compared with 360 crimes of discrimination in 2018.  OSCAD defined crimes of discrimination as crimes motivated by ideological, cultural, religious, or ethnic prejudices.

In September, the Brussels-based NGO Action and Protection League issued the results of its European antisemitism survey based on data from December 2019-January 2020.  According to the survey, 11 percent of 1,000 respondents ages 18-75 in Italy said they had negative feelings towards Jews.  Thirteen percent said they would be “totally uncomfortable” or “uncomfortable” with having Jewish neighbors.  The survey cited stereotypical statements about Jews and asked respondents the degree to which they agreed or disagreed.  The proportion who responded “strongly agree” or “tend to agree” with the following statements were:  “the interests of Jews in this country are very different from the interests of the rest of the population” (20 percent); “there is a secret Jewish network that influences political and economic affairs in the world” (16 percent); “Jews have too much influence in this country” (13 percent); “Jews will never be able to fully integrate into this society” (15 percent); “Jews are more inclined than most to use shady practices to achieve their goals” (9 percent); “many of the atrocities of the Holocaust were often exaggerated by the Jews later” (7 percent); “Jews are also to blame for the persecutions against them” (9 percent); “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes” (12 percent).

The private research center STATISTA reported that an estimated 15.6 percent of the population believed the Holocaust never happened.  In its Italy 2020 Report, the private Eurispes Institute of Political, Economic, and Social Studies reported nearly 16 percent of respondents believed the Holocaust was a myth, while 16 percent of respondents said the number of Holocaust victims had been “exaggerated.”  Of those sampled, 47.5 percent considered recent acts of antisemitism in the country to be a “dangerous resurgence of the phenomenon,” while 37.2 percent viewed the recent acts as “bravado carried out for provocation” or as a “joke.”

Press reported that on March 21 in Rome, a food delivery person stabbed a Jewish colleague several times after screaming, “Damn Jews, I [expletive] hate you.”  The victim, whose wounds required hospitalization, was the son of a Holocaust concentration camp survivor.  On April 7, authorities arrested the suspected assailant and recovered the knife used in the attack.

On August 31, a Bangladeshi migrant attacked an Israeli tourist in Pisa, beating him in the face with a souvenir statue, yelling “Jews are assassins!”  Media widely covered the case, and at year’s end according to the MOI, the assailant remained in the country.

In its periodic review of social media posts, Vox Diritti reported 5.2 percent of all monitored tweets (797,326) contained antisemitic messages during the year, compared with 8 percent of all tweets monitored in 2020 (104,347).  Many antisemitic tweets came from accounts based in Rome, Milan, and Florence.  The NGO said spikes in tweet traffic correlated with the national celebration of the Liberation from the Fascist regime and a series of attacks against synagogues in Germany.

Press later reported that on June 7, police announced an investigation of the Roman Aryan Order, which investigators and the judge presiding over the case considered to be a far-right criminal association using Nazi symbols.  Twelve members of the association in Cagliari, Cosenza, Frosinone, Latina, L’Aquila, Milan, Rome, and Sassari were accused of ethnically and religiously motivated hate crimes, based on their publication of numerous racist and discriminatory posts on social media.

According to media, on July 2, police arrested four self-characterized neo-Nazis in Milan on suspicion of having established a criminal association to commit hate crimes and violence based on the ethnicities and religions of the victims.  They had reportedly been planning an attack on a Muslim activist.

On September 16, police in Turin announced an operation to dismantle an association of four persons under investigation for incitement to commit crimes and discriminate on the grounds of race, ethnicity, and religion.  Investigators had found posts on social media containing antisemitic insults and promoting hate against foreigners.

On January 27, UCEI President Noemi Di Segni said, “Fascism is a poison orchard for the whole Italian society of which the bitterness and latency have not yet been understood.  We still do not have any knowledge of truth and extent.”  She added, “Knowing the roots of this Italian evil is necessary to understand those who today repeat mottos and wear its symbols.  Crimes and offenses against Italy, not only to its Jews then and today, constitute threats too often underestimated and dismissed.”

According to the most recent Pew Research Center study published in October 2019, 55 percent of Italians had negative opinions of Muslims and 15 percent had negative opinions of Jews.  Negative opinions of Muslims were prevalent among the least educated (57 percent) and elderly (66 percent).

Vox Diritti reported that during the year, 65 percent of all tweets mentioning Islam (165,297) contained negative messages against Muslims, compared with 59 percent (67,889) in 2020.  Most anti-Muslim tweets originated in northern regions.

According to press reports, on January 10, a highly organized group of individuals interrupted the online Zoom launch of a book about the Holocaust, shouting antisemitic epithets, including “Jews, we’ll burn you in ovens, the Nazis are back, we will burn you all, you must all die.”  The virtual action, which also included portraits of Hitler and swastikas, occurred during the presentation of a book entitled, “The Generation of the Desert” by Lia Tagliacozzo, a Jewish author born to Holocaust survivors.

In February, press reported that following Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre’s attempts to encourage other older adults to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, several antisemitic comments appeared in social media.  On October 15, during an anti-COVID-19 vaccination rally in Bologna, a self-described far-left organizer, Gian Marco Capitani, took the stage and stated that Segre “brings shame to her history …She should disappear.”  National press widely interpreted the words as antisemitic.  Numerous “no-vax” rallies featured demonstrators wearing Stars of David, equating the “persecution” they faced from the government to the persecution the Jews suffered under the Nazis.  Capitani later said he regretted his use of the word “disappear,” given Segre’s history.  Capitani said his comment that Segre brought shame to her history was in reference to Segre’s personal story as a Holocaust survivor and his view that she had a special responsibility to fight persecution because of her background.

On October 26, police announced an investigation into incidents in eight cities and the identification of an adult and seven minors suspected of having interrupted three online commemorations of Holocaust Remembrance Day, livestreamed on Zoom.  Authorities accused the individuals of cybercrimes, violence, and hate crimes for having disrupted the occasion, insulted Jews, and lauded Benito Mussolini.

As in previous years, press reported examples of antisemitic and anti-Christian vandalism, including depictions on walls of swastikas, antisemitic stereotypes, and praise for neo-Nazi groups.  These appeared in Rome, Milan, Busto Arsizio, and other cities.  On September 12, local press reported the presence of graffiti equating the Star of David with swastikas on multiple buildings in Pisa.  In May, members of the Lazio soccer club displayed an antisemitic banner in response to news that rival soccer club Roma had hired a Jewish Brazilian as its new team manager.  On June 24, authorities found graffiti stating “Lazio football supporter Stolperstein” in Rome.  A Stolperstein, or stumbling stone, is a concrete cube bearing a brass plate inscribed with the name and date of birth and death of each victim of Nazi extermination or persecution.

On December 19, in a church in the town of Fiumicino, unidentified individuals vandalized a Nativity scene.  They threw statues of a shepherd and a donkey on the ground and mutilated them, cutting off the shepherd’s hands and one of the donkey’s ears.  Local media reported that it was not the first time the church had been targeted; previously vandals stole a statue of the baby Jesus.  On December 28, authorities in the town of Montemurlo called police after unknown persons hung 10 Christmas tree ornaments with Hitler’s face on them on a Christmas decoration outside the town council’s office.  The mayor of Montemurlo called the incident “an extremely serious episode that offends the values on which the Italian Republic was born, as well as our democracy.”

In January, the Catholic Church marked the 32nd annual Day of Jewish and Christian Dialogue with a focus on the first verse of the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes.

Jamaica

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 2.8 million (midyear 2021).  According to the most recent available data (2011 census), 26 percent of the population belongs to various branches of the Church of God; 12 percent Seventh-day Adventist; 11 percent Pentecostal; 7 percent Baptist; 3 percent Anglican; 2 percent Roman Catholic; 2 percent United Church of Christ; 2 percent Jehovah’s Witnesses; 2 percent Methodist; 1 percent Revivalist; and 1 percent Rastafarian.  Two percent maintain some other form of spiritual practice.  Other religious groups constitute 8 percent of the population, including approximately 23,000 members of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, 18,000 Moravians, 6,500 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1,500 Muslims (Islamic groups estimate their numbers at 6,500), 1,800 Hindus, 500 Jews, and 270 Baha’is.  The census reports 21 percent have no religious affiliation.  There is no census data on adherents of Yahweh, Sikhism, Jainism, or Obeah and Myalism, religious practices with West African influences, although these practices are reportedly more common in rural villages.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to media, three members of Montego Bay’s Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries were killed and one injured as part of a ritual human sacrifice at the church’s compound in October.  When JCF officers responded, an exchange of gunfire resulted in the death of an additional congregant.  Media also reported Pathways’ leader Kevin Smith later died on October 25, along with a JCF officer, in a car crash while being transported in a police convoy following his arrest for multiple counts of murder.  The incident led several prominent religious leaders and government officials to call for increased scrutiny of churches.  “It seems to me that the major church umbrella groups need to sit down and have a conversation among themselves, and then make recommendations to the government, so that not every person who wants to set up a church can so freely do,” said Mark Dawes, a pastor within the Missionary Church Association in Jamaica.  Catholic Archbishop of Kingston Kenneth Richards stated, “[I]t’s very difficult; this is where some of the complexity resides, because there’s the constitutional right to freedom of religion that has to be respected.”  Jamaica Council of Churches president Reverend Newton Dixon proposed the establishment of an “ethical charter” between and among churches and the government to protect people in religious spaces and prevent further violent incidents.  Deputy Prime Minister Chang told media that it would have been difficult to take action against Smith’s church beforehand, given constitutional protections, although he raised the possibility of increased regulations.  By year’s end, the government had not introduced any new regulation of church activities resulting from the incident.

