Monday, March 06, 2006

Forum 18: Belarus, Kazakhstan

"3 March 2006

When Baptist deacon Vladimir Golikov spoke in a private capacity at an evening on married life on 28 January at a cultural centre near the capital Minsk, local ideology official Oleg Bobrik arrived to close down the meeting. Golikov had violated an unwritten rule banning religious believers from speaking publicly on social issues. 'I was accused of conducting religious propaganda, but there was nothing religious in my talk - it was about family life and ethics,' he told Forum 18 News Service. The authorities came close to sacking all 15 employees of the cultural centre in retaliation for his participation. Also in late January, the Supreme Court closed down Generation, a social organisation run by Minsk Christians and registered in 2004 which was accused of conducting religious activity at its English camps and classes. The excuse
used was an invalid legal address. Ahead of elections, religious leaders in some towns are summoned by the local authorities and warned not to get involved in politics.

1 March 2006


Baptist pastor Pyotr Panafidin's refusal to pay a massive fine imposed last September for leading his unregistered church in the southern town of Taraz has led to a three-day imprisonment and the decision to confiscate his home. Detained at a court hearing on 27 February, Panafidin is due for release on 2 March. "Of course we're worried - if the house is seized, he, his wife Katya and their nine children will be homeless," a local Baptist told Forum 18 News Service. "Of course the detention and the threat to seize the pastor's home are not pleasant," Arbol Argynov of Kazakhstan's human rights ombudsperson's office told Forum 18 from the capital Astana." If a religious community is not registered with the authorities, that is no reason to restrict it." He says the requirement for religious communities to register must be removed for Kazakhstan to meet itsinternational human rights commitments."

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