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Tajikistan

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A church in Tajikistan was able to buy and register this property with help from Barnabas

Christian worship and witness are tightly controlled by the government of Tajikistan. It suppresses and punishes churches and other organisations that do anything independently of state control.

Madamin Chariyev, a Christian from the capital Dushanbe, was fined in September 2013 for “illegally importing unlicensed religious literature”. He and two other members of his church had received copies of a Christian magazine from Belarus. Although these were devotional materials intended only for the Christians’ personal use, the authorities insisted that they should have been checked and licensed by the state. Such “expert analysis” of Christian books and magazines is unaffordable for small churches.

The censorship of all religious literature is just one part of the repressive official regulation of the churches in Tajikistan. In the past four years the government has expanded the laws that limit religious freedom. In effect it claims the right to approve, restrict or prevent any kind of Christian worship, ministry or mission.

The 2009 Religion Law forced all churches to re-register with the state and established demanding and intrusive registration requirements. Unregistered Christian activity was criminalised. Evangelism and private Christian education (except by parents) were also prohibited, and official permission must be given to provide Christian instruction. There are no licensed Christian schools in the whole country, and unregistered schools are closed down. Administrative and penal amendments in 2011 and 2012 introduced new penalties, including large fines and prison terms, for religion-related offences. A 2011 law effectively bans young people under 18 from participating in Christian worship. Religious communities are liable to be punished for engaging in activities not specifically mentioned in their statutes.

Minority communities that are believed to be influenced from abroad, such as Protestant Christians, are particularly liable to repression under these draconian regulations. Christians make up only about 1% of the population of Tajikistan and are therefore especially vulnerable. However, the stifling state controls also apply to the Muslim majority. Families and communities of Tajik Christians who have converted from Islam may put pressure on them to reconvert.

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