Rastafarians continued to report wider societal acceptance, despite continued negative stereotyping and stigma associated with their wearing locs and smoking marijuana.  In April, Minister for Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport Olivia Grange attended celebrations of Groundation Day, a major holiday for Rastafarians.

Christian, Jewish, and Islamic groups continued to state that society was tolerant of religious diversity, cited their continued involvement, along with other faiths, in the Jamaica Council for Interfaith Fellowship.  The interfaith council included representatives from the Rastafari Innity Council, Sanatan Dharma Mandir United Church, Unification Church, National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is, United Congregation of Israelites, Islamic Council, and Soka Gakkai International.  Other organizations sometimes participated in council events.  The council continued to coordinate public education events, such as offering virtual programming for Interfaith Awareness Day in April, and to publicize World Interfaith Harmony Week, celebrated annually during the first week of February.

LGBTQI+ individuals continued to report negative attitudes and discrimination from some religious groups, although media reports and surveys suggested an overall trend toward increasing acceptance.  Sex between men continued to be criminalized, with the support of some religious groups.  Media reports quoted one leader of a group of churches opposed to decriminalizing sex between men as saying, “We definitely don’t support the established organizations of support to homosexuality, and we are against all their proposals and their recommendations for legalization [and] anything that has to do with the advances of the practice of homosexuality in Jamaica.”

Local media outlets continued to provide a forum for extensive coverage and open dialogue on religious matters through radio and television shows, as well as in opinion pages and letters to the editor in newspapers, such as The Gleaner and The Jamaica Observer.  Topics included the intersection of LGBTQI+ rights with religion, the status of regulation of churches, and religion’s role in society.  The Gleaner also published a series of academic discussions on religion and culture that explored the history and practices of Yahweh, Sikhism, and Jainism, among others.

Japan

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 124.7 million (midyear 2021).  A report by the Agency for Cultural Affairs (ACA) indicates that membership in religious groups totaled 183 million as of December 31, 2019.  This number, substantially more than the country’s population, reflects many citizens’ affiliation with multiple religions.  For example, it is common for followers of Buddhism to participate in religious ceremonies and events of other religions, such as Shinto, and vice versa.  According to the ACA, the definition of follower and the method of counting followers vary with each religious organization.  Religious affiliation includes 88.9 million Shinto followers (48.6 percent), 84.8 million Buddhists (46.3 percent), 1.9 million Christians (1 percent), and 7.4 million adherents of other religious groups (4 percent).  The category of “other” and nonregistered religious groups includes Islam, the Baha’i Faith, Hinduism, and Judaism.

Most immigrants and foreign workers practice religions other than Buddhism or Shinto, according to an NGO in close contact with foreign workers.  A scholar estimates that at the end of 2019, there were approximately 230,000 Muslims in the country, including up to 50,000 Japanese converts.  Most of the approximately 350 Rohingya Muslims in the country live in Gunma Prefecture, north of Tokyo, with some residing in Saitama, Chiba, and Tokyo, according to Burmese Rohingya Association in Japan (BRAJ) President Zaw Min Htut.  Ilham Mahmut, the JUA honorary chairman and World Uyghur Congress Representative for East Asia and the Pacific, said most of the nearly 2,000 Uyghur Muslims in the country reside in Tokyo or its surrounding prefectures of Chiba, Saitama, and Kanagawa.  He states that of the nearly 2,000 Uyghur Muslims, approximately 700 are naturalized Japanese citizens.  The Jewish population is approximately 3,000 to 4,000, according to a long-term member of the Jewish community.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Muslim communities continued to report societal religious tolerance of their faith.  Several media outlets, however, stated that local communities, particularly in the western part of the country, continued to be reluctant to have Islamic cemeteries in their neighborhoods, citing local residents’ concerns that the Muslim tradition of burying a body could contaminate soil and water (cremation is a widespread practice in the country).  Due to this concern, the Beppu Muslim Association faced opposition from some residents to its plan submitted to local authorities in 2019 for a permit to build an Islamic cemetery on land that it owns in Hiji Town, Oita Prefecture.  The association reportedly petitioned the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare to establish at least one public burial site in each prefecture or designate one section of existing public cemeteries for Islamic burials to remedy a shortage of burial sites for Muslims.  The ministry reportedly acknowledged in June that it recognized the issue and would seek advice from concerned municipalities.  According to press reports, the Hiji Town government organized talks between the residents and the Beppu Muslim Association on November 5 to find a solution.  In the talks, residents reportedly proposed another site owned by the town government as an alternative.  They reportedly assessed the alternative site would be unlikely to contaminate water because of its topography and the lack of contamination from a nearby monastery that also buries deceased individuals in the soil.  Hiji Mayor Honda Hirofumi publicly stated that making progress on the issue would be possible should residents and the Beppu Muslim Association agree on the alternative site.  A representative of the Beppu Muslim Association publicly said the alternative site would be acceptable as long as the residents concurred with the association’s use of the site.

The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games fired the director of the opening ceremonies, Kobayashi Kentaro, one day before the event when a video showing Kobayashi making a joke about the Holocaust in 1998 surfaced.  The committee called the conduct “unacceptable,” and Kobayashi issued an apology shortly thereafter.

Jordan

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the population at 10.9 million (midyear 2021).  According to U.S. government estimates, Muslims, virtually all of whom are Sunni, make up 97.1 percent of the population while Christians make up 2.1 percent.  Church leaders’ estimates of the size of the Christian community range from approximately 1.8 percent to as high as 3 percent of the country’s population.  Groups constituting less than 1 percent of the population include Buddhists, Baha’is, Hindus, and Druze (who are considered Muslims by the government).  According to the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies (RIIFS), there is also a small community (consisting of a few migrant families) of Zoroastrians and Yezidis.  Most of the more than one million migrant workers are from Egypt, South and Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.  Migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia are often Christian or Hindu.  There are an estimated 760,000 refugees and other displaced persons registered with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees from 57 countries of origin, including more than 670,000 Syrians, 67,000 Iraqis, and 13,000 Yemenis.  The government states there are 1.3 million Syrians present in the country.  The Syrian and Iraqi refugee populations are mostly Sunni Muslim.  Shia Muslims and Christians account for less than one-third of the Iraqi refugee population.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Converts from Islam to Christianity reported continued social ostracism, threats, and physical and verbal abuse, including beatings, insults, and intimidation, from family members, neighbors, and community or tribal members.  Some reported they worshipped in secret because of the social stigma they faced as converts, while others reported persistent threats of violence from family members protecting traditional honor.  According to international NGOs, female converts from Islam were particularly vulnerable to harassment and pressure to renounce their conversions.  Church leaders continued to report incidents of violence, pressure, and discrimination against religious converts and persons in interfaith romantic relationships; the latter continued to report ostracism and, in some cases, feuds among family members and violence toward those involved.  Some converts from Islam expressed interest in resettlement abroad due to discrimination and threats of violence.  Converts from Christianity to Islam also reported social stigma from their families and Christian society.  Christian women married to Muslim men were more often stigmatized.  Nonbelievers reported societal intolerance and discrimination.  Although an individual’s religion was no longer written on identification cards, one’s religion could often be surmised based on personal and family names.

Religious leaders reported continuing online hate speech, frequently through social media, directed towards religious minorities and those who advocated religious moderation.  One NGO reported increased online hate speech towards the Christian community in direct response to radio and internet broadcasts of local services to the local Christian community.  This NGO turned off comments on websites and blocked repeat offenders on its social media accounts in an effort to avoid hate speech.  Religious broadcasts were an alternative to regular in-person services, which were not allowed when the country was under periodic comprehensive lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  NGO sources said the negative responses were the reactions of Muslims to their first real exposure to Christianity.  NGOs disagreed on the prevalence of hate speech in local society.  One NGO worried about calls from the local community to criminalize hate speech in new laws or amendments, believing it would lead to selective application of the law.

Some religious leaders privately associated hate speech, intolerance, and extremism with poverty and lack of educational opportunities in the country.

Criticism online and in social media continued to target converts from Islam to other religions.  Religious minorities expressed concerns that some Muslim leaders preached intolerance.  Christians reported they self-segregated into Christian enclaves in Amman and its outskirts to escape social pressure and threats.  Although Christians clustered in specific neighborhoods and sought life abroad for safety and community support, Christian leaders stated it was difficult to categorize the desire to relocate solely based on religious identity; Christians relocated to the cities and moved abroad seeking economic opportunities as well.

Observers reported friction between Christian denominations on the CCL and evangelical churches not recognized by the government.  Leaders from some CCL-affiliated churches said there were “recruitment efforts” and “hidden agendas” against their members and Jordanian society writ large by evangelical churches, and that evangelical churches were disrupting interfaith harmony, creating rifts in local society and undermining the CCL’s relationship with the government and security services.  CCL leaders stated they worried that outsiders “causing trouble” would bring unwanted attention on the Christian community.  Members of the evangelical community said that some CCL leaders applied pressure on the government to not recognize evangelical churches in the country.

In an April Yarmouk TV broadcast, a University of Jordan professor, Ahmad Nofal, accused Jews of “ruling the world” and stated there was no differentiation between “Zionists” and “Jews.”  He also accused Zionists of purposefully harvesting organs and infecting Palestinians with diseases.  In November, Nofal asked on Yarmouk TV, “Do the Europeans love the Jews that much?…They want to dump them on us….Instead of doing what Hitler did – massacring and burning and whatever – they dump them on the Middle East.”

In April, Jordanian analyst Mohammed Faraj, on Lebanon’s Mayadeen TV, denounced a Holocaust memorial ceremony held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), saying that commemorating the Holocaust was a UAE attempt to cover up the real massacres perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians.  He said it was a “Zionist strategic policy” to focus on only six million of the 42 million who were killed in World War II.

