Azerbaijan Sunday School Raided by Police

Friday, September 5, 2003

Protestants fear revival of KGB methods

By Stefan J. Bos
Eastern Europe Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
September 5, 2003

BAKU / BUDAPEST (ANS) -- Protestant Christians in Azerbaijan are fearing for the future of their children after police raided a Sunday school using old Soviet style "KGB methods", reports said Thursday September 4.

Pastor Fuad Tariverdi of the Greater Grace Protestant Church in the capital Baku told Forum 18 News Service (F18News) that police chief Mukhtar Mukhtarov broke of the Sunday School on Sunday August 31, saying that the church "has no right to teach kids."

Mukhtarov rejected any criticism and blamed the church. "They're acting illegally," he told F18News "There was nothing bad, but this must be done with the permission of the Committee for Work with Religious Organizations."


The latest reported incidents in Baku come amid concern among human rights workers about an apparent crack down in the former Soviet Union against Christian groups. In neighboring Turkmenistan, and other ex-Soviet republics Christians have been warned not to hold private meetings and have received and prison terms.

And in Belarus a law came into force on August 29 that analysts say could lead to the liquidation of religious groups deemed "harmful" for society.

F18 News, which is linked to a human rights organization investigating religious persecution, said Azerbaijani officials "at all levels have obstructed the work of many minority religious communities, especially Protestant churches which have many ethnic Azeris as members."


Pastor Tariverdi told F18 News his congregation can no longer use the club for a Sunday school. "We met him on Tuesday. He's been told if he lets us in he'll be imprisoned." The church does not know where it will take the fifty or so children for the Sunday school from now on.

Tariverdi claimed Mukhtarov has been "persecuting our church for years". "He always sends people to invite our leadership to talk to him and tries to prove to us that we are wrong, bad, illegal and tries to intimidate us, using Soviet/KGB ways and mentality."

His Greater Grace church was registered with the Justice Ministry in 1993. It has been seeking re-registration with the Committee for Work with Religious Organizations for the past two years, F18News said.