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'Undesirable' in Central Asia

Issue: "John Smoltz: The closer," Aug. 3, 2002

Kazakhstan: Officials have fined clergy for refusing to register churches, punishing Baptist pastor Valery Pak with five days in prison. Although the law in Kazakhstan does not require churches to register, authorities said they would tighten the requirements after Sept. 11 as part of a crackdown on Islamic extremists.

Kyrgyzstan: On Sept. 11 the small and mountainous republic could have been called the staunchest U.S. ally in the region. Now it is called the weakest link in Central Asia, as civil war threatens to undo economic and political reform. Although Bishkek is home to nearly 2,000 troops fighting in Afghanistan, the internal political crisis is ruining its economy and plowing fertile ground for the next Taliban.

Tajikistan: Government religious affairs bureaucrats ordered churches to receive "the most stringent control" because of a growing evangelical Christian community. They vowed to shut down small churches meeting in apartments and revoke permission for already registered churches.

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Turkmenistan: Christians are few and mainly Russian, Ukrainian, or Armenian imports. Authorities are using regulations to prevent churches from registering and to expel the already small Christian minority.

Uzbekistan: Members at Christian Full Gospel Church say they are being followed by police and questioned about church activities. Local authorities are blocking the church's application for registration, saying the church is "undesirable."

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