In May, former MP Saud Abu Mahfouz, in a video posted to YouTube, said that Jews are “bastards [who have] all the money of [Irving] Moskowitz, of Rothschild, and of Sheldon Adelson.”  With their “deeds [and] filth…[Jews] are provoking the Islamic identity.”

When criticizing Israeli government policies in November, Roya TV, a privately owned, Amman-based satellite channel, published a cartoon on social media that appeared to show Lord Balfour and a Jewish man wearing a kippah and holding the map of Israel and Palestinian territories in a police lineup.  Also in November, Roya posted a video with an exaggerated reenactment of an Orthodox Jew when discussing an energy-for-water deal between Jordan, the UAE, and Israel.  In December, the German broadcaster DW suspended a 10-year-old partnership with Roya over “the discovery of anti-Israeli and antisemitic comments and caricatures in social media disseminated” by Roya.  A senior DW executive apologized for overlooking “these disgusting images.”  In response, Roya’s CEO said that “criticism of illegal, inhuman, or racist actions by Israel as a state” should be distinguished from antisemitism.

A Christian boxer’s death sparked criticism online in April after some individuals sent their condolences to his family using the phrase, “May God have mercy on him.”  Some individuals criticized those offering condolences, claiming mercy should be reserved only for Muslims.

In July, the Religion News Service reported on a debate in the country over the possibility of opening up to Shia pilgrims, long discouraged from visiting the tombs of the relatives of the Prophet Muhammad, most prominently Jafar, Muhammad’s cousin and the brother of Ali, the first leader of Shia Islam.  Zaid Nabulsi, a lawyer and prodemocracy advocate, first made the suggestion in a Facebook post, noting that most of the sites of interest to Shia pilgrims are in the impoverished southern part of the country.  Government officials said no change in policy was being considered.

The Catholic Center for Studies and the international Muslim Council of Elders, based in Abu Dhabi, organized a conference in Amman in September, “Media Against Hate.”  More than 100 Arab media professionals attended the meeting, which was sponsored by Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed.  Attendees discussed the use of legacy and social media in spreading and countering hate speech.  Religious leaders expressed skepticism regarding officially and unofficially organized interfaith conferences in the country, saying such conferences did not increase intercommunal harmony and were often a facade for the West.

In a poll published by RIIFS that included 400 Muslims, 83 Christians, and nine individuals identified as “other,” 83 percent of respondents agreed all worshippers should have equal rights to practice their religion regardless of cultural, social, and religious backgrounds, and any discrimination in this regard should be considered a human rights violation; 7 percent disagreed; and 10 percent were neutral.  In the same study, 74 percent said that religious rites were practiced freely in the country and that it had appropriate legislation allowing freedom of worship.

In a poll conducted by a Dubai-based public relations firm in June and involving a team of international experts, 57 percent of the country’s citizens between the ages of 18 and 24 agreed that religion was “the most important” factor to their personal identity, compared with 34 percent overall for youth polled in the 17 Arab states included in the survey.  Only one other state included in the survey had a larger percentage of respondents agreeing with this response.  Other choices offered by the poll as possible responses included family/tribe, nationality, Arabic heritage, political beliefs, language, and gender.

Kazakhstan

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 19.2 million (midyear 2021).  The most recent national census in 2009 reported 96.7 percent of the population identified with a religious faith.  A 2019 CRA study shows that 92.8 percent of the population self-identifies as religious.  According to 2009 census data, approximately 70 percent of the population identifying as religious is Muslim, most of whom adhere to the Sunni Hanafi school.  Other Muslim groups include Shafi’i Sunni, Shia, Sufi, and Ahmadi.

According the 2009 census data, Christians constitute 26 percent of the population identifying as religious, the great majority of whom are Russian Orthodox.  Other groups include Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, Mennonites, Pentecostals, Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and members of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification (Unification Church).  Ethnic Kazakhs and other Central Asian ethnic groups primarily identify as Muslim, and ethnic Russians and Ukrainians primarily identify as Christian.

Other religious groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population identifying as religious include Jews, Buddhists, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness, Baha’is, and Scientologists.

Nonbelievers or atheists constitute 18.8 percent of the population, according to a 2019 study by a government-affiliated think tank.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Observers and members of minority Christian religious communities continued to express concerns regarding negative articles and broadcasts about minority religious groups that private and government-run media described as “nontraditional.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses continued to report the appearance of defamatory articles in private and government-run media outlets during the year.  The Church of Scientology also received negative media coverage.  In an August interview on antivaccine movements, editor-in-chief Pavel Bannikov of the news website Factcheck.kz said the Church was not very active in spreading antivaccine propaganda, but he equated Scientology with foreign disinformation campaigns because of the group’s campaign against elements of the country’s health code and, in particular, its opposition to psychiatric care.

NGOs continued to report individuals were wary of “nontraditional” religious groups, particularly those that proselytized or whose dress or grooming, including the use of Islamic headscarves and beards, suggested “nontraditional” beliefs.

According to the NGO Open Doors, Christians who converted from Islam continued to be persecuted by family, friends and their community.

The Association of Religious Organizations of Kazakhstan, which includes many of the Protestant groups deemed “nontraditional” by the government, represented those minority religious groups’ concerns to the government and provided a forum for consultations among those groups.

 

Kenya

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 54.7 million (midyear 2021).  The government estimates that as of 2019, approximately 85.5 percent of the total population is Christian and 11 percent Muslim.  Groups constituting less than 2 percent of the population include Hindus, Sikhs, Baha’is, and those adhering to various traditional religious beliefs.  Nonevangelical Protestants account for 33 percent of the population, Roman Catholics 21 percent, and other Christian denominations, including evangelical Protestants, African Instituted Churches (churches started in Africa independently by Africans rather than chiefly by missionaries from another continent), and Orthodox churches, 32 percent.

Most of the Muslim population lives in the northeast and coastal regions, with significant Muslim communities in several areas of Nairobi.  Religion and ethnicity are often linked, with most members of many ethnic groups adhering to the same religious beliefs.  For example, ethnic Somalis and Swahilis living in the coastal region account for the majority of the Muslim population.  The five largest ethnic groups (the Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo, and Kamba) are predominately Christian.  There are more than 230,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the Dadaab refugee camps near the Somali border, mostly ethnic Somali Muslims.  The Kakuma refugee camp in the northwestern part of the country has more than 177,000 refugees, including Somalis, South Sudanese, and Ethiopians, who practice a variety of religions.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab again carried out attacks in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, and Lamu Counties in the northeastern part of the country, sometimes targeting non-Muslims because of their faith.  In January, the international Christian advocacy organization Open Doors noted what it described as a rise in violence against Christians, especially in the northeast where al-Shabaab was responsible for many threats and attacks.  In June, al-Shabaab terrorists attacked two buses traveling through Mandera County near the Kenyan border with Somalia, killing three individuals.  Media outlets reported the attackers were targeting non-Muslims.

According to NGO sources, some Muslims and their families believed they were threatened with violence or death, especially individuals who had converted from Islam to Christianity and those of Somali ethnic origin.

Some interreligious NGOs and faith leaders, citing extensive interfaith efforts to build peace between communities, promote peaceful elections, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, said relations between religious groups continued to improve.  For example, the national interfaith umbrella group the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK) partnered with the governmental National Cohesion and Integration Commission to call on politicians to avoid inciting violence by adhering to an elections code of conduct in advance of the country’s general election in August 2022.  It also encouraged members of its religious communities to register to vote and educate themselves about the electoral process.  The interfaith Dialogue Reference Group, composed of prominent Christian, Muslim, and Hindu groups, continued to hold national and county forums to promote national reconciliation.  The Dialogue Reference Group also regularly issued statements calling for national unity and urging the government to take necessary steps to conduct peaceful and credible elections.

IRCK also partnered with other NGOs such as the Kenya Community Support Centre (KECOSCE) to increase religious tolerance and reduce opportunities for radicalization related to religion, particularly in Nairobi and the coastal region.  KECOSCE and IRCK hosted interfaith dialogues and joint community activities to encourage peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding.  IRCK and religious leaders reported that close collaboration among different faiths continued to inform and improve the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Leaders collaborated on several initiatives at the national and county level to disseminate accurate information, protect public health, and address the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19.

Kiribati

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 113,000 (midyear 2021).  According to the 2015 census, approximately 57 percent of the population is Roman Catholic and 31 percent belongs to the Kiribati Uniting Church (until 2016 known as the Kiribati Protestant Church).  Members who did not accept the name change continue as the KPC.  The KPC estimates a membership of 10,000, or approximately 8 percent of the population.  According to the census, 5 percent of the population belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), but the Church states its membership exceeds 12 percent.  Groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include the Baha’i Faith (2 percent), Seventh-day Adventist Church (2 percent), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Assemblies of God, and Muslims.  Persons with no religious affiliation account for less than 1 percent of the population.  Members of the Catholic Church are concentrated in the northern islands, while Protestants constitute the majority in the southern islands.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

With approximately 1,000 inhabitants each, the population of two islands – Arorae and Tamana – continued their “one-church-only” tradition, which they stated was in deference to Protestant missionaries who came to the islands in the 1800s, according to government reports.  Residents of the two islands were largely Protestants, who represented 98 percent and 96 percent, respectively, according to the 2015 census.  While most residents of Arorae accepted the name change to Kiribati Uniting Church, most residents of Tamana joined the KPC.  A small number of Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, Church of Jesus Christ, and Baha’i adherents were also present.  On these islands, residents of other religious groups worshipped only in their own homes.  Sources stated that villagers on Arorae discouraged religious groups outside the Kiribati Uniting Church from proselytizing or holding public meetings but permitted missionaries to visit members in their homes if they requested permission from local leaders first.

