Five years ago, Bulgaria's Christians witnessed the overthrow of one of the most virulently antireligious Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. They breathed a collective sigh of relief, anticipating the chance to practice their faith without fear of reprisal. For a season, they could.

But that season is quickly coming to an end. In recent months, a swelling wave of religious intolerance that includes government restrictions, vitriolic media attacks, and even violent assaults has buffeted religious minorities.

The current era resembles to an alarming degree the period before the fall of communism-with one important exception: the church is fighting back. Before, churches were driven underground and pastors imprisoned; now, religious minorities are banding together to oppose intolerance.

In one of the most restrictive developments, the Council of Ministers recently denied legal status to several parachurch organizations, including Mission Possible, Youth with a Mission (YWAM), and the local affiliate of Gideons International. The groups can no longer legally engage in public activities, and they also could lose their property.

The action was mandated by a measure passed in February requiring all nondenominational religious groups to seek government approval before registering. Legal analysts say the measure violates constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

In addition, Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second-largest city, passed an ordinance prohibiting religious groups from inviting people under age 18 to activities and requiring those groups to submit financial activity reports annually. Rights advocates say the ordinance contains the most restrictive measures since the fall of communism.

POLITICAL REALITIES

Protestants, a significant and growing ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Also in this Issue
EDITORIAL: Married, with Children? Subscriber Access Only
Fans of the traditional family should not be intimidated by bad statistics.
RecommendedTrump’s Religious Liberty Order Doesn’t Answer Most Evangelicals’ Prayers
Trump’s Religious Liberty Order Doesn’t Answer Most Evangelicals’ Prayers
Prayer breakfast pledge to ‘totally destroy’ Johnson Amendment comes up shy; conscience exemptions from LGBT anti-discrimination rules missing.
TrendingThe Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
The Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict
How the former FBI director’s interest in Reinhold Niebuhr shaped his approach to political power.
Editor's PickSix Ways Men Can Support Women's Discipleship
Six Ways Men Can Support Women's Discipleship
Male clergy and laity who want to enable women's ministry often don't know how to get involved or what to do.
Christianity Today
Bulgarian Protestants Resist Restrictions
hide thisNovember 14 November 14

In the Magazine

November 14, 1994

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.