Kyrgyzstan clamps down on religious education

By September 9, 2009

Kyrgyzstan (MNN) — Kyrgyzstan
has introduced a new law bringing in sweeping controls on religious
education. 

Forum
18 News Service first reported on the draft text. They also talked to Kanybek Osmonaliev, Head
of the State Agency for Religious Affairs, who said, "The law will not be
restrictive but promote orderliness in the sphere of religious education."

When
further pressed by Forum 18 on when the proposed law will go to Parliament,
Osmonaliev responded: "The law is being discussed in the public and
religious organisations. After the discussions are over, we will take comments
from all the interested parties and introduce the law with the comments to the
Parliament." No deadline was given.

Joel Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association
says, "Apparently this goes as far as deciding who can open these
religious educational institutions. It would ban all but approved or licensed
institutions, and it would ban individuals from seeking religious education
abroad without state approval."

Griffith, reading between the
lines, says it's possible the legislation was aimed at curbing extremist
Islamist training schools in Kyrgyzstan. "They can't just target one
group–for instance, the Islamic radicals. That is a largely-Muslim area. But if
they're going to target everybody, they're going to have to put pressure on
everybody." 

Baptists,
Lutherans, and Baha'is expressed concerns over the draft law's provisions. It's a slippery slope for Christian workers.
"They're beginning to clamp down now on religious groups, and that does
include evangelicals." 

This draft law follows a new Religion Law in January 2009. Since it
was passed, officials have checked up on
many religious communities. Unregistered religious communities have been told to halt worship, and for those
who seek registration, more obstacles have arisen preventing it.

So far, there have been no public
discussions of the law or round tables. Keep
praying that the Gospel would go forward unhindered. "Pray that the Lord would
protect them, that the Lord would uphold them. Pray that the Lord would change the hearts of the governmental
authorities toward evangelical
churches." 

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