The constitution provides for the right to practice or not to practice religion freely and prohibits discrimination based on religion. These and other rights may temporarily be suspended or restricted only in the event of a declaration of a state of war, siege, or emergency. The constitution prohibits political parties from using names or symbols associated with religious groups. Religious groups have the right to organize, worship, and operate schools. According to local organizations, as an Islamic State-affiliated group intensified attacks in Cabo Delgado Province, residents in the province who appeared to be Muslim continued to face risk of detention by police and armed forces. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), news media outlets, and human rights organizations strongly criticized what they termed the government’s sometimes heavy-handed response as exacerbating existing grievances among historically marginalized majority-Muslim populations. In August, after the Bishop of Pemba in northern Mozambique faced social media threats for criticizing the government’s failure to protect civilians in Cabo Delgado, President Filipe Nyusi met with him and expressed appreciation for his efforts to assist displaced civilians. The draft religious freedom law that the government proposed in 2019 remained pending in parliament at year’s end. If approved, it would require religious groups to have a minimum of 500 followers in order to register with the Ministry of Justice.
Religious leaders at the national and provincial level continued to call for religious tolerance and condemned the use of religion to promote violence. As in previous years, as the conflict in Cabo Delgado worsened, Muslim and Christian leaders continued to condemn violence as a means of political change, and Muslim leaders emphasized that religious-based violence that invoked Islam was inconsistent with tenets of the faith.
The Ambassador discussed the escalating attacks in Cabo Delgado with President Nyusi, the Minister of Justice, and other high-level officials. Among other messages, he noted the continued need to engage partners from the religious community to address effectively the ongoing violence. The U.S. government continued to implement activities in Cabo Delgado to improve faith-based community resilience and work with religious leaders to counter extremist messaging.
Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom
Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom
Although IS-M fighters said they targeted Christians and Christian villages, reporters and local aid workers stated that in practice they made little distinction among their victims. Media reports indicated that IS-M targeted both Muslim and Christian communities. They occupied entire communities and burned religious and government structures, including in May when four Catholic priests fled to Tanzania after their mission was burned. On September 6, local media reported that IS-M fighters released two Brazilian nuns who had been kidnapped by IS-M; their release was facilitated by representatives of the Catholic Church, in cooperation with the government.
Prominent Muslim leaders continued to condemn the attacks in the northern part of the country, stating that the strict version of Islam preached by those allegedly responsible was not in line with the country’s traditional Islamic culture and practice.
Civil society and religious organizations conducted outreach to promote religious tolerance during the year. An interfaith group of leaders led an effort to provide food to needy families during the COVID-19 pandemic, distributing more than 50 tons of meat in several places around the country, in churches, mosques, and community centers. A September 26 interreligious prayer ceremony of Muslim and Christian leaders called for interfaith peace as a key component of economic and political development.
A coalition of religious groups from the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado, Nampula, and Niassa, and led by Bishop Luiz Fernando Lisboa and Islamic leader Nassuralah Dula, formed an interfaith network in November to support displaced civilian populations affected by the violence and to discuss resolution of the conflict.
On December 10, the Community of Sant’Egidio hosted a group of interreligious and civil society leaders in a symposium that focused on social harmony and cohesion.