Kyrgyzstan keeps a tight grip on religion

 BBC… Bolot, a young evangelical preacher in Kyrgyzstan, says he has already been arrested twice since setting up a new church.

He says he is the victim of a new law on religion, which critics say severely restricts religious freedoms and is forcing some groups underground.

Under the law, new religious groups have to have at least 200 members before they can register with the authorities and operate legally – previously the figure was 10.

Kyrgyzstan is just the latest Central Asian republic to have been accused of curtailing religious rights.

“In our church we don’t have official registration because we have only 25 people, and we are banned from trying to convert people. We have lots of problems with the government,” Bolot says.

He says the police have been several times to his church, which is based in a house in the capital, Bishkek. Bolot, which is not his real name, says he fears further such visits.

“They asked me to stop the church because it’s against the law. Of course, it’s not comfortable but we will keep going.”

There are now at least 50,000 evangelical Christians in Kyrgyzstan, Bolot says, the majority of them converts from Islam like himself – although the government disputes that figure.

He says the authorities passed the law because they want to prevent Muslims converting to Christianity.

He adds that the government also feels threatened by radical Muslim groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, whose goal is to bring all Muslim countries together as a single state, ruled by Islamic law. Continue Reading →