I recently wrote about the plight of Christian believers in Uzbekistan, Egypt, and Iran. Now, on the heels of increased Uzbeki persecution, the Norwegian human rights organization, Forum 18, is reporting that the secret service of Kyrgyzstan (one of the former Soviet republics and a neighbor to Uzbekistan), together with the State Commission for Religious Affairs (“SCRA”), have proposed new regulations and enhanced punishments for those exercising their religious freedom rights in that nation. These new regulations will increase the range of activities that are punishable and the severity of the penalties. You can read the Forum 18 report here: http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1788
The new regulations punish unregistered religious activity, or for refusing to register a religious organization, or for holding prayers and other religious rituals in places unapproved by the government, or for teaching religious beliefs without personal registration to do so, or for “violating procedures established by law for the organizing and conducting of religious meetings, processions and other worship ceremonies,” a broad catch-all that can mean almost anything to prosecutors. Other clauses punish clergy and others who set up religious groups for young people, as well as reading clubs and work groups that are “not related to the performance of worship,” or punish religious organizations that conduct any other activity inconsistent with the church’s aims and objectives (again, another deliberately vague phrase). Importantly, one of the new clauses would punish “the approaching by believers of one denomination to others (proselytism), as well as any illegal missionary activity,” and forbids children to participate in religious activity. Foreign nationals and foreign missionary organizations may be fined and deported, with bans on the activity of mission organizations. The new regulations also call for increases in fines for these violations. Requests for comments by the Kyrgyz Embassy in Washington, D.C., were not returned.
When the Soviet Union fell, there was a rush to disseminate the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in each of the former Soviet republics, including those in Central Asia. At the time, missionaries and missions scholars warned that there would be only a relatively small window of opportunity for sharing Christ before a new religious Iron Curtain fell. That time is fast approaching unless the Kyrgyz government rescinds these new regulations. Please pray for Kyrgyzstani Christians. And if you want to contact His Excellency, Muktar Djumaliev, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kyrgyz Republic to the United States and Canada, you can reach him at 1.202.449.9822 or 1.202.449.9823. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. From his photograph on the Embassy website, he seems like an amiable and friendly chap, and so I am sure that he also would enjoy hearing from American Christians about the increasing persecution of Christians in his country. I will be letting him know my thoughts about his government’s new policies. I hope my readers and friends will as well.