The Presidential Administration has rejected for now a harsh new Decree which would have brought in sweeping controls on religious activity. But Kanat Murzakhalilov, Deputy Head of the State Agency for Religious Affairs, told Forum 18 News Service that his agency hopes to present a final draft of a controversial new Religion Law to the government by the end of March. He refused to say if the draft will require 200 adult citizen members before a community can gain legal status, a provision in the latest publicly-available draft which is opposed by the Russian Orthodox, the Catholics, many Protestant Churches, the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Baha'is. But he stated that registration will continue to be compulsory. Boris Shumkov of the Council of Churches Baptists told Forum 18 that such harsh provisions "would lead to repression and persecution of our congregations". They have named 5 March a day of prayer and fasting. "Our country has so many urgent problems – poverty, the lack of medicine, Aids, crime, corruption," one Baha'i told Forum 18. "Why don't officials work on these instead of making life harder for religious believers?"
Well, it's good that the harshest version of this law isn't going to be passed, but I have to agree with the Baha'i quoted there that this government -- any government -- would be better occupied elsewhere. And good on him/her for standing up.
Here's the defense for the law: But Fr Dronov insisted that a new Law is necessary. "The current Law is too liberal and should be amended. Registration should be better regulated. And the problem at present is that faiths new to Kyrgyzstan have the same rights as faiths that have been here for a long time. New groups should have fewer rights as they are not part of the established culture here. Some new sects are harmful and should be restricted."
Among those Fr Dronov singled out as needing tighter control were Pentecostal Christians, which he alleged "harm members' psychological health". However, he admitted that no medically-documented proof of such harm was yet available.
It makes me think that the Pentacostals have had rather more success in Kyrgyzstan than Fr Dronov is comfortable with.
Click on this blog entry's title to get the whole article -- and there are further links at the bottom of the article for anybody who wants to read up on the situation.