Notes on church-state affairs.

Author:Hendon, David W.
 
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ALGERIA

Algeria ordered thirteen Protestant churches to close because they had not obtained permits required by a law passed in February 2006. The law also banned the production of media designed to "shake the faith of a Muslim."

BELARUS

Minority religions groups collected 50,000 signatures on a petition calling for a change in Belarus's restrictive 2002 law on religion. The government rejected the claims. Some leaders of the petition movement say the government has responded by harassing them.

CHINA

In March, Chinese authorities broke up a demonstration by Uighurs in the town of Hotan in the western province of Xinjiang. China blames the unrest on Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islam, a radical group proposing the creation of a worldwide Muslim state. The group says that it opposes violence, but it has been banned in Russia and Central Asia. The Chinese government says that the group handed out leaflets calling for demonstrations in Hotan and the capital of Xinjiang, Urumqi. Human rights groups say that the demonstrators were merely protesting a ban on wearing of head scarves in the workplace and calling for the release of political prisoners. There are about 9.4 million Uighurs in Xinjiang.

In April, monks from the Tibetan Buddhist Labrang monastery in Gansu province unexpectedly interrupted an official government organized media tour. For about ten minutes they called for free and human rights and demanded to see the Dalai Lama. A similar thing happened earlier on 27 March in Jokhang Temple.

Some organizations have adopted a call for prayer for persecuted Chinese Christians in a document called "The Zurich Statement." It recognizes that China has made progress but calls for the removal of remaining obstacles to religious liberty. Those involved include China Aid Association, Open Doors International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the Voice of the Martyrs, and the Religious Liberty Commission of World Evangelical Alliance.

GERMANY

In a lengthy report, the Roman Catholic Church of Germany admitted to using about a thousand prisoners of war and about five thousand civilians in forced labor in hospitals, homes, and monastery gardens during the Nazi years. Cardinal Karl Lehmann said the church had been silent too long but added that the conditions of the workers was not as bad as elsewhere in Nazi Germany.

INDIA

The state government of Gujurat revoked a 2006 attempt to amend the Gujurat Freedom of Religion Act. This appears to be an attempt to return to the 2003 version of the law, never implemented, that would make conversion more difficult.

KAZAKHSTAN

Kazakhstan imposed large fines on two Baptist pastors, Kulzipa Abdrakhmanova and Pytor Panafidin, for leading unregistered congregations. They refuse registration as a matter of principle. Each was fined the equivalent of 600 [pounds sterling] or $970 USD.

MACEDONIA

Macedonia's new law on religion contains a provision stating that planning authorities may consult with existing churches in an area before granting a building permit for a new church. This opens the possibility that existing churches, especially the favored Macedonian Orthodox churches, could use their influence to deny permits. The Serbian Orthodox Church in particular could be affected.

NAGARNO-KARABAKH

Nagorno-Karabakh, a de facto independent republic surrounded by the Republic of Azerbaijan that is not recognized internationally, rejected the appeal of a Jehovah's Witness jailed for refusing military service. Areg Hovhanesyan was imprisoned in February 2005, and his appeal was rejected on 24 March 2008. Ashot Sargsyan, head of the Department of National Minorities and Religions, said that he is not dangerous but cannot be "a well-behaved person" if he breaks the law. Nagarno-Karabakh uses the penal code adopted by Armenia in 2003. Most people in Nagarno-Karabakh are ethnically Armenian, but they are physically separated from the Republic of Armenia.

PAKISTAN

A mob attacked a church in the city of Gujranwala during Holy Week. Christians replied with a protest march on 19 March.

RWANDA

Rwanda held the fourteenth annual National Week of Mourning to commemorate the 1004 Rwandan genocide. Among the speakers was Kay Warren, who spoke about reconciliation and forgiveness. She and her husband, a popular Christian writer, Rick Warren, of the Saddleback Church in California, have been touring...

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