Police investigating the arson of a church in north-east Kyrgyzstan have suggested members of the congregation might be responsible.
The Baptist church in Kaji-Sai, around 180 miles east of the capital Bishkek, was burned down on 2 January. But when police came to investigate the arson, they demanded to know why ethnic Kyrgyz did not go to a mosque and when contacted by reporters suggested Christians themselves might have been responsible.
Christians in the town have since 2010 received violent threats, faced intimidation and been refused traditional burial rights.
A spokesperson for the Baptist church stated, “we are still restoring and renovating the church, and we will continue our services despite adversity.”
Christians in Kyrgyzstan have faced a dramatic reduction in their freedoms in recent years and Muslim-background Christians are frequently the targets of persecution and harassment from family members and the community. The government is proposing to further tighten already restrictive religion laws, which mean Christians can be fined for unregistered religious activity and make it very difficult for them to function legally.