Kyrgyzstan President signs New Religion Law Banning proselytism and deceptive conversions of children and Youths

President Kurmanbek Bakiev has signed the restrictive new Religion Law; The Law – which replaces the 1991 Religion Law – was approved by parliament on 6 November 2008. On 12 January, 2009 the presidential website reported:

Provisions under this law include: a ban on children being involved in religious organizations; a ban on “aggressive action aimed at proselytism”; a ban on the distribution of religious literature, print, and audio-video religious materials; and de facto compulsory re-registration of all registered religious organizations (see F18News 5 November 2008

The 12 January announcement on the presidential website trumpets the fact that 200 adult citizens permanently living in Kyrgyzstan will now be required before a religious community can apply for state registration, compared to 10 in the current Law. It says 10 registered religious organizations will be needed to form a “religious association”.

The announcement stresses that “attracting children into religious organizations is not allowed, and insistent actions directed at turning believers of one faith to another (proselytism) are banned”. It adds that “the distribution of literature, printed, audio and video materials of a religious character in public places (on streets and roads), and going round flats, children’s institutions, schools and higher educational establishments is banned”. It specifies that the Law “determines [official] control on the activity of religious organizations”.

The announcement said the Law comes into force on its official publication. It said statutes of religious organizations must be brought into conformity with the new Law.

The announcement stresses that the “leading religious confessions of the country” – which it identifies as the Muftiate and the Russian Orthodox Church – had called on President Bakiev to sign the Law. “The majority of state bodies of the country likewise supported this Law.”

The Baha’is who will be put under the scanner with this law and their so called moral children classes, the junior youth spiritual empowerment program,(JYSEP) and Ruhi Institute courses, the study circles which are nothing but deceptive way of propagation and conversion will come to standstill.

Echoing his concern over the ban on spreading one’s faith is a member of the Baha’i community, who asked not to be identified. “We’re not sure how we will be treated if we speak to someone about our faith,” the Baha’i told Forum 18 on 13 January. “Will this be regarded as illegal propaganda?” The Baha’i said every religious believer will have to be more careful now. “We won’t be able to say what we want to say, and we won’t be able to listen to what we want to listen to.”

P. Porsayeva

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