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Tajik Court Suspends Baptist Church's Activities

DUSHANBE -- The activities of a Baptist Church in Tajikistan were suspended by a Dushanbe court today, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Tajik Culture Ministry official Nazira Dodikhudoeva told RFE/RL that the church did not apply for reregistration despite being urged to do so by Tajik authorities.

Church spokesman Andrei Chumachenko, who owns the house used by the Baptist congregation for its church services, told RFE/RL that the Baptists have been operating in Tajikistan since 1961 but never applied for registration as a matter of principle.

Chumachenko said the Baptists would seek to officially register if officials from the church's international organization decide they should do so.

He added that despite the court's decision to suspend the church's activities, his congregation will continue gathering at his house for Bible studies and to pray.

Chumachenko said there are about 60 members of his congregation and it is made up of Russians, Tajiks, and Uzbeks.

There are 72 non-Muslim religious groups registered in Tajikistan. Four different Baptist churches were banned in Tajikistan after a new law on religion went into effect that required every religious group to reregister by the beginning of the year.

Both the Mormon church and the Jehovah's Witnesses in Tajikistan were also banned.

Some 97 percent of Tajikistan's population is Muslim.