5/19/06: Uzbekistan: Government Reportedly Closes Samarqand Adventist Church
May 19, 2006 Samarqand, Uzbekistan .... [ANN Staff]
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Samarqand (also known as Samarkand) has been closed by the Uzbekistan government, external media reports indicate.
According to a May 17 bulletin from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, "Uzbek authorities ... said that they have closed down two Protestant churches on charges of violating the country's law on religious organizations."
The bulletin notes, "A [Uzbekistan] Justice Ministry statement says the Seventh-[d]ay Adventist church and the Christian Protestant church in the central city of Samarqand are also accused of illegally proselytizing among local residents."
Adventist church leaders are unable to confirm all of the details, a statement from the church's Euro-Asia region indicates. Officials believe two Adventist congregations in Samarqand have lost their state registrations.
"At the present [time], we do not have clear information and not everything is [public], and that's why we cannot give any details," Valery Ivanov, a spokesman for the church in Euro-Asia, wrote in an e-mail to Adventist News Network.
Dr. John Graz, public affairs and religious liberty director for the Adventist world church said this development raises questions about human rights in the Central Asian nation.
"Uzbekistan has to face a challenging situation about human rights," Graz said. "The decision to close churches is not the best sign the authorities gave to the world about their willingness to accept religious pluralism which has been a characteristic of Uzbekistan for centuries. We will contact the authorities to get more information about their decision hoping that misunderstandings would be overcome."
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