An evangelical church in Chkalovsk near the northern Tajik town of Khodjent has just begun its fourth attempt this year to gain official registration. Three attempts to register earlier this year have all been rejected on various pretexts, Keston News Service has learnt from evangelical sources in the Central Asian state. The town's mayor told Keston that the church cannot register until it halts services in a private home and rents a suitable venue for such services. Article 12 of Tajikistan's law on religion requires a religious organization to specify its `location' in the statute it submits for registration, but does not link registration itself with having a suitable place to hold services and meetings, while Article 21 allows religious organizations to hold services in private homes.

Evangelical sources told Keston November 6 that the Chkalovsk church lodged its fourth registration application on 3 November. `We are trying to gain registration by peaceful means. This is our last time,' one source declared. `If we are not registered we will be forced to address international organizations that would defend our religious rights.' The church first applied for registration in the spring, but was refused three times `on various pretexts'. On one occasion officials claimed that registration was not possible because it would cause `social unrest'. On another they said that as it was the first church of that denomination to apply for registration there they did not know who they were, despite the fact that church members had presented registration documentation from other evangelical churches elsewhere in the country.

The source recounted that the church meets in a private home and that the local authorities are insisting that ...

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