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Tuesday, 07 June 2011 00:00
Religious Freedom Ranking:
2.5 out of 5 stars: Poor



Madagascar has a population of 20.6 million people. Approximately 50 percent of the people are Christian. The four biggest Christian denominations are Roman Catholic, Reformed Protestant, Lutheran, and Anglican. These four religions make up the Council of Christian Churches in Madagascar. There are also Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh-day Adventists in the country. Ten to fifteen percent of the population practices Islam, and there are a small number of Hindus. A significant minority in Madagascar practices indigenous religions.

The Constitution strongly provides for freedom of religion, prohibiting, "all discrimination based on race, place of origin, religious belief, education, wealth or sex." In practice, the government’s respect for this right was inconsistent. Small religious organizations are banned from holding public worship services and there are reports of serious police violence against certain groups.

A 2007 constitutional referendum eliminated the explicit secular nature of the state, but it did not change the legal protection for freedom of religion. However, in 2009 there was a coup in the country and the current regime has called the Constitution into question. Religious freedom has not been specifically addressed. Most missionaries and clergy are permitted to operate freely but concerns have risen since the coup. Some Protestants fear a backlash against their churches and there have been reports of looting. The Ecclesiastical Movement, a Protestant group, has been denied the right to hold public prayer meetings and demonstrations in both municipal stadiums and on private church property. In 2010, after an unauthorized demonstration, police arrested, detained, and killed Protestant pastors involved in the Ecclesiastical Movement. The government claims that they are targeting the church because of their political activity rather than to hinder religious freedom.

Small religious groups face definite obstacles in terms of state policy. Religious organizations must register with the Ministry of Interior in order to receive bequests and certain types of donations. However, to qualify as a religious association, a group must consist of at least 100 members, with an elected administrative council consisting only of citizens. Religious organizations that do not meet these standards can register as “simple associations,” but do not have the right to hold religious services. Government officials estimated in 2008 that there were more than 1,000 religious organizations in the country operating without official state recognition.

Muslims have also reported some discrimination. Muslim leaders estimate that as many as four percent of Muslims in the country have been counted as non-citizens because of citizenship laws, despite being born in and having longstanding family roots in the country. These people were therefore denied voting rights and certain civic benefits.


2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Madagascar

Madagascar - New World Encyclopedia

Madagascar Country Profile- BBC News

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 November 2011 19:40