2019 International Religious Freedom Report – Malawi

Executive Summary

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion and provides for freedom of conscience, religion, belief, and thought. In October a standoff between an Anglican parish and Muslim communities in Balaka District over the wearing of hijabs by Muslim female students led to four government-funded schools being closed for eight weeks. The standoff also led to violence between the groups in November. On November 5, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology clarified its stand on wearing the hijab as being a “nondiscrimination approach” that allows religious dress in schools. A court case involving a Rastafarian child’s ability to attend school with dreadlocks remained pending, and by court order, the child was able to attend school with his hair intact pending conclusion of the litigation.

In May the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), a multidenominational civil society governance organization, and the government held interfaith national prayers for peaceful general elections. In December PAC again held national prayers to promote religious tolerance ahead of the anticipated Constitutional Court verdict on a presidential election challenge case.
A U.S. embassy official discussed interfaith coexistence and faith leaders’ relationship with the government with the general secretary of the Malawi Council of Churches and with officers of the Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi (QMAM), the second largest Muslim association in the country. U.S. embassy officials, along with U.S. Africa Command military chaplains, also engaged Malawi Defense Force chaplains and PAC to discuss religious issues in the country. U.S. embassy officials regularly met with leaders of religious groups on issues of religious freedom and tolerance.

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