Kyrgyzstan (MNN) — Censorship on religious literature could soon be so restrictive in Kyrgyzstan that anyone wanting to "import, publish or distribute religious literature will have to seek prior permission from the authorities," reports Forum 18 News Service.
Despite being a reasonably free nation in regard to religious freedom after the fall of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan has been imposing more and more restrictions to religious communities over the years. The behavior follows suit with the rest of neighboring former Soviet nations, but it is making religious communities increasingly cautious.
In 2009, Kyrgyzstan created a Religion Law, but it did not impose censorship on all religious literature, notes Forum 18. Now, amendments to the law have been proposed to tighten censorship by September.
The new amendment technically reads like this: "Control on the import, production, acquisition, storage and distribution of printed materials, film, photo, audio and video productions, as well as other materials with the purpose of unearthing religious extremism, separatism and fundamentalism is conducted by the plenipotentiary state organs for religious affairs, national security and internal affairs."
Many Kyrgyzstanis agree that would mean all-out censorship of all religious materials.
The amendment was initially refused by President Almazbek Atambayev in April, but it is now being considered by parliament's Education, Science, Culture and Sport Committee, says Forum 18.
If the amendment passes, the Committee has suggested the establishment of another committee which will exist exclusively to oversee the censorship. Essentially, local authorities won't be the enforcers: a specific task force will be.
Whether all-out censorship is being proposed to eliminate extremism or not, it will likely mean bad news for Christians. Evangelism has been getting more difficult over the last few years, but this could make it much harder.
Slavic Gospel Association partners with a number of churches in Kyrgyzstan. SGA's Joel Griffith says although the churches are concerned, it's not the first time they've faced persecution.
"We have to remember that the believers in these regions–the former Soviet countries–were for 70 years under communism where they had to face outright persecution and being jailed."
Griffith adds, "They're not going to be deterred in proclaiming the Gospel. They take the attitude of the apostle Peter and others: 'Shall we obey God, or shall we obey men?' They're going to choose to obey the Lord and continue to show the love of Christ and proclaim the Gospel, no matter what."
As of now, it looks like no certain decision will be made on the amendment until September. Until then, be praying for the Kyrgyz church.