Kosovo

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 1.9 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2011 census (the most recent), 95.6 percent of the population is Muslim, 2.2 percent Roman Catholic, and 1.4 percent Serbian Orthodox, with Protestants, Jews, and persons not answering or responding “other” or “none” together constituting less than 1 percent.  Boston University’s 2020 World Religion Database estimates the population is 93 percent Muslim and 6 percent Christian, while 1 percent are atheist or agnostic, or belong to other religions.  Local estimates of the total number of Jews range from 50 to 150.  According to the SOC and international observers, lack of financial support for the census and a boycott of it by most ethnic Serbs resulted in a significant undercounting of ethnic minorities of all religious backgrounds, including SOC members, Tarikat Muslims, and Protestants.  Other religious communities, including Tarikat Muslims and Protestants, also contested the registration data, stating they distrusted the census methodology and believed it resulted in undercounts of their communities’ members.

The majority of Kosovo Albanians are Muslim, although some are Christian (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant).  Almost all Kosovo Serbs belong to the SOC.  The majority of ethnic Ashkali, Bosniaks, Egyptians, Gorani, Roma, and Turks are also Muslim, while most ethnic Montenegrins and some Roma are Christian Orthodox.  Nearly all ethnic Croats are Catholic.

According to the BIK, most Muslims belong to the Hanafi Sunni School, although some are part of the Sufi Tarikat community.  There is also a Sufi Bektashi religious community; no official estimate exists for the number of its adherents.  Kosovo Albanians represent the majority in 28 of the country’s 38 municipalities, and Kosovo Serbs make up the majority in the remaining 10.  Most SOC members reside in the 10 Serb-majority municipalities.  The largest Catholic communities are in Gjakove (Albanian-language name)/Djakovica (Serbian-language name), Janjeve/Janjevo, Kline/Klina, Pristina, and Prizren.  Evangelical Protestant populations, representing multiple traditions including Baptists, Pentecostals, Reformed, nondenominational, and others, are located throughout the country, concentrated in Pristina and Gjakove/Djakovica.  There are small Jewish communities in Prizren and Pristina, although exact numbers are unavailable.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In July, the Basic Court in Pristina sentenced Montenegrin national Risto Jovanovic to six months in prison for inciting intolerance by chanting nationalist slogans such as “Kill the Albanians!” during the June 28 observance of Vivovdan, which commemorates the 1389 Battle of Kosovo between Serbs and Ottomans at Gazimestan, Pristina.  The court fined Jovanovic 6,700 euros ($7,600) in lieu of imprisonment and banned him from entering the country for five years.

The SOC again stated media reporting contributed to a climate of interethnic and interreligious intolerance during the year.  For example, in June, SOC officials complained about negative media reactions following SOC Bishop Teodosije Sibalic’s liturgy on the occasion of Orthodox Holy Ascension in the contested Christ the Savior Church.  During the service, Bishop Teodosije reportedly said, “By serving the liturgy today in this cathedral, we testify who we are, who we were, and who we should be in the future.  We testify that we will never give up our holy sites, that they belong to us, representing a pledge of our eternal life.”  The SOC said unknown persons wrote graffiti on the church’s doors reading “Jesus Hates Serbs” after the liturgy was completed.  The SOC said it did not report the vandalism to the police because the media widely reported the incident and police were present at the time.  A group of students subsequently staged a protest in front of the church, which they said was associated with the Slobodan Milosevic regime.  According to media, some Kosovo politicians and students criticized the bishop’s liturgy, and local NGO Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms called it an “insult” and a “provocation.”

The BIK again stated there were media reports and statements on social media that portrayed Muslims negatively but did not cite examples.

National police said they received reports of 87 incidents targeting religious sites during the year, compared with 57 incidents in 2020.  The incidents targeted 56 Muslim, 30 SOC, and one Roman Catholic property.  Police classified two cases as incitement of discord and intolerance but did not give details.  The BIK said incidents targeting mosques were likely financially motivated, citing, for example, a cash charity box in the Kacanik Mosque that was robbed several times during the year.  According to the BIK, the thefts negatively affected their humanitarian activities.  The SOC stated that some of the incidents involving its property in the country were religiously and ethnically motivated.  Because religion and ethnicity are often closely linked, it was sometimes difficult to categorize incidents as solely based on religious identity.

In March, the SOC said unknown individuals broke into its parsonage under construction in Vitomirice/Vitomirica and stole construction materials worth 4,000 euros ($4,500).  In May, the SOC said unknown individuals looted the Churches of Forty Martyrs of Sebaste and St. Dimitrije in the Strpce/Shterpce area.  Media reported that on June 28, unknown individuals took away an SOC flag that was flying at the entrance of Gracanica Monastery, and subsequently posted an image to social media of a masked person holding an Albanian flag and trampling the stolen SOC flag and setting it on fire.  Media reported that in July, unknown persons broke into the SOC Church of St. Peter and Paul in Strpce and wrote “Kosovo Liberation Army” on the wall.  The SOC said it reported these incidents to the police but were concerned about the ability or willingness of authorities to protect Serbian Orthodox Church facilities.

In April, local Kosovo-Serb civil society organizations and Kosovo-Serb political representatives criticized the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms (CDHRF), which had stated that the Visoki Decani Monastery was turned into a military base and Kosovo Albanians were held hostage there during the 1999 war and requested an investigation of the monastery’s Abbot, Father Sava Janjic, for “possible violations of the Law of War and Humanitarian Law.”  Sixteen civil society organizations in a joint statement strongly condemned CDHRF’s allegations, which, they said, were “groundless” and called on the government to clearly condemn the CDHRF position and provide all necessary protection to the monastery and Father Janjic.

The KPEC said the media disproportionately covered humanitarian aid from secular or non-Protestant sources but rarely reported on KPEC’s humanitarian work; representatives said the omission contributed to societal intolerance of Protestants and other minority religions.

According to an International Republican Institute (IRI) report entitled Antisemitic Discourse in the Western Balkans released during the year, antisemitic statements in media were rare.  Of 1,548 online media items studied between January 2019 and May 20, 2020, 70 (4.5 percent) contained what the IRI determined was antisemitic content.  Most media focused on Holocaust remembrance and the role ethnic Albanians played in saving Jews during World War II.  The IRI stated some “more conservative and radical Muslim communities accuse Israel of controlling the world, its security, financial and banking sectors, the health industry, etc.”

According to Imam Maliqi, Muslim women were reluctant to wear the hijab, fearing potential employment and societal discrimination.

The KPEC said the majority of people in the country respected Christians, including Protestants, but a small percentage of “radical” Muslims did not.  In addition, it said its members in rural areas, many of whom converted to Christianity from Islam, were hesitant to practice their religion openly due to fear of discrimination.

Following delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic and disputes over privately-owned land expropriations, construction continued on a Turkish-government-funded Grand Mosque in Pristina.  Some citizens continued to oppose construction of the mosque, saying its design was based on an archaic Ottoman style rather than traditional Kosovo mosque architecture.  Some local imams continued to state existing downtown mosques fulfilled the needs of their constituency and that there was no demand for such a large mosque in the area.

Religious group leaders continued interfaith discussions on property rights, legislative priorities, and local community issues.  On December 30, the OSCE condemned the vandalism of the SOC cemetery in Gracanica/e Municipality, where unknown persons damaged seven tombstones.  Police initiated an investigation.

Kuwait

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 3.0 million (midyear 2021).  U.S. government figures also cite the Public Authority for Civil Information (PACI), a local government agency, reporting that the country’s total population was 4.6 million for 2021.  As of June, PACI reported there were 1.5 million citizens and 3.2 million noncitizens.  PACI estimates 75 percent of citizens and noncitizens are Muslims.  The national census does not distinguish between Shia and Sunni Muslims.  Nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and media estimate approximately 70 percent of citizens are Sunni Muslims, while the remaining 30 percent are Shia Muslims (including Ahmadi and Ismaili Muslims, whom the government counts as Shia).  PACI estimates 18 percent of citizens and noncitizens are Christian and 7 percent of citizens and noncitizens are members of non-Abrahamic faiths.  Community leaders indicated there are 288 Christian citizens and a handful of Baha’i citizens.  There are no known Jewish citizens, according to PACI.

According to information from PACI released in June, 63 percent of the expatriate population is Muslim, 26 percent Christian, and 11 percent from non-Abrahamic faiths.  Sources in various noncitizen communities state that approximately 5 percent of the expatriate Muslim population is Shia, while Hindus and Buddhist account for the majority of the non-Abrahamic faith population.  Informal estimates by members of different faiths indicate there are approximately 250,000 Hindus, 100,000 Buddhists, 25,000 Bohra Muslims, 10,000 to 12,000 Sikhs, 7,000 Druze, and 400 Baha’is.

While some geographic areas have higher concentrations of either Sunnis or Shia, the two groups are distributed uniformly throughout most of the country.  Sources in the Shia community state that approximately 60 percent of the Bidoon (long-time stateless Arab resident) population is Shia.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Societal pressure continued against conversion from Islam, according to minority religious leaders and citizens.  Leaders and members of religious communities said they did not convert Muslims in the country.  Some citizens who converted outside the country said their families harassed them due to their conversion.

In January, Mohammed al-Momen, a television journalist and announcer, posted a video on Snapchat announcing that he was converting from Islam to Christianity.  Reactions on social media varied, with some users stating al-Momen had the right to choose his faith, others offering prayers for his return to Islam, others expressing concern about his mental state, and some saying he was an apostate risking damnation.

