KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 26 March 2001

I. UZBEKISTAN: FOUR BAPTIST CHURCHES FACE REGISTRATION
OBSTRUCTION. Four churches which belong to the Baptist Union have
been obstructed in their registration applications despite meeting the
provisions of the law, Union leader Pavel Peychev told Keston News Service
in Tashkent on 16 March. In one case local police have sealed the church
and forbidden the congregation to meet. Registration is vital, as unregistered
religious activity is a criminal offence under Uzbek law.

II. UZBEKISTAN: BAPTIST CHURCH TOLD TO HALT WORK WITH
CHILDREN. 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. Published Uzbek law
does not ban the teaching of religion in registered religious organisations and
the Baptist Union is trying to resolve the difficulty with the Ministry of
Justice.

I. UZBEKISTAN: FOUR BAPTIST CHURCHES FACE REGISTRATION
OBSTRUCTION

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Four churches which belong to the Baptist Union have been obstructed in
their registration applications despite meeting the provisions of the law,
Union leader Pavel Peychev told Keston News Service in Tashkent on 16
March. In one instance - in the south eastern town of Andijon - the local
police sealed the church last December when the local khokimiyat
(administration) learnt that the church was preparing a registration
application. `They were told they could only meet when they have
registration,' Peychev reported, `but they have been refused.'

Keston has been unable to reach any relevant officials of Andijon
khokimiyat by telephone to find out on what legal basis the church was
sealed.

While the Andijon case is the most serious, as the police have banned the
church from meeting, Pastor Peychev reports that two of the other three
churches awaiting registration have also failed to secure the necessary
approval for their registration applications from the relevant khokimiyats,
while the last has failed to gain approval at the justice department.

Shoazim Minovarov, first deputy chairman of the government's Committee
for Religious Affairs in Tashkent, told Keston by telephone on 22 March that
`the Baptists have no problems here'. He denied all knowledge of the four
churches' registration difficulties. `No-one has come to me about it.'

Despite submitting all the required documents in their registration
application a year and a half ago, the Baptist church in Gazalkent in
Tashkent region is still waiting for approval from the khokimiyat, without
which they cannot take their application further. The church does still meet
in the church building, despite the lack of registration. Also refusing
permission is the khokimiyat in the town of Gulistan in Syr-Darya region
120 kms (75 miles) south west of Tashkent, where the local church meets in
a private home.

Meanwhile, the church in the village of Novaya Zhizn in Tashkent region
has gained the approval of the khokimiyat, but its application is being held
up in the justice administration. The church has so far lodged its application
twice, but with no success.

Keston has also been unable to reach any relevant officials of Tashkent or
Syr-Darya regional khokimiyats by telephone to find out why the
registration of the Baptist churches in both locations has been obstructed.

The Central Asian Baptist Union has 22 registered churches in Uzbekistan
and is itself registered as a central religious body, allowing it to conduct
religious education and (at least in theory) to produce and import religious
literature. Registration of individual congregations - which requires 100
Uzbek citizens as founding members, as well as agreement from an array of
state bodies including the khokimiyat, the fire service and the
epidemiological service � is vital, as the law requires registration for any
communal activity and criminalises unregistered religious activity. The
Union is also preparing registration applications for a number of other
congregations.

Meanwhile the Second Baptist Church in Tashkent has faced obstruction
from the city khokimiyat to its plans to build a new church to replace the
current building, which is old and too small to hold the more than 200
church members. `The government's Committee for Religious Affairs has
already given its permission in writing, but the khokimiyat's permission is
the most important,' Pastor Peychev told Keston. The church has been trying
to gain permission to rebuild since the beginning of 2000. (END)

II. UZBEKISTAN: BAPTIST CHURCH TOLD TO HALT WORK WITH
CHILDREN

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

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)