| Religious Freedom Ranking:
4 out of 5 stars: Good
While the end of apartheid has still left South Africa with many problems, its growing democracy has left the people hopeful that they may continue to change their country for the better. The country is extremely diverse, with 11 officially recognized languages, and many different ethnicities and religions. Generally, these different groups live together amicably.
South Africa has a population of 49.3 million people. An estimated 80 percent of the population is Christian. The largest group of Christian churches are African Independent Churches, also referred to as “Zionist” or Apostolic Churches. There are over 10,000 of these churches in South Africa. There are also Methodist, Dutch Reformed, Anglican, Baptist, Congregational, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Seventh-day Adventist churches in the country. Christianity is often practiced in conjunction with indigenous beliefs. Four percent of South Africa’s population practices Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Scientology or indigenous religions. The remaining 16 percent adheres to no religion or declined to indicate an affiliation.
The Constitution provides that everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion. The nation’s bill of rights prohibits the government from unfairly discriminating directly or indirectly against anyone based on religion; it states that persons belonging to a religious community may not be denied the right to practice their religion and to form, join, and maintain religious associations with other members of that community. Cases of discrimination against a person on the grounds of religious freedom may be taken to the Constitutional Court. Furthermore, laws and policies contribute to religious freedom and government leaders are members of a variety of religions. The government allows religious education in public schools, but schools are not permitted to teach or advocate for one specific religion.
While South African religious life is generally diverse and dynamic with good relations among religious communities living in an atmosphere of freedom, there has been some concern about incidents of urban terrorism. The group named People Against Gangsterism and Drugs, has been influenced by Qibla, an Islamist organization dedicated to creating an Islamic state in South Africa. There are also reports of an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2009 in response to Israeli military actions in Gaza. These incidents were most often in the form of verbal abuse or vandalism; however there were three cases of physical assault in 2009.
There are reports of people, mainly elderly women, being driven away from their villages, assaulted, or killed because they were accused of practicing witchcraft.
2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report on South Africa
South Africa - New World Encyclopedia
South Africa Country Profile- BBC News