East-West Church  Ministry Report
Vol. 10, No. 1, Winter 2002, Covering the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe


Freedom of Religion, A Report with Special Emphasis on the Right to Choose Religion and Registration Systems, compiled in part by Keston Institute, includes Turkmenistan among eight countries highlighted in this 2001 study.  Though Turkmenistan adopted a new constitution in May 1992 that provides for freedom of religion and does not establish a state religion, laws are often ignored, especially human rights and religious liberty laws. Turkmenistan's membership in the United Nations should bind it to the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, its constitution has been amended three times, narrowing the freedom to practice one's religion.  For example, the report documents that only Sunni Islam and Russian Orthodoxy are allowed to function in Turkmenistan, while members of other religious groups are pressured to convert to Islam.

In 1997 about half the mosques were not reregistered and non-Muslim and non-Orthodox groups were deregistered. The 1996 amendment requires an adult member community of 500 as a prerequisite to register, which of course makes it impossible for all but the largest religious communities to comply.  But when the Hare Krishna community gathered its 500 adult members required to register, it was told that because the people did not all live in the city in which the church was located, they could not be reregistered.

The report also documents the destruction and confiscation of places of worship, arrests, fines, loss of jobs, and beatings of those not professing either Islam or Russian Orthodoxy, deportation of foreign religious activists, and slander in the press toward religious groups and private citizens in those groups. It also notes the confiscation and destruction of religious literature.  This 156-page report, published by Norway's Forum 18 and the Norwegian Mission to the East (NMO), can be downloaded in Adobe Acrobat from the NMO Web site: http://www.normis.no.

Reviewed by Jena Abbott, assistant editor of the East-West Church and Ministry Report.

Increasing Religious Intolerance against Minority Religions in Europe and Eurasia

On 19 June 2001 the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) published a 35-page report on religious intolerance in selected participating states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), including 11 nations of the former Soviet Union and five in Central and Eastern Europe. Covering mainly the year 2000, the study concluded that the trend in the field of religious freedom is toward adopting legislation that increasingly restricts the activities of minority religions to the advantage of so-called traditional religions.  Some Western European countries do not provide good models for new democracies, as they develop discriminatory legislation or practices governing religious associations. Anti-sect hysteria has been a source of violations of Helsinki commitments.

The IHF report documents the persecution of Islamic believers in Central Asia, in particular in Uzbekistan, where hundreds and perhaps thousands are imprisoned unjustly.  Another group suffering frequent persecution in numerous OSCE states is Jehovah's Witnesses.  Most OSCE countries have failed to adopt adequate legislation on the right to conscientious objection on religious grounds. In most cases the victims have been Jehovah's Witnesses who refuse to carry out military service on grounds of their belief.

Source:  International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), Wickenburggasse 14/7, 1080 Vienna, Austria; tel: 43-1-4088822-11; fax: 43-1-4088822-50.  Copies of the report are available on-line on the IHF Web site, www.ihf-hr.org.

"Resources," East-West Church & Ministry Report 10 (Winter 2002), 18.

Written permission is required for reprinting or electronic distribution of any portion of the East-West Church & Ministry Report.

© 2002 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

EWC&M Report | Contents | Search Back Issues | From Our Readers | Subscribe