I. GEORGIA: PARLIAMENTARY CONDEMNATION OF RELIGIOUS
VIOLENCE `IGNORED'. Religious minority leaders in Georgia have
claimed that the parliamentary resolution condemning religious violence has
been all but ignored by the local media. One source told Keston News
Service that the 30 March resolution was designed primarily for foreign
consumption. Also on 30 March, parliament adopted a constitutional
amendment giving the Orthodox Church a special role in society, arousing
concern from other religious groups. Representatives of the `traditional
faiths' hope to meet President Eduard Shevardnadze soon to discuss the
religious situation.

II. UZBEKISTAN: WHAT'S WRONG WITH RELIGIOUS CHARITIES?
Although a number of humanitarian aid charities function in Uzbekistan,
some of them affiliated to international charities, so far the Uzbek
government has failed to register any local charities with an affiliation to a
religious group, Keston News Service learnt in interviews in mid-March in
Tashkent. Government officials appeared suspicious about possible
missionary activity, but representatives of Adventist and Catholic charities
stressed that their work is purely humanitarian.

I. GEORGIA: PARLIAMENTARY CONDEMNATION OF RELIGIOUS
VIOLENCE `IGNORED'

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Religious minority leaders in Georgia have claimed that the parliamentary
resolution condemning religious violence has been all but ignored by the
local media. Bishop Malkhaz Songulashvili, the head of the Baptist Union,
told Keston News Service that the resolution - adopted on 30 March by a
vote of 135 to four - was designed primarily for foreign consumption. In the
resolution, deputies called on law enforcement personnel to block any
manifestations of religious intolerance or violence and to use the harshest
measures against those guilty of such extremism. On the same day,
parliament adopted a constitutional amendment giving the Orthodox Church
a special role in society, which has also aroused concern from other religious
groups.

Over the past two years, Pentecostals, Baptists and Jehovah's Witnesses have
been subject to often vicious physical attacks by defrocked Orthodox priest
Basil Mkalavishvili and his supporters in Tbilisi, as well as by similarly-
minded attackers in other towns, which have so far gone unpunished (see
KNS 29 March 2001).

Zurab Khovrebadze, deputy head of the Orthodox Patriarchate's press
service, denied that the Orthodox Patriarchate had been reluctant to condemn
the religious violence. He told Keston from Tbilisi on 3 April that the
Patriarchate `categorically condemns' religious violence and religious
extremism from whatever source, including, as he put it, extremism on the
part of `sectarians'. `We have condemned such extremism more than once,'
he explained. He admitted that Mkalavishvili and his supporters were the
only group that physically attacked believers of other faiths, though he
claimed that Jehovah's Witnesses were `very aggressive' towards the
Orthodox Church. He claimed they insulted icons, Christ and the Church
and, in one case, had damaged a hill chapel two years ago in the Dusheti
district north of Tbilisi.

Khovrebadze had no information about Patriarch Ilya's response to the
representations by the Archbishop of Canterbury's representative to the
Georgian Orthodox Church, Father Phillip Storr Venter, who visited the
patriarchate on 26 March to express the Anglican Church's concern about the
violence against religious minorities. Father Storr Venter had spoken to
Pentecostal and Baptist victims of the violence in the previous days.

Bishop Songulashvili reported that a number of religious minority and
human rights representatives had attended a meeting earlier on 3 April at the
office of the ombudsman, Nana Devdariani, to express concern about the
continuing violence and the constitutional amendment granting the Orthodox
Church special status. He added that in the evening of 4 April,
representatives of the `traditional faiths' - including the Orthodox, Muslims,
Armenian Church, Jews, Catholics, Baptists and Lutherans - are scheduled to
meet at the state chancellery to prepare for a proposed meeting with
President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss the religious situation. The date
for the meeting with the president is expected to be set then.

Despite discussing the constitutional amendment on the role of the Orthodox
Church in his weekly interview with the journalist Nato Oniani, broadcast
live by Georgian radio on 2 April, Shevardnadze made no mention of the
religious violence nor of the parliamentary resolution condemning it.

Mkalavishvili was summoned by the prosecutor's office in Tbilisi on 30
March to answer questions on seven criminal cases, but was not arrested.
(END)

II. UZBEKISTAN: WHAT'S WRONG WITH RELIGIOUS CHARITIES?

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Although a number of humanitarian aid charities function in Uzbekistan,
some of them affiliated to international charities, so far the Uzbek
government has failed to register any local charities with an affiliation to a
religious group, Keston News Service learnt in interviews in mid-March in
Tashkent. Among those denied registration so far is the local branch of the
Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), while the branch of the
international Catholic charity Caritas is still gathering the extensive
documentation demanded by officials before it can submit its registration
application and begin functioning. The official in charge of registering
religious organisations at the justice ministry insisted to Keston that ADRA's
registration has not been refused and said if it makes the changes to its
documentation demanded by his ministry it will be registered.

ADRA's country director for Uzbekistan, Yakov Fries, who is also an
Adventist pastor, told Keston in Tashkent on 12 March that the inspiration
for the charity's work is the Adventist faith, but that its work is solely
humanitarian and it works on behalf of all in need. `We're not preaching,' he
told Keston, `we're only involved in development and relief.' Fries stresses
that ADRA works legally in `practically all' countries of the world.

