Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kyrgyz leaders allow religious persecution

Kyrgyzstan-The Kyrgyz government has allowed a Muslim mob to prevent a Baptist family from burying their son near home, threatening religious freedom in Kyrgyzstan, reports the Slavic Gospel Association.The 14-year-old son of Alymek Isakov died of heart failure in the village of Kulanak in Kyrgyzstan's central Naryn Region.In 2006, the district authorities had officially allocated a plot of land in the village as a graveyard for the Baptist church.However, when 20 other Baptists joined the Isakov family to bury their son on this land, a mob of 30 drunken Muslim villagers-led by the local imam and armed with spades and farm implements-prevented them.The mob would not allow the Baptists to conduct a funeral in the village unless it was led by the local imam and followed traditional Muslim burial rites, reports Forum 18, an organization committed to defending freedom of conscience.That very day, the Baptists asked for assistance from Ishenbek Medetov, the head of Naryn region's Akimat (Administration).
"Medetov reprimanded the believers, saying that they should have thought about the consequences before accepting another faith," reported one Baptist, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons.Medetov then ordered three law enforcement officials to meet with the group of Muslims and find a solution.The Muslims refused to allow a Christian burial in the village, and the officials did not attempt to enforce law and order.The Baptists then appealed to Omurbek Subanaliev, the Head of Executive Authority of Naryn Region.He did not want to speak to the Baptists, and they had to wait several hours to catch him as he left the building. Subanaliev insisted that "he could not in such a way restrict the rights of the villagers," Forum 18 was told. "If any violence takes place in the village over the issue, the Baptists are to blame."
Medetov and other officials then pressured the Isakovs to renounce their faith or give up the body of their son, which they refused. A mob gathered around their home, where friends and relatives had gathered to comfort the family. One member of the mob, Kylych Tostokov, was hitting the believers and the father.Police then arrived at the house, but instead of defending the family from the mob, they forcibly removed the boy's body and buried him 40 kilometers away in Akkiya, on abandoned land set aside to bury non-Muslims.The Isakovs learned this and traveled to Akkiya with their supporters, where they found the boy buried "in a disrespectful manner." They dug up his body and gave him a proper burial.Since then, the village has cut off the Isakovs' supply of water to irrigate their crops, and other children have beaten their children at school. The Isakovs believe they are being pressured to leave the village.Kyrgyz believers fear that the situation may provoke more legal restrictions on their freedom.They hope "to start a legal investigation of the case to punish the perpetrators" and set a precedent, an anonymous believer reported.Religious persecution has been growing more severe in Kyrgyzstan over the last couple of years, but this is probably the first time the issue has been so publicly discussed.
As in the days of Noah....

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