Azerbaijan – Court Ruling Mandates Closure of Greater Grace Church

Azerbaijan map

On January 9th, Greater Grace Protestant Church in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku lost its final appeal against closure. This means that any further religious activity carried out by the church is now considered illegal according to the recent Supreme Court ruling. Unfortunately, those representing the congregation no longer have any more options available to further challenge this ruling through the court system.

During the brief hearing, the appointed judge disregarded the church’s appeal against an earlier court order that mandated its closure for violating the 2009 Religion Law. This harsh law requires that all religious communities re-register, including those previously registered through the Justice Ministry. Without state permission, such operations are considered illegal and, therefore, fined accordingly. (Fines for violations against the Religion Law have increased dramatically since 2010.) The outcome of this case now sets a worrying legal precedent for other Christian churches in Azerbaijan. For previous reports, go to the Azerbaijan Country Report.

Pray for the members of Greater Grace Church as they now consider their future. In the process, may they experience a strong sense of God’s presence, in addition to His wisdom and guidance in this situation. Also pray that Azerbaijan’s state officials will put an end to the abuses against religious rights, including those officially upheld in the country’s constitution.

(Source, Voice of the Martyrs.)

NOTE: I have met personally the pastor of this church during my visit in Baku in early 2000s. This is really sad news from a country whose regime pretends top be European and civilised, but is, in reality, controlled by the old KGB mentality. And they can get away with it, because they have oil. And the west cares more about oil than about human rights and dignity. It’s all about money, after all.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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