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TAJIKISTAN - CHURCHES FORCED TO RE-REGISTER

Tajikistan's new Religion Law states that all religious communities in the country must re-register by 1 January 2010. Groups that choose not to register or fail to gain re-registration will become illegal. Under the law, all religious organisations need to provide the national government with written confirmation of their existence from their local administration. Sources report that administration officials have been slow at issuing confirmation or have deliberately refused to do so for groups that they did not like. With the deadline fast approaching, in mid-December 2009 officials noted that fewer than half of the current religious organisations had been re-registered.

In a country where restrictions on religious activity have become increasingly tight over the years, the highly restrictive Religion Law, passed in April 2009, not only lays down a complicated registration procedure but also imposes state censorship on all religious literature and restricts children's religious activity and education.

The Head Department for Religious Affairs (HDRA) has imposed territorial restrictions on the activity of some non-Muslim groups during the re-registration process. Christian churches reported that they could register with only a limited status, rather than a national status, allowing them to function only in the area in which they are registered.

• Pray for an easing of this restrictive new law. Pray that the authorities will recognise the right to freedom of religion and will register all religious organisations without bias.

• Pray for Christians in Tajikistan. Christian churches have been closed, bulldozed or threatened with confiscation of property in recent years. Pray for strength and courage for local Christians, that they will continue to worship the Lord Jesus, even in the face of such oppression.

From: Barnabas Fund