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Pressure on Christians in Azerbaijan gro


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#1 Yervant1

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 09:10 AM

11:32 08/02/2013 » Society
Release International: Pressure on Christians in Azerbaijan grows; pastors are threatened and put behind bars


There is growing pressure on Christians in the former Soviet republic and that tough new regulations have made it difficult for churches to complete the necessary registration, the statement of the International Organization on the Rights of Christian Release International says.

The organization stated that the registration process is “mired in bureaucracy” and that applications are often refused. Churches without the proper registration are considered illegal by the authorities and exposed to crippling fines. Release chief executive Paul Robinson said official registration had become the “biggest obstacle” facing churches in Azerbaijan today.

The warning follows a recent fact-finding trip to the country by Release workers, which included meeting local pastors and Christians.

A human rights lawyer who cannot be named for security reasons told Release of one church that has been in Azerbaijan for 150 years and always had the proper registration until 2009. “Now, after the change to the Religion Law it’s almost impossible for them to get registered,” he said.

According to Release International one pastor received a visit to his home from 30 police officers and officials who told him it was illegal to spread the teachings of Jesus in Azerbaijan, despite religious freedom being guaranteed in the constitution. He claims to have been told he would be spared prison if he stopped his work as a Christian evangelist. The pastor refused and was taken to court accused of keeping weapons and was forced to spend 18 months behind bars.

"Azerbaijan is clamping down on all religious organizations – including churches," Mr. Robinson said.

Another pastor explained that the Azerbaijani authorities are afraid that if people [become Christians] they would prefer the interests of Russia over those of Azerbaijan, while fundamentalist Muslims would prefer the interests of Iran.

Another pastor told of how literature and Bibles were confiscated from his unregistered church during a raid by police.

"In the court the same guys said we found this pistol in the kitchen. They sentenced me to a year’s imprisonment. It’s very hard to be in prison in Azerbaijan. It is very bad that the government puts godly men into prison," he said.

However, according to Release International if there were only a handful of Azerbaijani evangelical Christians in 1990, there are an estimated 10,000 today.

U.S. State Department report on “Freedom of religion” says that despite the fact that the Constitution of Azerbaijan provides freedom of religion the laws and policies of the government restrict this freedom in practice. Azerbaijani authorities carry out raids against some religious organizations, confiscate religious materials, harass and arrest members of the Muslim and Christian communities.

Moreover, during the registration the religious groups face burdensome demands from the government. The registration process is a kind of lever that is used by the authorities of Azerbaijan against the unwanted religious groups. Those groups that are operating without registration, are persecuted by the authorities, including fines and court cases demanding their closure, the U.S. State Department report said.
Source: Panorama.am

#2 MosJan

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Posted 08 February 2013 - 03:44 PM

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