Peru Church and Religion

Historically, evangelicals resided in areas outside of Lima, the capital, and in rural rather than urban areas; however, in the last fifteen years, their numbers in urban areas increased significantly. There were small Jewish populations in Lima and Cuzco and small Muslim populations in Lima (mostly of Palestinian origin) and Tacna (predominantly of Pakistani origin).

Some Catholics combined indigenous worship with Catholic traditions. This type of syncretistic religion was practiced most often in the Andean mountain highlands. Indigenous peoples in the remote eastern jungles also practiced traditional faiths. The founder of the Israelites of the New Universal Pact organized the group in 1960 in Junin Department; most adherents were concentrated in and near Lima.

Foreign missionary groups, including Mormons and several evangelical organizations, operated freely throughout the country, although they did not receive the same treatment in the areas of customs, immigration, and taxation given to the Catholic Church.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. Article 50 of the constitution establishes separation of church and state but recognizes the Catholic Church's role as "an important element in the historical, cultural, and moral development of the nation." The government acts independently of Catholic Church policy. Nonetheless, it maintains a close relationship with the Church, and a concordat signed with the Vatican in 1980 grants the Catholic Church special status. Non-Catholic critics complain that the concordat was executed between the Vatican and the last military government and thus does not reflect the current democratic vision of equality. Officials of the Church sometimes play a high profile role in the public sector.

The constitution specifically prohibits discrimination based on religion; however, preferential treatment is given to the Catholic Church in education, tax benefits, immigration of religious workers, and other areas in accordance with the concordat. All work-related earnings of Catholic priests and bishops are exempt from income taxes. Real estate, buildings, and houses owned by the Catholic Church are exempt from property taxes; other religious groups (depending on the municipal jurisdiction) must pay property taxes for schools and clergy residences. Some Catholic clergy receive state remuneration in addition to the stipends paid to them by the Catholic Church. This applies to the country's fifty-two bishops as well as priests whose ministries are located in towns and villages along the country's borders. In addition, each diocese receives a monthly institutional subsidy from the Government. According to Catholic Church officials, none of these payments are substantial.

The executive branch formally interacts with religious communities on issues of religious freedom through the Ministry of Justice. The ministry issues resolutions that implement laws, and interacts with the public through an office of relations with the Catholic Church and an office for non-Catholic religions. Both offices, constituting a Religious Affairs Unit, maintain a continuing dialog with the Catholic Church and other organized religious groups on concerns of religious freedom. The primary functions of the Religious Affairs Unit are to process complaints of religious discrimination and to assist religious groups in relations with the state, such as seeking exemptions from import taxes and customs duties.

All religious groups are free to establish places of worship, train clergy, and proselytize.

The law mandates that all schools, public and private, impart religious education as part of the curriculum throughout the education process (primary and secondary), "without violating the freedom of conscience of the student, parents, or teachers." Catholicism is the only religion taught in public schools. Many non-Catholic religious or secular private schools have been granted exemptions from this requirement. The Education Ministry has made it mandatory for public school authorities to appoint religious education teachers upon individual recommendations and approval by the presiding Catholic bishop of the area.

Parents who do not wish their public school children to participate in the mandatory religion classes must request an exemption in writing from the school principal. Non-Catholics who wish their children to receive a religious education in their own faith are free to organize such classes, at their own expense, during the weekly hour allotted by the school for religious education; however, they must supply their own teacher.

Religions in Peru

The following chart illustrates the breakdown of major religions in Peru:


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