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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09BISHKEK677 2009-06-24 11:34:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bishkek
Cable title:  

KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT TARGETS FOREIGN MISSIONARIES

Tags:   PGOV PINR PREL KIRF PHUM KG 
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RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BISHKEK 000677 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR SCA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/24/2019
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL KIRF PHUM KG
SUBJECT: KYRGYZ GOVERNMENT TARGETS FOREIGN MISSIONARIES

REF: A. BISHKEK 43

B. BISHKEK 675

BISHKEK 00000677 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Classified by Charge d'Affaires Lee Litzenberger, for Re
asons 1.4 (b) and (d).



1. (C) Summary: As the Kyrgyz government begins to implement
the new religious organizations law (reftels), foreign
missionaries have faced increasing difficulties, including
deportations and the denial of essential documentation. At
last count, three foreigners were asked to leave the country,
two were refused religious licenses, and four were denied
visa extensions. The Kyrgyz Security Services (GKNB) was the
common denominator for all of these cases and, while not
explicitly authorized in the new law on religious
organizations, seemed to play a pivotal role in the
evaluation of missionaries' activities. Religious groups
expressed their disappointment in the downward spiral of
freedom of religion in the once-tolerant Kyrgyz Republic and
fear the situation will soon rival that of Kyrgyzstan's more
oppressive neighbors. End Summary.

Deportations Commence


--------------------------





2. (C) The Kyrgyz government, in an apparent attempt to
disrupt the activities of Evangelical Christian groups,
canceled the visas of at least three foreigners and forced
them to leave within ten days. On May 13, after speaking
about the current political and economic situation in
Kyrgyzstan during services at the Assemblies of God Church,
Darren Lawson, the Australian director of Hope Academy, an
English-speaking faith-based school in Bishkek, was deported.
GKNB officers confronted Lawson about his speech, asserting
that his comments during a religious ceremony were
inappropriate. Within days of the Lawson deportation, Kyrgyz
authorities canceled the visa of Aaron Pilon, the Canadian
pastor of the Assemblies of God Church, and gave him ten days
to leave the country. Pilon said that the reason given to
him by the GKNB was related to administrative errors made by
his church and not as a direct result of his personal
activities. However, Pilon speculated that his visa
cancellation was connected to government displeasure over
Lawson's speech during the church service.



3. (C) During a meeting with Poloff on May 15, South Korean
Baptist pastors stated that their colleague received a
similar notice from the GKNB to depart the country.
According to the pastors, the South Korean missionary and
pastor at the Christ's Church in Kant met with the GKNB to
discuss his parish and verify the church's registration
paperwork. Local authorities later informed the missionary
that he had to leave the country by the end of May, providing
the vague justification that his activities violated the
regulations associated with his religious visa.

LICENSES REVOKED


--------------------------





4. (C) As an alternative to actual deportation, the Kyrgyz
authorities refused to renew the official religious
registration, or "licenses," of some foreign missionaries,
preventing them from preaching or conducting any other
activities on behalf of their religious organizations. On
May 29, Pastor Daniel Danis of the International Church
notified Poloff that the GKNB had refused to renew his
religious license to conduct religious activity. Danis, a
Romanian citizen, pressed for an explanation, but the GKNB
officer merely shifted blame to the State Agency for
Religious Affairs. Danis also stated that an American
recently arrived to replace him for the summer holidays but
was also denied a religious license, rendering his trip to
Bishkek useless.


BISHKEK 00000677 002.2 OF 002


VISA EXTENSIONS DENIED


--------------------------





5. (C) Kyrgyz authorities are apparently trying to reduce the
number of foreign missionaries operating in the country by
restricting visas. South Korean Pastor David Chang of the
Salang Church was denied a renewal of his religious visa,
obliging him to leave the country when it expired on June 9.
Matthew Kelly of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow informed
Poloff that an American citizen couple, who had been waiting
for months for a visa renewal, received notification that
they would receive a final one-month visa, with no
possibility of extension. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(MFA) told the couple that decisions on religious visas were
made by the GKNB and that the Foreign Ministry had no
influence on their decisions.



6. (C) Additionally, religious organizations complained of
waiting for months to receive religious visas, blaming the
MFA for bringing the application process to a grinding halt.
Bishop Messmer of the Catholic Church expressed his anger
that his colleagues, three Polish nuns and one Slovakian
priest, were obliged to make weekly trips to the MFA to check
on the status of their visa process, which has dragged on for
over two months already. Bishop Eichholz of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church voiced similar complaints to Poloff, noting
that his wife, a German citizen, was among the missionaries
waiting for a visa. Both Bishops, who are citizens of
Kyrgyzstan and long-time religious leaders in Bishkek, noted
a significant downturn in the protection of religious freedom
and dramatic shift in the country's policies towards
religious organizations. Bishop Eichholz told Poloff that he
used to brag about the state of religious tolerance in
Kyrgyzstan to his Central Asian colleagues. They both
expressed concern that Kyrgyzstan was on its way towards
joining the ranks of more oppressive states.



7. (C) Interestingly, the new law on religious organizations
(ref A), provides that foreign missionaries may remain in
Kyrgyzstan for no more than three years (although the law is
not clear whether the three-year clock will start with the
adoption of the law or will be applied retroactively).
However, in the cases we are aware of, this provision of the
law was not cited as a reason for denying visa extensions.

COMMENT


--------------------------





8. (C) The concerns expressed by local religious leaders
highlight the increasing restriction of religious activity
and the greater role of the state security service in
determining which groups should be allowed to operate. If
this is an indicator of the increased restriction as a result
of the religious organizations law, then most religious
groups, but especially representatives of Protestant and
other "non-traditional" Christian churches should anticipate
an uphill battle once the law is fully implemented.

LITZENBERGER