In February, singer Ibtisam Hamid, professionally known as Basma al-Kuwaiti but a noncitizen, posted a video to Instagram and Twitter in which she criticized Islam and stated that she had converted to Judaism.  She stated that the country’s royal family “rejects normalization [with Israel], freedom of religion, and freedom of opinion.”  Media reports stated she no longer lived in the country.  In an Israeli television interview, Hamid said she had received death threats after announcing her decision.  It was unclear where Hamid resided as of year’s end or where she was at the time of her social media posts.

The NGO MRGI reported Shia were often perceived as being lower on the social scale and marginalized in religious, economic, social, and political terms.

Hotels, stores, and other businesses continued to mark non-Islamic holidays, such as Christmas, Easter, and Diwali.  During the Christmas season, Christmas trees and lights appeared in stores, malls, and homes.

News media continued to print information about religious holiday celebrations, including material on the religious significance of Christmas.

According to press and social media, antisemitic rhetoric generally originated from self-proclaimed Islamists or opinion writers.  There were reported cases of clerics and others making statements that perpetuated negative stereotypes of Jews.  Columnists often conflated Israeli government actions or views with those of Jews more broadly.

In January, prominent cleric Othman al-Khamis issued a statement condemning the construction of an interfaith center, the Abrahamic Family House, in the United Arab Emirates that would include a synagogue, church, and mosque.  Al-Khamis also uploaded to YouTube a video in which he called Jews “the brothers of apes and pigs, because they are essentially like them.”

Some Muslim clerics continued to express disapproval via social media of the celebration of non-Islamic holidays and called for more government action to restrict public expression of these holidays.  In December, officials at the country’s largest and best-known shopping center removed a Christmas tree display after receiving complaints that the display contradicted Islamic traditions.

The UAE research and consulting firm PSB took a June poll of youth between the ages of 17 and 24 in 17 Arab states and reported 34 percent of Kuwaiti respondents said their religion was the most important factor in their personal identity, which matched the regionwide result.  Other choices offered by the poll as possible responses included family/tribe, nationality, Arabic heritage, political beliefs, language, and gender.

Laos

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 7.6 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2015 national census, 64.7 percent of the population is Buddhist, 1.7 percent is Christian, 31.4 percent report having no religion, and the remaining 2.1 percent belong to other religions.  Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion of the ethnic or “lowland” Lao, who constitute 53.2 percent of the overall population.  According to the LFND, an organization associated with the LPRP that, along with the MOHA, is responsible for the administration of religious organizations, the remainder of the population comprises 50 ethnic minority groups, most of which practice animism and ancestor worship.  Animism is predominant among Sino-Thai groups, such as the Thai Dam and Thai Daeng, and the Mon-Khmer and Burmo-Tibetan groups.  Among lowland Lao, many pre-Buddhist animist beliefs are incorporated into Theravada Buddhist practice, particularly in rural areas.

Roman Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Baha’is, Mahayana Buddhists, Seventh-day Adventists, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ), and followers of Confucianism together constitute less than 3 percent of the population.  According to the Religious Freedom in the World 2021 report issued by the international Catholic Church-affiliated NGO Aid to the Church in Need, Christians comprise 2.8 percent of the population.  The Catholic Church estimates its membership at 100,000, the LEC estimates its membership at more than 200,000, the Methodist Church estimates its membership at 4,700 members, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church estimates its adherents at 2,500.  Muslim community leaders estimate the community has approximately 1,000 members, and the Baha’i Faith estimates its community has approximately 2,200 members.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to religious leaders, most disputes among religious communities occurred in villages and rural areas where the central government’s ability to enforce national laws was limited.

LEC leaders continued to say that growth in Church membership exacerbated tensions within some communities, particularly among villagers who were wary of minority religions.  According to one official, majority non-Christian neighbors often harassed new Christian members in these villages for abandoning their traditions, typically Buddhist or animist.

Religious leaders said that in some rural areas, there continued to be reports that villagers threatened to expel Christians from their villages if they did not renounce their faith.

According to local sources, villagers from Singsavang village, Athxayphone District, Savannakhet Province, threatened to force three Christian families from their homes in the village for refusing to renounce their faith, and due to these threats, some of the individuals reverted to Buddhism or animism.

In many villages, religious disputes continued to be referred to government-sanctioned village mediation units comprised of private citizens.  According to Christian group leaders, these units often encouraged Christians to compromise their beliefs by accommodating local Buddhist or animist community practices.  In dealing with local disputes regarding religious issues, MOHA and LFND officials said they first waited for local authorities to resolve an issue before getting involved.  MOHA and LFND officials continued to state their ministries did not have the resources to respond to every conflict.

According to Christian religious leaders, burial practices remained a contentious issue.  In some rural areas, Christians said they were not allowed to use public cemeteries, were not given land for separate cemeteries, and had to resort to burying the remains on farms or in backyards.  According to the LEC, Christians in Salakay Bang village buried three Christians in rice fields after they were unable to access public cemeteries in Phin District, Savannakhet Province.  A Christian leader said some churches continued to consider purchasing land for cemeteries so members would not have to use public cemeteries, and some Christian churches discussed purchasing land together to designate as Christian cemeteries.

Latvia

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 1.9 million (midyear 2021).  According to the Annual Report of Religious Organizations and their Activities published by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), based on 2019 data, the largest religious groups are Lutheran (37 percent), Roman Catholic (18 percent), and Latvian Orthodox Christian (13 percent), the latter being predominantly native Russian speakers.  Thirty-one percent of the population is unaffiliated with any religious group.  The Latvian Orthodox Church is a self-governing Eastern Orthodox Church under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate.  The Central Statistical Bureau reports there are 4,372 persons who identify as Jewish, and the Council of Jewish Communities believes there are approximately 10,000 persons with Jewish heritage.  The Muslim community reports approximately 1,000 Muslims resident in the country, while the MOJ’s report of religious organizations lists 176 active members in eight Muslim congregations.  Separately, there is a small Ahmadi Muslim community.  Other religious groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventists, Old Believers, evangelical Christians, Methodists, Calvinists, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Riga Jewish Community executive director Gita Umanovska and Jews of Latvia Museum director Ilya Lensky said antisemitic hate speech that appeared during the year was mostly in the form of posts on social media and comments in news articles, although no one reported such incidents to the police.  Sources stated the level of online antisemitic hate speech appeared similar to that of previous years, based on anecdotal assessments.  In October, one online commenter wrote, “Not in vain, at all times and in all countries, Jews were beaten … here.  [Latvia] is a vivid example.”  In September, another online commenter wrote, “Jews have been [screwed] by state powers in all times.”

In September, the Brussels-Based NGO Action and Protection League issued the results of its European anti-Semitism survey based on data from December 2019-January 2020.  According to the survey, 6 percent of 1,000 respondents ages 18-75 in Latvia said they had negative feelings towards Jews.  Ten percent said they would be “totally uncomfortable” or “uncomfortable” with having Jewish neighbors.  The survey cited stereotypical statements about Jews and asked 1,000 respondents ages 18-75 the degree to which they agreed or disagreed.  The proportion who responded “strongly agree” or “tend to agree” with the following statements were – “the interests of Jews in this country are very different from the interests of the rest of the population” (25 percent); “there is a secret Jewish network that influences political and economic affairs in the world” (27 percent); “Jews have too much influence in this country” (16 percent); “Jews will never be able to fully integrate into this society” (16 percent); “Jews are more inclined than most to use shady practices to achieve their goals” (33 percent); “many of the atrocities of the Holocaust were often exaggerated by the Jews later” (19 percent); “Jews are also to blame for the persecutions against them” (22 percent); “Jews exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes” (34 percent).

Some hate speech characterized as racist or anti-Muslim appeared on social media and the internet during the year, mostly in individual posts and comments in news articles.  For example, in September, one site had the comment, “Those blacks and Muslims are lazy, interested in benefits, forming gangs and doing drugs.  It is their environment.  They are shameless, lazy, they hate white people, they are racists.”

On November 30, approximately 300 persons (about half the number in attendance pre-pandemic) lit thousands of candles at the Freedom Monument in Riga in memory of the approximately 30,000 Jews killed in the Rumbula Forest by the Nazis in 1941.  A separate Rumbula Forest memorial service on November 30 was well attended, including by President Levits, Prime Minister Kariņs, Foreign Minister Rinkevics, Defense Minister Artis Pabriks, members of the diplomatic corps, leaders in the Jewish community, and religious leaders.

Lebanon

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 5.3 million (midyear 2021).  The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other organizations estimate the total population includes 4.5 million citizens and an estimated 1.5 million refugees fleeing the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, the vast majority of whom are Syrian, as well as a Palestinian refugee population present in the country for more than 70 years.  The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East estimates there are more than 180,000 Palestinian refugees in the country.

Lebanon has not conducted an official census of its population since 1932.  However, Statistics Lebanon, an independent firm, estimates 64.9 percent of the citizen population is Muslim (32 percent Sunni, 31.3 percent Shia, and 1.6 percent Alawites and Ismailis combined).  Statistics Lebanon further estimates 32 percent of the population is Christian.  Maronite Catholics are the largest Christian group (with 52.5 percent of the Christian population), followed by Greek Orthodox (25 percent of the Christian population).  Other Christian groups include Greek Catholics (Melkites), Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholics, Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholics, Assyrians, Chaldean Catholics, Copts, Protestants (including Presbyterians, Baptists, and Seventh-day Adventists), Roman (Latin) Catholics, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ).  According to Statistics Lebanon, 3.1 percent of the population is Druze, concentrated in the rural, mountainous areas east and south of Beirut.  There are also small numbers of Jews, Baha’is, Buddhists, and Hindus.  The Jewish Community Council, which represents the country’s Jewish community, estimates 70 Jews reside in the country.

