KESTON NEWS SERVICE, 11.00, 1 November 2000

TAJIKISTAN: CHRISTIAN CHURCHES BANNED IN SOUTHERN DISTRICT.
According to sources in several churches, the Security Ministry (formerly the KGB)
arrested a number of believers from each of the churches, some of whom were held
several days and beaten, in some cases drawing blood. All three Protestant churches
have reportedly been unable to hold services for the past two months after being
warned that attempting to hold any meetings would result in `big problems'.


TAJIKISTAN: CHRISTIAN CHURCHES BANNED IN SOUTHERN DISTRICT

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Three Protestant churches have been banned in Sarband (formerly Kalininabad)
district in Tajikistan's southern Khatlon region near the border with Afghanistan,
sources in the Central Asian state have told Keston News Service. The churches - a
Baptist Church belonging to the Baptist Union, a Baptist church affiliated with the
Council of Churches (which rejects registration) and an Evangelical church - faced
harassment through the summer and again from the beginning of September. All three
have reportedly been unable to hold services for the past two months after being
warned that attempting to hold any meetings would result in `big problems'.

The Sarband Evangelical congregation applied for official registration in the summer,
but was refused. The Baptist church belonging to the Baptist Union has also been
refused registration.

According to sources in several churches, the Security Ministry (formerly the KGB)
arrested a number of believers from each of the churches and held them for periods of
up to several days. A number of those held were beaten while in custody, in some
cases drawing blood. Such detentions took place especially last July, but resumed in
September. In the most recent incident, a female member of the Evangelical church
was detained in late October for several hours, during which she was insulted and
warned that she risked being put in prison if she continued her religious activity.
Some believers have identified the prime mover behind the events as Colonel
Gadoyev of the local branch of the Security Ministry.

The German-based Friedensstimme mission, which is affiliated with the Council of
Churches, reports that during a service on 8 July in Sarband a man was present who
identified himself after the service as an officer of the Security Ministry. He ordered
two female Baptists who were visiting the congregation from Dushanbe to go to the
local Security Ministry office in the town. During a long interrogation they were
pressured not to allow the church to meet until it received registration, and they were
threatened with arrest and the confiscation of their car. Two female Baptists were
detained on 19 August. They have since been freed, though others have been detained
for several hours at a time since then.

On 25 October Evangelical leaders wrote to Saidjon Akhmedov, chairman of
the government's Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA) in Dushanbe, calling for an
investigation into the harassment in Sarband. CRA officials promised to investigate
and, if necessary, to send someone to Sarband to see the situation at first hand.
However, Akhmedov is ill at present so any visit will have to wait until he returns to
work.

One source in Tajikistan's Evangelical Church told Keston on 31 October that its
members now have to travel to a registered church 15 miles (25 km) away in a
different administrative area in order to participate in religious services. (END)


Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.