UZBEKISTAN: Baptist Church Told to Halt Work with Children.

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service, 26 March 2001

Local khokimiyat (administration) officials have told the registered Baptist church in the town of Navoi in central Uzbekistan to halt its religious work with children, the head of the Baptist Union Pavel Peychev told Keston News Service in Tashkent on 16 March. `The khokimiyat told the pastor in January he is not allowed to work with children,' he reported. He added that the Baptist Union is now trying to resolve the difficulty with the Ministry of Justice.

Published Uzbek law does not ban the teaching of religion in registered religious organisations provided that no compulsion is used and that - in the case of children - parents' or guardians' consent is obtained. Uzbekistan's international human rights commitments also oblige the country not to obstruct religious education of children or adults, although Uzbek law does ban religious education in many instances, such as for groups without registration or without the status of a centralised religious body.

Keston contacted Shoazim Minovarov, first deputy chairman of the government's Committee for Religious Affairs in Tashkent, by telephone on 26 March to ask why a registered religious community was unable to conduct religious education for the children of its members but he said he was too busy to answer Keston's questions and asked for them to be submitted by fax.

The Navoi church has been holding a Sunday school for children of church members at the same time as the main Sunday service. Peychev affirmed that `of course' the church has permission from the children's parents for them to attend the Sunday school.

Peychev reported that similar obstruction to the work of a Sunday school occurred several years ago in the town of Zarafshan, also in central Uzbekistan, but that the problem there has been resolved. (END)