More religious activities proposed for legal chopping block

By January 10, 2013

Kyrgyzstan (MNN) — Throughout 2012, government officials took one step after another, trying to keep extremist ideology from spreading throughout Kyrgyzstan.

Now, it appears they're moving beyond censorship to punishment. According to Forum 18 News, officials are trying to get more activities to be considered as "violations" of the nation's Religion Law.

Forum 18 says the proposed administrative code is much longer than the current one, Article 395. This article punishes youth ministry and the refusal by church leadership to register with the government.

Article 395 would expand dramatically if the new amendments are passed.

Sharing the Gospel openly or trying to lead kids to Christ would result in fines. Activities like praying outside the walls of a registered church building, teaching Christianity without personal registration, and conducting unregistered religious activity would be regarded as "violations" of the Religion Law.

Missionaries to Kyrgyzstan and missionary groups would also be subject to legal heat.

"Any religious activity without state registration by foreign organizations and individuals," reports Forum 18, "would be punished by fines…deportation…and a ban on the activity of the organizations, including local branches."

Multiple religious groups expressed concern about the new amendments, a source told Forum 18.

"All of the religious leaders present without exception were very worried about the amendments," said Galina Kolodzinskaia of the Inter-Religious Council in the Kyrgyz Republic. "If adopted, the punishments will definitely be used.

"We regard them as a way for the authorities to collect money from religious communities."

Representatives of Muslim, Protestant Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist communities participate in the Council. Kolodzinskaia spoke to Forum 18 after the council's meeting earlier this week and said members plan to make their opposition known to government officials.

Forum 18 says the new amendments would need approval from the Committee of Ministers Department before it can be considered by parliament. However, the drafts were returned "for further work" on December 31, 2012.

Pray that additional punishments would not be added.

Kyrgyzstan's Religion Law, which passed in 2009, requires all religious organizations to be registered with the state. Since the inception of the Religion Law, officials have repeatedly tried to make the code harsher.

New censorship amendments were added last month and increased state control over all religious literature. Additional draft amendments appeared before parliament in October 2012 and, if adopted, would impose the following restrictions:

  •   • Government permission would be required for students to attend foreign religious colleges.
  •   • Each religious group would need 200 Kyrgyzstani founders in one location.
  •   • Foreigners would need a state license to proclaim their faith.

Pray that Kyrgyzstani believers would share their faith boldly, despite governmental restrictions.

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