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KYRGYZSTAN: Orthodox Bishop banned
By Mushfig Bayram, Forum 18 News Service
Kyrgyzstan’s State Commission for Religious Affairs (SCRA) on 14 July refused registration as missionary to Bishop Feodosy, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Kyrgyzstan, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Under the Religion Law, this prevents him from working as a religious worker in Kyrgyzstan. “This is a ban on the Bishop”, Orthodox Church spokesperson Yuliya Farbshteyn told Forum 18. The SCRA claimed that the Bishop was denied registration as he “threatens the public security of Kyrgyzstan and sows religious discord among the population”. Orthodox believers totally denied these claims to Forum 18. The SCRA also claimed that registration was refused as the Interior Ministry’s Anti-terrorism Department was investigating the Bishop. This Department, however, told Forum 18 that it has “nothing against the Church or the Bishop”. Sunday school catechist Vakhtang Fyodorov continues to be threatened with deportation. Also, the State Property Fund is again seeking – this time through the Supreme Court – to confiscate the building of the Protestant Church of Jesus Christ in Bishkek.
Kyrgyzstan’s State Commission for Religious Affairs (SCRA) on 14 July refused registration as missionary to Bishop Feodosy [secular name Sergei Gazhu], the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Kyrgyzstan, Forum 18 News Service has learned. Under the Religion Law, this prevents him from working as a religious worker in Kyrgyzstan.
As a Russian citizen, Bishop Feodosy may live and work in Kyrgyzstan without a visa. Under Kyrgyzstan’s international human rights obligations everyone resident in a country has the right to freedom of religion or belief, including sharing their beliefs with others. However, the Religion Law contradicts this legally binding international human rights obligation (see Forum 18’s Kyrgyzstan religious freedom survey http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1388).
“This is a ban on the Bishop”, Yuliya Farbshteyn, spokesperson for the Orthodox Church told Forum 18 on 16 July. She said that Bishop Feodosy had to leave Kyrgyzstan in early June as his missionary visa and permit expired on 10 June and was not extended. The Church received the official refusal letter on 14 July – more than a month after the Bishop left the country.
On 10 July the Supreme Court rejected an appeal against two lower courts’ support of the SCRA’s refusal to give state registration to the Ahmadi Muslim community. An Ahmadi Muslim, who asked to remain unnamed for fear of state reprisals, told Forum 18 that “this is equal to banning us .. If we are found by the NSS secret police, the ordinary police, or any other state agency to be carrying out ‘illegal’ religious activity, we will be given harsh punishments”. SCRA lawyer Zhanibek Botoyev told Forum 18 that “they can individually pray or read their books in their homes but they must not worship together. Otherwise they will be punished” (see F18News 17 July 2014 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1977).
The SCRA letter stated that “Russian citizen Sergei Gazhu cannot be given renewed registration as a missionary in Kyrgyzstan as he threatens the public security of Kyrgyzstan and sows religious discord among the population.”
Church spokesperson Farbshteyn told Forum 18 that “This is a lie and absolutely unacceptable form of treatment of the Bishop and the Church.” She said that Bishop Feodosi did “great work for the Church, the Russian believers living in Kyrgyzstan. He has also helped Muslim Kyrgyz people”.
Another Orthodox believer from Bishkek told Forum 18 that “the community and clergy would very much would like him to be able to come back and continue as the Bishop”. Forum 18 was told that, as well as developing many church activities such as a choir, education centre and museum, Bishop Fedosi also established the Sisters of Mercy. These ladies provide free warm meals for anyone who needs them – Kyrgyz, Russian or anyone else – both at premises at the Church and also from a bus that makes food available to anyone on the streets who needs food.
The SCRA also claimed that registration was refused as the Interior Ministry’s Anti-terrorism 10th Department was investigating the Bishop.
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