Without registration the charity cannot officially engage in any aid work,
cannot bring in money from abroad and cannot support the projects it would
like to develop. `There is a lot of need, reviving the country and helping
people where the state is not able to. The potential for money from abroad is
there - sponsors are ready.' He cited one potential project in the town of
Angren, 100 kms (60 miles) from Tashkent, where local Christians are
involved in a small-scale project to help drug-addicts. `At present this is
working on individual initiative. We would like to support it, but we can't.'
Another project ADRA would like to support in Angren is work in a home
for the handicapped, which has 100 residents.

ADRA lodged its registration application with the Ministry of Justice in June
2000, but the documents were returned in early September with a demand to
change various points in the statute. After discussing the wording with
officials, ADRA representatives amended the statute to comply with the
demands and lodged the application again. However, at the beginning of
December the justice ministry again returned the application, maintaining
that further changes were needed. `According to the law they did not have
the right to do this,' Fries declared. `They should have explained all the
required changes the first time in one go.' The documents were resubmitted
in December, but again they were rejected.

Fries reported that the justice ministry initially offered ADRA registration as
a foreign organisation, then as a local branch of an international organisation
in Uzbekistan. He said he would agree to registration as a branch of an
international organisation, although this costs an extra 100 US dollars in
registration fees. However, there has been no progress on this. Fries noted
that the registration application has been passed from the justice ministry
official handling registration of social organisations to the official who
registers religious organisations.

Dyalolbek Abdusatarov, the official in charge of registering religious
organisations at the Justice Ministry, told Keston by telephone from
Tashkent on 3 April that `corrections were needed' to ADRA's
documentation. He denied that his ministry had failed to point out all the
required changes the first time round or that his ministry has been dragging
its feet over the application. `We explained to them the changes they need to
make and we are waiting for these corrections,' Abdusatarov declared. `If
they correct the documentation and it meets the provisions of the law they
will get registration.'

However, officials have remained suspicious of the charity's aims. Shoazim
Minovarov, the first deputy chairman of the government's Committee for
Religious Affairs, asked Fries in May 2000 what ADRA proposed to do.
Fries outlined the charity's aims, adding that the Canadian embassy had
expressed interest in supporting a clean water project on the Aral Sea and
that the Japanese embassy had offered support for a hospital. However, both
projects have reportedly gone ahead without ADRA's involvement.

Last year the Catholic parish in Tashkent enquired of the justice ministry
about submitting an application to register a local branch of Caritas, and in
December the ministry orally gave a list of twelve documents that the branch
must present, including a copy of Caritas Internationalis' statute, three
notarised copies in Uzbek and Russian of the branch's statute, a list of ten
local founding members and a receipt to say the application fee of 49,000
sums (101 GPB/145 USD) and 100 US dollars has been paid.

The local Catholic leader, Father Krzysztof Kukulka, issued a decree on 24
November establishing an Uzbek branch of Caritas and on 25 December
named Father Andrzej Bialek as acting director. On 10 January Father
Kukulka signed a letter of guarantee, declaring the juridical address of the
branch at an address belonging to the Catholic church. During a visit to
Rome in March, he began collecting documentation from Caritas
Internationalis required by the justice ministry.

Catholic officials told Keston in Tashkent that although the branch's statute
has already been drawn up, `no official application has yet been made'.
However, they remained optimistic that registration will be achieved.
`Caritas is an international religious charitable organisation, but it helps
people of all faiths without discrimination.'

Abdusatarov confirmed that the justice ministry is still waiting for Caritas to
submit its application and declined any further comment on the application.

Despite the apparent ban (so far) on registering local religiously-affiliated
humanitarian aid organisations, a number of international religious
humanitarian aid organisations do function on a small-scale in Uzbekistan
with registration from the Foreign Ministry. Among such are Mother
Teresa's Sisters of Charity, who have a community of seven sisters in
Tashkent conducting aid work among the poor. They have had accreditation
with the Foreign Ministry since 1995. There are also charities functioning
within individual religious or ethnic communities, such as international
Jewish charities � such as the Joint Distribution Committee - helping poor
Jews or assisting in emigration to Israel.

Article 20 of the 1998 religion law declares that `religious organisations
have the right to conduct charitable activity' and a number of religious faiths
told Keston in Tashkent that their communities are conducting small-scale
projects as part of their community life. Keston learnt of rehabilitation work
with drug-addicts, visiting the poor, running soup kitchens and providing
food for the poor. No religious organisation Keston spoke to had obtained
individual registration for a charitable body.

Foreign employees of international aid organisations working in Uzbekistan
have been warned by government officials that they are not permitted to
conduct any missionary or religious activity among the population. `A senior
government official warned foreign humanitarian aid workers they would
not tolerate any religious activities by those aid workers during their work
hours or outside it,' one source told Keston in Tashkent. The government is
reported to have expelled a number of employees of such organisations over
the past few years it suspected of being involved in religious activity. (END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.