UNHCR reports that the Syrian refugees in the country are mainly Sunni Muslims, but also Shia Muslims, Christians, and Druze.  Palestinians live in the country as UN-registered refugees in 12 camps and surrounding areas.  They are mostly the descendants of refugees who entered the country in the 1940s and 1950s.  Most are Sunni Muslims, but some are Christians.

UNHCR states there are approximately 10,300 UNHCR-registered Iraqi refugees in the country.  Refugees and foreign migrants from Iraq include mostly Sunni Kurds, Sunni and Shia Muslims, and Chaldean Catholics.  There are also Coptic Christians from Egypt and Sudan.  According to the secretary-general of the Syriac League, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that advocates for Syriac Christians in the country, approximately 4,000 Iraqi Christians of all denominations and 3,000 to 4,000 Coptic Christians reside in the country.  According to the Syriac League, the majority of Iraqi Christian refugees are not registered with UNHCR and so are not included in its count.  The Syriac League said that the population of Iraqi Christians had decreased by 70 percent since 2019, largely because of emigration driven by the country’s economic crisis.

Persons from all religious groups continued to emigrate from the country during the year, in large part due to the country’s deteriorating economic situation.  There is anecdotal evidence that Christians constituted a significant portion of those who left the country, especially following the August 2020 Beirut Port explosion, with some citing fears for their security and potential treatment in an unpredictable political environment as a reason for their departure.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

On August 1, Shia Hizballah supporters and members of the Sunni Arab tribes of Khaldeh clashed on August 1 during the funeral procession of Hizballah member Ali Chebli, who was killed the night before in an apparent vendetta shooting during a wedding.  Media reported that five individuals, including three Hizballah members, were killed.  The LAF subsequently intervened and warned that it would open fire on any gunman in the area.  The LAF had restored order in Khaldeh by August 2.

On January 27, Christian and Muslim religious leaders launched a joint appeal for the salvation of Lebanon in the face of an escalation of political, economic, social, and health crises.  They called on political leaders to “stop toying with the destiny of the nation,” in addition to “an immediate formation of a government of national resolve without any personal or sectarian calculations.”

On July 1, Christian religious leaders gathered with Pope Francis in the Vatican for a Day of Prayer and Reflection for Lebanon.

On December 20, religious leaders representing the Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Sunni, Shia, and Druze communities met with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during his visit to the country.  In a joint statement with Guterres, the leaders confirmed their commitment to openness, tolerance, and coexistence, saying that these values are at the core of faith, especially during the country’s ongoing economic crisis.

The Jewish Community Council’s 2011 lawsuit against individuals who constructed buildings in the Jewish cemetery in Tripoli continued, pending additional court-ordered analysis of the site; it was unresolved by year’s end.  The council restored and cleaned the Sidon cemetery at the end of 2019 after a municipality permit was issued to the council following several years of administrative inaction after acts of vandalism damaged the cemetery in 2018 and in previous years.  During 2020, the council hired a custodian to maintain the cemetery.

The press reported that in a series of Sunday sermons, Maronite Patriarch Rai appeared to criticize Hizballah.  He stressed the need to maintain the country’s neutrality beyond the current policy of distancing the country from regional conflicts and the current sharing of political power among its religious groups.  Observers said they interpreted Rai’s comments as an implicit criticism of Hizballah’s support for Iran.  The Patriarch also called for the disarming of militias and state control of ports and weaponry.  Without mentioning them specifically, Rai singled out Shia parties’ insistence on retaining the finance ministry in any new government as being responsible for blocking government formation and for causing the country’s continuing political paralysis.  On April 1, in a leaked video circulated by local media, Rai criticized Hizballah, accusing the organization of harming the country by dragging it into regional conflicts.  In the video, Rai said, “I want to tell them…You want us to stay in a state of war that you decide?  Are you asking us before you go to war?”  The Shia Supreme Islamic Council, without naming Rai, said that comments by a “major religious leader” amounted to “sectarian incitement that stirs up bigotry and distorts the facts.”

At year’s end, approximately 70 percent of students, not including students from the refugee population, attended private schools, the majority of which were tied to religiously based organizations.  These included schools that the government subsidized.  The schools generally continued to accommodate students from other religious and minority groups.

According to NGOs, some refugee children and the children of foreign domestic workers faced obstacles to equal treatment under the law.  They reported discrimination that included bullying linked to race, skin color, religion, and nationality.  However, some of these children were able to attend public schools.

In an interview that aired on January 27 on OTV, Faris Bouez, a former foreign minister, said that the new Biden administration would not change U.S. policy, saying, “Ten of [Biden’s] aides, secretaries, and heads of intelligence agencies are Jews.  So nobody should delude himself that we won anything by the rise of Biden.  Israel holds American political life with an iron fist.  An iron fist!”  Bouez stated, “Back in his day, Benjamin Franklin delivered a speech in the U.S. Congress and warned America that the Jews ‘will make our children starve, they will eat our children, and we should prevent them from being [here],’” and he said that money, universities, and the media in the United States were under the complete control of Israel.

Lebanese researcher Rafic Nasrallah recounted an antisemitic story to explain the “truth” behind the August 2020 Port of Beirut explosion on a television program that aired on September 24.  The host of the show said that “nobody rules out the theory” that Israel bombed the port, but that the Lebanese people deserve to know the truth behind the events.  In response, Nasrallah recounted the story of a 19th century Christian priest who was supposedly kidnapped by Jews, saying his blood was used “for something.”  He said, “Whenever there are scandals related to these things, the truth is gone.”

In a January 29 interview on Mayadeen TV, Asad al-Sahmarani, a theology professor at Imam al-Ouzai University in Beirut, said that the “Abrahamic Family House,” an interfaith prayer complex for Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the UAE and sponsored by the government of Abu Dhabi, contradicted both Islam and Christianity.  He said that this project would end in the garbage bin of history and added that the New Testament describes Israelites as a “brood of vipers” and the Quran says that God turned Jews into apes and pigs.

The UAE research and consulting firm PSB took a June poll of youth between the ages of 17 and 24 in 17 Arab states and reported that 17 percent of Lebanese respondents said that their religion was the most important factor in their personal identity, which was lower than the regionwide result of 34 percent.  Other choices offered by the poll as possible responses included family/tribe, nationality, Arabic heritage, political beliefs, language, and gender.

Lesotho

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 2.2 million (midyear 2021).  According to the CCL, approximately 90 percent of the population is Christian.  An Afrobarometer survey from February-March 2020 estimated the Christian population to be 95.1 percent or higher.  The survey found that Protestants, including Anglicans, evangelical Christians, Methodists, members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Pentecostals, Christian Zionists, Baptists, and members of the Church of Christ represent 53.7 percent of the population, and Roman Catholics 41.4 percent.  The rest of the country’s residents include Muslims, Hindus, Baha’is, those who belong to indigenous or other religious groups, and nonbelievers.  Many Christians practice traditional indigenous rituals in conjunction with Christianity.  According to Afrobarometer, Muslims constitute 0.4 percent of the population.  Muslims live primarily in the northern area of the country and in the capital.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

CCL leaders conducted meetings with various faith-based organizations throughout the country, including non-Christian organizations.  The CCL cited increasing concern among religious leaders about crime in the country, which it said was fueled by anger from the lack of opportunity for youth, aggressive gang activity, and gender-based violence.  The CCL noted crime affected their members even if not specifically targeted at a religious group and said that churches should play a larger role in addressing these societal issues.

Some officials from government entities, including the National Security Service and Lesotho Defense Force, mentioned concerns regarding the growth and influence of Muslim communities throughout the country.

A National University of Lesotho lecturer said religious freedom was embedded in the country’s constitution but that religious groups had not explored it to the fullest.  He cited the lack of a forum representing all religious groups in the country as an example.

Liberia

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the population at 5.2 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2008 National Population and Housing Census, which remains the most recent available, the population is 85.6 percent Christian, 12.2 percent Muslim, 1.5 percent persons who claim no religion, 0.6 percent adherents of indigenous religious beliefs, and less than 1 percent members of other religious groups, including the Baha’i Faith, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists.  Muslim organizations continued to dispute these official statistics, stating that Muslims constitute up to 20 percent of the population and calling for the government to conduct a new census.

Christian denominations include the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Baptist, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Episcopal, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, United Methodist, and a variety of Pentecostal churches.  Many members of religious groups also incorporate elements of indigenous traditional beliefs and customs into their religious practices.

Christians reside throughout the country.  Muslims belonging to the Mandingo and Fula ethnic groups reside throughout the country, while Muslims of the Vai ethnic group live predominantly in the west.  The Poro (for males) and Sande (for females) societies – often referred to as secret societies – combine traditional religious and cultural practices and are present in the northern, western, and central regions of the country.  Other traditional cultural and religious societies, including the Kui Society and the Bodio, or priests of the Gleebo people, exist in the southeast.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Human rights organizations continued to note an increase in reports of harmful traditional practices, including accusations of witchcraft and ritualistic killings, as well as other violent practices – such as female genital mutilation – within traditional secret societies, such as the Sande Society.  Religious and human rights organizations also stressed the need to clearly define the boundaries between traditional beliefs and religion so that religion would not be used to justify harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation.

Religious organizations stated that in some parts of the country, inhabitants held firm to traditional practices and did not welcome Christian evangelists.

On October 25, local media reported that on October 5, leaders of the secret Poro Society detained 11 members of the Saint Assembly Ministries International Church in Gbartala, Bong County.  According to Assistant MIA Joseph Jangar, residents there had expressed anger when members of the Church, who had traveled from Monrovia to Gbartala to proselytize, criticized the culture and traditions of the community as “demonic.”  Community leaders said villagers detained the Saint Assembly Ministries members in a nearby town in order to turn them over to the local authorities for violating traditional culture.  The MIA confirmed the release of all 11 Church members on October 7 following a sit-in protest by Church members at the ministry in Monrovia demanding their release.  The MIA said, however, that the Church members had been allegedly conscripted by force into the Poro Society before their release.

