KYRGYZSTAN: Church arson follows long-standing government failures

By Mushfig Bayram | Forum 18

On 2 January 2018 the Baptist Church in Kaji-Sai, in Kyrgyzstan’s north-eastern Issyk-Kul [Ysyk-Kol] Region was burnt down. Baptists found bottles filled with petrol nearby, and although police claim to be investigating the crime local Baptists do not think this is the case.

Baptists are convinced that the arson attack happened because the police have done nothing to find and punish the perpetrators of a series of violations of human rights, including of freedom of religion and belief, that have taken place in the Region since 2010. These include violent threats and attacks, intimidation of people out of their homes and work, and refusals to allow non-Muslim dead to be buried according to their own ceremonies and rites (see below).

After one such incident, police summoned Baptists to meet their attackers in Karakol Police Station. After police officers expressed sympathy for the attackers, police then ordered the Baptists and their attackers “to write statements that they forgave each other and will have peace between themselves in future”. The Baptists found the atmosphere of the meeting very intimidating and coercive, and for fear of state reprisals do not wish to name the police officers who were present (see below).