Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Forum 18

My learning curve is increasing as I try to see what I"m getting myself into in Russia or thereabouts. This is one site I found that is simply amazing. Forum 18, is a News service, trying to be broad minded enough (I see this as a GOOD thing), to include several "denominations".
Where have I been that I no NOTHING about what is going on in the Religious world? People NOW are STILL suffering for Jesus. I mean the old knock em down stuff, raids on headquarters, being deported stuff. Their site is addictive, and makes me feel incredibly grateful.
Christian's Cannot even NAME their children what they want to or they will be denied education, Travel permits etc. (see below).

Forum 18 News Service's Mission Statement

Forum 18 believes that religious freedom is a fundamental human right, which is essential for the dignity of humanity and for true freedom. Forum 18 is committed to religious freedom for all on the basis of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

This may be summarised as:

The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one's belief or religion
The right to join together and express one's belief.

Below is Part of todays article< the rest of it is on their site.
COMMENTARY: Azerbaijan's democracy "is being sold for oil"

By an Azerbaijani Protestant

In this personal commentary for Forum 18 News Service http://www.forum18.org , an Azerbaijani Protestant, anonymous to avoid state persecution, pleads for the international community to promote religious freedom for all, as "it seems to us that our democracy is being sold for oil. Foreigners are afraid to call things by their real name. They are afraid to tell our government bluntly that human rights violations must end." He argues that "religious freedom cannot exist without other freedoms, such as freedom of expression and association, as well as press and literature freedom. Because of this, religious freedom is a litmus test for freedom and democracy in any society, including Azerbaijan." He concludes by proposing practical steps for effective dialogue with Azerbaijan's leaders, leading to real religious freedom, and how religious minorities can be involved in this process.

In the nearly fifteen years since my country, Azerbaijan, regained its independence, we Christians have faced all kinds of obstacles and problems functioning freely. Although Azerbaijan gained a new constitution that unambiguously recognises the independence of religious communities from the state, freedom of conscience for all and the equality of citizens regardless of their religious adherence, gender or political views, in practice the opposite is the case.

While religious communities in Azerbaijan theoretically largely have the right to function freely (with some exceptions), in practice they do not have freedom. Restrictions and obstacles abound.

When churches and other minority religious communities try to register with the government and gain legal status it can be very difficult – at times even impossible. Obstruction comes from the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations – the government agency with the duty of registering religious communities that wish to do so. But not just from the Committee. Local administration officials up and down the country – who also have to approve registration applications – often deliberately and arbitrarily obstruct them.

In principle a community collects the required documents and sends them in, but what happens if the state notary refuses to certify the signatures? The application stalls – and there is little redress. Communities can wait for years as applications languish on this or that official's desk – and believers do not know what they can do to gain the registration they are entitled to.

The same difficulty faces Christian parents if they want to give their children Christian names. That's no problem in most countries of the world, but in some parts of Azerbaijan officials often refuse to register the birth of a child with a Christian name – the child then cannot go to kindergarten or school, get treatment in a hospital or travel to other countries. (See eg. F18News 1 December 2004

And when religious communities seek to meet for worship – with or without registration, as is their right under the constitution and in international law – the police or secret police can raid them. Those without registration are told (wrongly) that registration is compulsory before a community can meet for worship.

Worse still, believers are at times detained, intimidated and fined, simply for practising their faith in the way they see fit. Religious literature remains censored, a Soviet-era practice long overdue for abolition.

Even defending religious freedom for all is obstructed. Two years ago local believers of a variety of faiths founded a local affiliate of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA). Officials from the United States, Russian and Turkish embassies were present at the official launch at Baku's Irshad Hotel, along with parliamentarians from Kyrgyzstan and other international representatives, among them Denton Lotz, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance. Local officials were led by Rafik Aliev, head of the State Committee.

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