On March 16, the Tyneceploh Education Foundation School in Monrovia reportedly expelled six-year-old female student Catherine Karma, whom they accused of being a witch, on the grounds that she would initiate other students into witchcraft.  An unidentified source from the school told media that school administrators told the student’s parents to take her to pastors for what they termed “deliverance prayers,” after which the parents should provide a note from the church or pastor confirming that the child was free from witchcraft practices as a precondition of her being accepted back into the private school.  The parents called on the MOE, the MIA, children’s rights advocacy groups, and civil society groups to investigate the situation.  Humanists Liberia, with the support of the civil society organization Advocacy for Alleged Witches, issued a statement calling for “a swift, publicly written apology” to Catherine and her family.  The statement said, “We are also calling on the government to assist with counseling of Catherine and family and to take punitive action against the school to send a strong deterrence to others in the habit of falsely accusing their compatriots of witchcraft.  The issue of witchcraft is a long-standing dogma that has alienated many and stifled development.  It is time to tackle it head on!”

On July 31, in Jeadeapo Statutory District in Sinoe County, individuals subjected a man identified only as Wesseh to a traditional “sassywood” practice – trial by ordeal that includes violence to extract confessions from the accused – after he was accused of witchcraft in a video widely circulated on social media.  The practice was banned by the government in 2009.  Traditional witch doctors also accused Wesseh of causing the deaths of two persons and the disappearance of a teenager.  The national police investigated the matter and said the trial by ordeal against Wesseh, if proven, could lead to charges against the perpetrators ranging from aggravated assault to attempted murder.  At year’s end, however, authorities had filed no charges and made no arrests in the case.  Some Sinoe County residents said they were concerned about what they said was mob justice being carried out by some traditionalists in the area and appealed to the head of the National Traditional Council of Liberia as well as to the MIA for urgent intervention.

During an October 25 meeting, the NMCL said traditional leaders in Bong County forcibly initiated two men belonging to the Mandingo ethnic group into the Poro Society in October.

The Baha’i Spiritual Assembly said that in March, local community members in Grand Gedeh County accused 12 Baha’is of witchcraft.  The men were stripped naked and forced to undergo “cleansing,” despite the assembly appealing to the MIA’s local office to intervene.  Local leaders levied fines against the 12 men, reportedly resulting in some of them selling their goods and property to pay the fines.  Baha’i community members said the forced “cleansing” process went totally against their teaching.

In October, the IRCL helped resolve a conflict with ethnoreligious aspects in Palala, Bong County.  The incident involved the death of a 15-year-old boy from the predominantly Christian Kpelle ethnic group who was an apprentice in a motor vehicle repair shop owned and operated by a male guardian from the predominantly Muslim Mandingo ethnic group.  An IRCL investigation concluded that the boy likely died from internal injuries sustained in an accidental explosion of a car’s airbag.  In addition, the town chief set up a 15-person jury comprised of local Muslims, Christians, medical workers, and town elders to investigate the incident; the jury also concluded the death was accidental.  However, suspicion surrounding the death remained, as bruises from possible beatings were seen on the body of the deceased, according to witness accounts to the IRCL investigators and the media.  A member of the IRCL said that statements from some Mandingo community members that Mandingos had died at the hands of Kpelle guardians in the past raised suspicions about the incident.  Kpelle community members then threatened to burn down mosques in the area, which prompted a counterthreat by members of the Mandingo ethnic group to burn down Kpelle churches.  According to the IRCL member, the IRCL eased tensions by meeting with the victim’s family and his guardian, in coordination with the police, and stressing the need to remain calm.

According to its chairman, the IRCL also mitigated tensions with the National Imam Council of Liberia (NICOL), headed by Chief Imam Krayee, after he called for the IRCL to be dissolved during his Eid al-Adha message to the Muslim community and a national radio broadcast in July.  The IRCL said that after a conflict mitigation discussion with Krayee, NICOL promised to join with the IRCL to enhance interreligious dialogue in the country.

In October, the IRCL stated that it planned to modify its constitution to permit groups that were excluded, such as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the Baha’i Faith, to become members.  By year’s end, however, the IRCL took no action on this issue.  The existing constitution of the IRCL granted membership only to what it defined as historically mainline traditional Muslim and Christian organizations.  The IRCL said it would encourage these groups and others to join; several had expressed interest in joining but were not aware of the IRCL’s constitutional limitations.

Christian, Muslim, and interfaith organizations promoted tolerance, dialogue, and conflict resolution through training sessions, workshops, and community meetings.  In addition, the LCC held several workshops and outreach events on social issues with government agencies and international partners.

In January, the LCC condemned what it said had been the government’s unsuccessful attempt, during December 2020 midterm senatorial elections and a national referendum, to pass eight constitutional amendments that would have reduced the terms of office of the President, Senate, and House of Representatives; amended the constitution to change the date of general elections; and decreased the time the Elections Commission had to investigate complaints.

On August 4, in what the LCC said was an effort to revive discussion of the recommendations in the 2009 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report, the LCC held a one-day meeting with stakeholders to discuss the findings of the LCC’s 2021 perception survey on the report.  According to LCC Secretary General Christopher Toe, the survey engaged 2,000 persons in five counties:  Bong, Grand Bassa, Margibi, Montserrado, and Nimba.  Without providing details on methodology, the LCC said the survey showed that more than half of those surveyed agreed that warlords and leaders of fighting factions during the country’s two civil wars (1989-2003) should be punished under the law, while nearly three-fourths agreed 58 of the worst offenders should be prosecuted by a domestic court for the commission of high crimes.

Libya

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 7.0 million (midyear 2021).  According to reports by the International Organization for Migration, 12 percent of the population are migrants.  Sunni Muslims represent between 90 and 95 percent of the population, Ibadi Muslims account for between 4.5 and 6 percent, and the remainder includes small communities of Christians, Hindus, Baha’is, Buddhists, and Ahmadi Muslims, all of whom are mostly foreigners.  Many members of the Amazigh ethnic minority are Ibadi Muslims.  Nearly all non-Muslim residents in the country are foreigners.  Some Libyan Muslims practice Sufism.

Estimates of the number of Christians vary.  According to Open Doors USA’s 2022 World Watch List Country Profile (covering 2021), there are 34,600 Christians.  In 2015, Open Doors USA estimated 150 to 180 of these were Libyan nationals who converted from Islam, and the remainder migrant workers.

Foreign Christian communities consist almost exclusively of sub-Saharan African migrants and Filipino foreign workers, with smaller numbers of Egyptian migrants and a small number of other foreign residents of European nationalities.  According to Christian groups in Tripoli, most Egyptian Christians are followers of the Coptic Orthodox Church.  Most Filipino and some sub-Saharan African migrants are Catholic; the Catholic diocese of Tripoli estimates its followers include 3,000 sub-Saharan Africans and 500 Filipinos, a decline of 2,000 and 1,000, respectively, from the previous year.  Estimates of the numbers of other Christian groups vary.  According to Open Doors USA, these include Anglicans, Greek and Russian Orthodox, Protestants, and nondenominational Christians.

According to the World Holocaust Remembrance Center Yad Vashem, no Jews reside permanently in the country.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The Arab Organization for Human Rights – Libya (AOHRL) continued to report a restrictive social environment for religious freedom throughout the country.  This included intense social and economic pressure on former Muslims to return to Islam.  NGOs stated Salafist interpretations of sharia continued to contribute to this restrictive environment.  Religious minorities again said converts to other religions, as well as atheists, agnostics, and other nonreligious persons, faced threats of violence or dismissal from employment and hostility from their families and communities because of their beliefs or lack of belief.

Christian NGOs such as Middle East Concern, Open Doors and The Voice of the Martyrs said Christians who converted from Islam practiced their faith in semi-secrecy and faced violence and intense pressure from their families and communities to renounce their faith.  Christians said they felt pressure to refrain from missionary activities as a result of security threats and social pressure from the local community, as well as because of legal prohibitions against conversion and missionary activity.  Christians who had not converted from Islam said they often felt uncomfortable wearing outward displays of their religion, such as crosses or rosaries, for fear that it could lead to harassment.  Church leaders stated that many migrant parishioners were afraid to attend church following an October crackdown on migrants.  One church leader said 15 of his parishioners were detained in the crackdown, including some in close proximity to the church, and their fate was unknown.

Small Christian communities continued to exist in Tripoli, where Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant churches operated for foreigners.  Christian communities were also present in Misrata, al-Baida, Benghazi, Tubruq, Sebha, Ghat, Ubari, and Murzuq, among other cities.  In some cases, Catholic communities continued to worship in places other than church buildings, including in Benghazi, where ISIS destroyed church properties in 2015.  The Catholic cathedral in Benghazi, damaged in fighting in 2013-15, remained inaccessible.

In April, the World Organization of the Jews of Libya and the press reported that unknown persons were carrying out construction work on an abandoned synagogue in Tripoli without permission from members of the Libyan Jewish diaspora.  The work was continuing as of December.  According to a representative of the World Organization of the Jews of Libya, “Since there is now no Jew living in Tripoli, … the synagogue is being turned into an Islamic religious center without permission.”  The representative said the organization “calls for this transformation to be stopped immediately and to leave the Tripoli synagogue intact with the hope that one day it will be restored.”

 

Harassment of, and incitement against, the Ibadi Muslim minority by Salafist groups continued, according to multiple observers.  In October, Salafist Sheikh Tariq Dorman publicly stated that Ibadism was based on a rejection of Islam and on spreading chaos.

