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Christians Criticize Tajik Bill Barring Youth From Churches, Mosques

Under 18s would be banned from mosques under the law

Under 18s would be banned from mosques under the law

QURGHONTEPPA, Tajikistan -- Russian Orthodox Christians in southern Tajikistan are critical of a draft law on "parental responsibility" that would ban children under 18 from worshipping in churches, mosques, and other houses of worship, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Nikolay Golub, the pastor of the Russian Orthodox Church in Qurghonteppa, told RFE/RL on February 16 that it is unacceptable that children would be banned from going to church.

He said even the authorities in the officially atheist Soviet Union did not impose such harsh restrictions.

Golub added that if the draft law is passed, many Russian Orthodox Christians will leave Tajikistan and return to Russia. He said his congregation currently numbers approximately 200 people, including children.

Alina Pozdnyakova, a Russian Orthodox church member in Qurghonteppa, told RFE/RL on February 16 that if children are not allowed to study religion before the age of 18 it will be difficult to begin teaching them so late.

She added that such people will love neither God nor their fellow man.

Pozdnyakova said children should be baptized shortly after their birth in a church and attend religious services regularly.

Svetlana Bugakova, another member of the Russian Orthodox congregation in Qurghonteppa, said if the law is passed she will leave Tajikistan with her children because she wants them to grow up as good Christians.

Several local experts on Tajikistan say the main target of the parental responsibility law are the Muslim children that the government wants to ban from going to mosques in an attempt to prevent them from becoming radical Muslims.

The law must be passed by parliament and signed by President Emomali Rahmon.

Ethnic Russians are estimated to make up between 3-5 percent of Tajikistan's 7.3 million people.

Read more in Tajik here