Nagorno-Karabakh (MNN) — An unrecognized Azerbaijani
breakaway republic is flying under the radar of religious rights
watchdogs. Nagorno-Karabakh's president,
President Bako Sahakyan, just signed a religion law, and it goes into effect this
The new Law, which replaces Karabakh's 1996 Religion Law, includes a ban on unregistered religious
activity. Article 25 requires all religious organizations
to register or re-register within six months of the new Law coming into force.
Glenn Penner with Voice of the Martyrs Canada says this is bad
news for believers. "It virtually
gives an undefined monopoly to the Armenian Apostolic Church over preaching and
spreading its faith. It restricts other faiths, such as evangelicals, to simply
'rally their own faithful.' In other words, evangelicals can have church
services, but they are not going to be able to do evangelistic work."
According to Forum 18, the new Law is copied word-for-word
from Armenia's Religion Law as adopted in 1991 and amended in 1997 and 2001.
There's a requirement for 100 adult citizens to register a
religious community, which could threaten existing churches. The law would also censor religious literature,
but the penalties for breaking the law aren't spelled out very well.
An open door for interpretation is always trouble. Penner says, "Pray for clarity with the law, that the
government will actually do something to really clarify the question, 'What does it mean to disobey the law?'"
Pray that the president will reject the law. Pray also for boldness for the believers.