Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 512 | Tue 13 Jan 2009
(By Anneta Vyssotskaia)
Christianity came to the territory of modern Kyrgyzstan in the early centuries of the Church and became one of the main religions of that region. However, Islam later gradually spread there and in the 10th Century became a state religion. In the 1840s this Central Asian country became part of the Russian Empire. With the growth of the Russian population in Kyrgyzstan -- initially Russian Cossacks -- the number of Russian Orthodox churches also grew, but with a focus only on Russians. In the late 19th Century, German Mennonite families moved to Kyrgyzstan. In the early 20th Century, first Baptists and later Seventh Day Adventists, Pentecostals and Lutherans came to Kyrgyzstan. During the Soviet era, Kyrgyzstan -- like other USSR republics -- had atheistic teaching imposed on several generations. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, religious freedom came to the country in the 1990s.
The door opened for missionaries and the gospel, with many Russian and Kyrgyz people becoming Christians. Kyrgyzstan enjoyed religious freedom until recently when the government started to boost its control over religious organisations.
On 6 November 2008 the Kyrgyzstan Parliament unanimously passed the new Law on Religion and is now expecting the final signature of approval from the President, Kurmanbek Bakiev. The new law is unconstitutional by its nature and greatly concerns religious leaders. Its restrictive rules require 200 local residents to support the registration of a religious organisation, which is impossible for many village and ethnic churches with far fewer believers. The new law prohibits changing one's religion, which would affect foremost the ethnic Kyrgyz Christians and cause them harsh persecution. The new law is also very difficult for foreign missionaries and prohibits free distribution of religious literature. The Alliance of Kyrgyz Churches wrote to the President on behalf of all Kyrgyz Christians, defending their constitutional rights and asking him not to sign the Bill, as did leaders of other Christian organisations.
The Kyrgyzstan churches have good contact with the international Christian community through the World Evangelical Alliance and the European Evangelical Alliance. Forum 18 and other Christian bodies also are monitoring this situation and publicising it. Additionally the European Union has scrutinised the new law and expressed its concern that parts of it do not meet the regulations and requirements of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The EU is asking the President not to sign the law but to consider the OSCE experts'
recommendations for its improvement.
(Although it is not a direct case of religious persecution, 'God's Love' Church in Bishkek asks the international Christian community to support them in prayer and action in their battle for their building.
In 2002 they bought an almost ruined building from the woollen factory and invested much money and effort in reconstructing it as a church building. Now the factory is trying to take it back through the court.
The way the government wants to restrict believers by the new Law on Religion could bias the court against this church.)
PLEASE PRAY ESPECIALLY --
* thanking God for the Christians in Kyrgyzstan, both Russian and
ethnic Kyrgyz, for the religious freedom this country enjoyed for
many years and for the work of missionaries who have brought the
* that the Law on Religion will be rejected by the President and that
any future legislative changes will not threaten religious freedom;
may there be sound advisers in these matters in the Parliament.
* for special protection and boldness for some 1000 ethnic Kyrgyz
Christians in about 50 ethnic congregations.
* that missionaries will be able to continue working in Kyrgyzstan and
for the next generation of capable local leaders to grow in wisdom
and knowledge of God as well as of the laws of the country and the
rights of the believers; thank him for growing wisdom and unity
amongst the churches and their joint efforts to stand up for their
* that 'God's Love' Church building in Bishkek will be protected and
kept by God; for good lawyers to help in this case and a just
decision by the court.
'Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.'
(Psalm 5:2 NIV)
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
IMPENDING LAW SET TO RESTRICT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN KYRGYZSTAN
Religious freedom is set to worsen in Kyrgyzstan. On 6 November 2008 the Parliament of this Central Asian country unanimously passed a new Law on Religion and now expects the final approval of the President.
The leaders of religious organisations are greatly concerned as the law's restrictive rules require 200 local residents to support the registration of a religious organisation, an impossibility for many village and ethnic churches with far fewer believers. The new law prohibits changing one's religion, which would affect foremost the ethnic Kyrgyz Christians and cause them harsh persecution. Other churches will also suffer under the new law if it is approved by the President. 'God's Love' Church in Bishkek requests prayer for God's protection in a court case attempting to deprive them of their church building.
RLP guest writer Anneta Vyssotskaia serves on the WEA Religious Liberty Commission. Elizabeth Kendal, our regular researcher and writer, is currently on annual leave.
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