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  • » 12/21/2013, 00.00

    TURKMENISTAN

    Ashgabat , imams, police and intelligence services ban Bibles and Christian songs



    Official of the Department of Religious Affairs, the imam of a local mosque , says that Christianity is "a mistake , not a religion but a myth." And warns people to convert to Islam . "Songs of praise to God" also banned. Jehovah's Witness sentenced to 18 months in prison for crimes of opinion and defense of religious freedom.

    Ashgabat ( AsiaNews/F18 ) - Police and Secret Service agents in Dashoguz , a city in the north of Turkmenistan , have carried out a raid against a group of believers of the "Church of the Light of the East" , a local Protestant community . Special forces raided two houses of prayer, and confiscated religious materials including Bibles . An official of the Department of Religious Affairs, who is also an imam at the local mosque , turned to the pastor of the Pentecostal community stating that his faith " is wrong" and warned him to convert to Islam . "Christianity is a mistake - added the Muslim leader - it's not a religion, but a myth."

    The police also threatened a Turkmen believer to 15 days in prison and deportation. To a group practicing hymns for Sunday service, the officers stated that " the songs of praise to God are banned here".

    The Norwegian Forum 18 news website , committed to documenting violations of religious freedom in Central Asia , reports that the number and scope of fines against individuals and communities who want to exercise their right to religious freedom has increased. The restrictions on the practice of faith is even targeting Muslims - the vast majority in the country - with the state that continues to limit the number of visas granted to the faithful who wish to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.

    The community of Eastern Pentecostal Church of Light has obtained official registration in April 2005 and was one of the first state recognized realities that was not Muslim or Russian Orthodox to be able to worship outside of the capital Ashgabat . However, in recent weeks, the faithful have been the subject of repeated raids by the authorities and the secret police, with threats of arrests and the seizure of religious materials . During one of these operations in a private home, the agents claimed that " it is forbidden to sing hymns to God ," and without identifying themselves , they have seized the book of songs and brought the members of the community in for "investigations " .

    Meanwhile, an increasing number of people are being incarcerated for crimes of opinion and defense of religious freedom. News has emerged in recent days of a Jehovah's Witness being sentenced to to 18 months' imprisonment. Suhrab Rahmanberdiyyev, who has just turned 18 is the ninth conscientious objector to end up in prison, where he was beaten and abused because he refused to declare himself a Muslim and convert to Islam.

     

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    See also

    16/11/2010 TURKMENISTAN
    Appeal denied for Ilmurad Nurliev, Pentecostal pastor convicted by false evidence
    Sentenced to four years for fraud, in a closed door trial, access denied to diplomats, his wife complains that the witnesses testimony was false. Fears he will be sent to a labour camp that forcibly administers psychotropic substances for Christian prisoners. Now his last hope is international mobilization.

    25/02/2011 AFGHANISTAN
    Christian in prison for apostasy secretly released in Kabul
    Sayed Mussa risked the death penalty for leaving Islam and embracing Christianity. Perhaps the man has already been smuggled out of the country. For months Western diplomatic have sought to secure his release. Another Christian convert still in prison.

    20/10/2010 IRAN
    Iranian Protestant pastor, held in prison for months, risks death penalty for apostasy
    Youcef Nadarkhani's wife was released a few days ago after four months of detention. The arrest comes as evangelical Christians complain of increased pressure against them, an unprecedented persecution since the advent of the ayatollahs' regime.

    20/04/2012 INDIA
    Indian Kashmir: Christians arrested for "promoting enmity"
    According to police Mafford Maharaj Singh, 62, and his wife Kusum, 60, were distributing Christian pamphlets disturbing the local population. Denial of the children: "They were in Srinagar for a wedding. A vendor found out their faith, insulted them and denounced them. "They risk three to five years in prison.

    14/01/2013 EGYPT
    Egypt, 15 years in prison for mother and seven children, converts to Christianity
    The case concerns Nadia Mohamed Ali, a mother of eight children, born Christian, but converted to Islam to marry her husband. After his death, she decides to return to her original religion with her children. The authorities accuse her of having changed names on documents to skip procedure.



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