Azerbaijan: Church liquidated by court

May 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Asia, Azerbaijan, newsletter-asia, Persecution

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Azerbaijan, April 30, 2012: A church in Azerbaijan has become the first religious community to be liquidated by a court since the country’s harsh new religion law came into force in 2009.

Greater Grace Protestant Church in the capital, Baku, was stripped of its registration at a 15-minute hearing on 25 April. The decision, which was made in the absence of any church representatives, makes any activity by the church illegal and subject to punishment.

Church members say that they intend to challenge the ruling:

We had no faith in getting a just and legal decision from the start, so we decided  to appeal through all the local courts and take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if necessary.

Greater Grace has held legal registration in Azerbaijan since 1993, but the 2009 amendments to the religion law required all religious organisations to re-register.

The State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations (SCWRO), the government body that is in charge of registration, argued that Greater Grace should be stripped of its registration because it had failed to re-register with them.

The SCWRO has denied permits to many groups; hundreds that submitted applications are still waiting for a response.

The church has insisted that it has never broken the law, but the SCWRO told the court that it had “secret documents” revealing violations. The committee did not however produce these documents.

The court’s decision will be enforced a month after the written verdict is issued, which has to happen within ten days, unless Greater Grace lodges an appeal. It has one month to do so once it receives the written verdict.

Leaders and members face hefty fines if they carry out any church-related activities such as holding meetings. An individual member could be fined between 1,500 and 2,000 Manats (£1,180-£1,570), a church officer between 7,000 and 8,000 Manats (£5,480-£6,270). The minimum monthly wage in Azerbaijan is 93.50 Manats (£73.20). 

Azerbaijan is around 90 per cent Muslim and the government gives preferential treatment to religions considered “traditional” (Islam, Russian Orthodox Christianity and Judaism).

The vast majority of religious communities to have gained state registration – 550 of 570 – are Muslim. Of the other 20, eleven are Christian, six Jewish, two Baha’i and one Hindu.

– barnabas team

Officials Deprive Christian Baby of Name

May 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Asia, Azerbaijan, Catholic, Persecution

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Officials Deprive Christian Baby of Name

Officials Deprive Christian Baby of Name

Baptist community in Zaqatala region struggles against nationalist prejudice.

September 28 (CDN) — September 28 (Compass Direct News) – Born on June 18 to a Christian family in northern Azerbaijan, three-month-old Ilya Eyvazov still has no official name. Local authorities in the town of Aliabad at first refused to issue a birth certificate to the baby’s father, Novruz Eyvazov, when they saw his son’s name was the Russian form of Elijah. “They said it was because it was a Christian name,” said the Baptist church member. After a month, Novruz Eyvazov succeeded only in securing a birth certificate that left his son’s name blank. One official in the regional registration office in Zaqatala said that Baptists in Aliabad were facing difficulties because their attempt to take non-Azeri names was part of a plot to cede Zaqatala to neighboring Georgia. Little Ilya Eyvazov’s two older brothers, Moisei [Moses] and Luka, were also denied birth certificates by the municipality for some months. Considered part of a “foreign” religious sect, the three Baptist congregations in Aliabad face ongoing harassment from the local government, which has refused them official church registration for the past 13 years.