Authorities Seize Church Properties in Tajikistan

October 14, 2008

In the capital city of Dushanbe believers may lose their own church buildings.

Christian Aid received the following report from a ministry it assists in Central Asia:

In 2005 the city launched a demolition project as the first phase of its rebuilding program. Many communities were bulldozed and hundreds of citizens were left homeless. Last year a Protestant church was confiscated and completely demolished. To date, no compensation has been given to the church leaders. Two other Protestant churches have been banned.

On August 29 the High Economic Court ruled on a case concerning a dispute over the property of a Protestant church. City officials wanted to seize the building even though it was bought legally ten years ago. Church members have been working on it for the past nine years and renovations are still on-going. But the authorities wanted it back. The judge, barring international observers from the courtroom, refused to report on the outcome.

Increasingly, government authorities are making it more difficult for certain religious organizations to exist. In order to qualify as a local religious association, there must be a membership of at least 200 believers. This is an obvious attempt to squelch the growth of religious minorities in a 97% Muslim population. With help from Christian Aid, one ministry has been starting a series of short-term training programs – all of them underground. If there are no more churches available for these training sessions, they will meet in the homes of believers.