In GNU-controlled areas, religious scholars formed organizations, issued fatwas, and provided advice to followers.  The fatwas did not have legal weight but conveyed considerable social pressure, according to tribal and religious leaders.  The GNU did not exercise administrative control of mosques or supervision of clerics.

In October, Sheikh Sadiq al-Ghariani, whom the Muslim Brotherhood and others regard as the country’s Grand Mufti, issued a fatwa instructing Muslims not to cooperate with an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) microfinance project and falsely accused the ICRC of “facilitating” the work of missionaries.

Liechtenstein

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 39,000 (midyear 2021).  According to the 2020 census, religious group membership is as follows:  70 percent Roman Catholic, 8 percent Protestant Reformed, 6 percent Muslim, and 10 percent with no religious affiliation.

According to the Liechtenstein Institute, a majority of Muslims is Sunni, predominantly immigrants and descendants of immigrants from Turkey, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia.  Muslims are organized in three associations:  the Turkish-Islamic Community Liechtenstein; the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Association; and the Islamic Community Liechtenstein.  The Jewish community consists of fewer than 20 individuals.  Immigrants, who comprise approximately one-third of the country’s population, come mainly from Switzerland and Austria and belong predominantly to the same religious groups as native-born citizens.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There was one prayer room in the country, which was operated by the Turkish-Islamic Community of Liechtenstein in leased space in Triesen.  The Islamic Community of Liechtenstein used a prayer room in Sevelen, in neighboring Switzerland.  Members of the Islamic Community told media that the Muslim associations wanted to open a second prayer room and an Islamic burial site, but they were unable to obtain land and proper permits due in part to the reluctance of private property owners.

According to the MFA, religious groups in every municipality opened their chapels to other denominations and faiths upon request, including to Orthodox and Islamic groups.  For example, the Catholic church in Schaan continued to make its facilities available to the Christian Orthodox community to hold an Orthodox Easter Sunday service.  According to the MFA, there was no centralized information on whether and how select religious groups allowed other faiths to use their places of worship.

According to the Liechtenstein Institute, Muslims continued to face discrimination in society, particularly Muslim women in the labor force who wore a headscarf, especially in academia.  One Muslim woman reported that her landlord wanted to terminate the lease immediately upon discovering that she wore a headscarf.  The institute said societal discrimination persisted due to prejudices associating Muslims with ISIS or Islamic extremism.

Lithuania

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 2.7 million (midyear 2021).  According to the 2011 census, of the 90 percent of the population that responded to a question regarding religious affiliation, 86 percent identify as Roman Catholic, and 7 percent do not identify with any religious group.  Religious groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Russian Orthodox, Old Believers, Lutherans, Evangelical Reformed, Jews, Muslims, Greek Catholics, Karaite Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, members of the Full Gospel Word of Faith Movement, Pentecostals/Charismatics, Old Baltic faith communities, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Methodists, and members of the New Apostolic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In the 2011 census, approximately 5,100 persons identified as followers of Romuva, a neopagan religion practiced in the Baltic region since before the introduction of Christianity.  According to the census, the Jewish population is predominately concentrated in larger cities and is estimated at 3,300, of whom approximately 250 are Karaite Jews, who traditionally live in Trakai and in the greater Vilnius region.  The Sunni Muslim population numbers approximately 2,800, the majority of whom are Tatars, a community living primarily in Vilnius and Kaunas.  The Muslim community also includes recent converts, migrants, refugees, and temporary workers from the Middle East and Africa, most of whom are Sunni.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Anonymous antisemitic and anti-Muslim comments on the internet were common throughout the year.

Anonymous online commentators continued to express negative views of Muslim refugees.  For example, one post on the news website Delfi.lt read, “They [Muslim refugees] need to be chased back; these are criminals.  They are not going to work or follow culture, traditions, or the law.”  When media site editors became aware of such comments, they removed them without maintaining a log, making the comments difficult to track routinely.

On September 9, workers taking care of the Jewish cemetery in Kaunas reported that grave sites had been vandalized, including at least three graves that had been dug up allegedly by thieves searching for valuables.  Police started an investigation, which remained open at the end of the year.

In August, vandals damaged a sign listing information about a site in Kretinga where Jews were killed during the Holocaust.  Police started a pretrial investigation, which remained open at year’s end.

On September 8, JCL representatives reported that a swastika had been drawn on a sign marking the Jewish cemetery at Snipiskes.  Authorities did not investigate.

Luxembourg

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 640,000 (midyear 2021).  By law, the government may not collect personal information related to religion and relies on religious groups to report the number of their adherents.  A 2014 poll (the most recent) by the national survey institute TNS-ILRES reported that among respondents ages 15 and older, 58 percent identify as Catholic, 17 percent as nonbeliever, 9 percent as atheist, 5 percent as agnostic, 2 percent as Protestant, 1 percent as Orthodox, 1 percent as Jehovah’s Witnesses, 3 percent as other (unspecified) Christian, and 1 percent as Muslim.  Two percent of respondents did not answer the question.  Based on information provided by religious community representatives, groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Baha’is, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.

Muslim community representatives estimate there are between 18,000 and 20,000 Muslims, mainly from southeastern Europe and the Middle East and their descendants.

Jewish community representatives estimate there are 1,500 Jews.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Religious communities reported there were fewer incidents of physical harassment due to COVID-19 restrictions, with most instances of harassment occurring online.

According to RIAL, most of the antisemitic incidents that occurred during the year involved violence, although the group did not cite specifics.  There were also instances of antisemitic posts on social media.  According to RIAL, there were two incidents in which social media users, using antisemitic tropes, compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the Holocaust.  On March 28, a Facebook user replied to an article published by Essentiel, a daily newspaper with an online version, that had discussed the Israeli military intervention in the Gaza Strip on March 27.  The individual on Facebook wrote, “Honestly, when I see what they [Israel] do to those poor people (Palestinians)… Hitler was not so wrong.”  On February 14, RIAL reported that a Facebook user wrote, “The only terrorists in this region [the Middle East] is Israel; what is happening there is nothing other than [what happened] here 80 years ago.  Palestinians are slaughtered by them [the Israelis] by the hundreds.”  RIAL stated, “Information about hundreds of murdered Palestinians is considered disinformation.”  In its latest annual report, RIAL registered 64 antisemitic incidents in 2020, compared with 47 in 2019, and 26 in 2018.

OIL reported a 10-year-old Muslim girl in primary school was falsely accused of radicalism by a classmate.  When police investigated the case, the accuser admitted to fabricating the story.  The parents of the falsely accused girl did not file charges, but the girl suffered emotional distress, according to OIL.

According to OIL, on March 15, a motorist with Luxembourg license plates insulted a Muslim mother and her daughter at a toll booth in France near the Luxembourg border.

The six-member interfaith Council of Religious Groups that Signed an Agreement with the State (Conseil des Cultes Conventionnes) met three times but did not disclose information about its deliberations.  Cardinal Hollerich and Grand Rabbi Alain Nacache continued to serve as president and vice president of the council.  The New Apostolic Church and the Baha’i Faith continued to participate as permanently invited guests without voting rights.

On March 4, the LSRS held an online conference entitled “Islam and Human Rights:  Rethinking Universalism and Justice in a Fragmented World.”  On May 5, the LSRS hosted an online conference entitled “The Bible in World Literature,” in which Sylvie Parizet, a lecturer at Paris Nanterre University, participated.

Macau

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 630,000 (midyear 2021).  According to a 2015 estimate by the research group Association of Religion Data Archives, 48.1 percent of the population are folk religionists, 17.3 percent Buddhist, 11 percent Taoist, 4.5 percent Catholic, 2.5 percent other Christian, 1.2 percent other religious groups (including Hindus, Muslims, and Jews), and 15.4 percent nonreligious.  The SAR Government Information Bureau 2021 yearbook states the majority of the population practices Buddhism or Chinese folk religions.  The yearbook does not provide an estimate for Buddhists, but it states they are numerous and individuals often practice a mixture of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Chinese folk religions.  The SAR Government Information Bureau estimates 4.5 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, of whom almost half are foreign domestic workers and other expatriates, and 2.5 percent of the population is Protestant.  Protestant denominations include the Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, and Presbyterian Churches.  Evangelical Christian and independent local nondenominational churches, some of which are affiliated with officially recognized mainland churches, are also present.  Various reports estimate the Muslim population at 5,000 to 10,000.  Smaller religious groups include Baha’is, who estimate their membership at more than 2,000, and Falun Gong practitioners, who estimate their numbers at 20 to 50 persons.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In May, a video went viral on social media showing more than 100 primary school students from the Catholic Pui Ching Middle School singing “We Are the Successors of Communism” in front of the Ruins of St. Paul’s, the site of a former Catholic Church, as part of events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.  The event sparked discussion online among Macau residents about whether religious schools could preserve their religious values and implement their educational mission while conforming to government ideology.  Some educators stated they believed that politics should not be brought onto campus, and that patriotism did not equate to loving the Communist Party.

The Catholic Church in Macau, in communion with the Holy See, continued to recognize the Pope as its head.  The Vatican appointed the bishop for the diocese.

The Catholic Diocese of Macau continued to run many educational institutions.

Falun Gong practitioners reported they continued to be able to discuss their beliefs openly with Macau residents.

Madagascar

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 27.0 million (midyear 2021).  According to Pew Research Center data for 2021, 85.3 percent of the population is Christian, 3 percent is Muslim, 4.5 percent adhere to traditional beliefs, and 6.9 percent have no affiliation.  It is common to alternate between religious identities or to mix traditions, and many individuals