By Emily Watt | 5 December 2019
Azerbaijan | Pastor Fined For Prayer Meeting
The pastor of a Baptist church, which has been seeking official registration for 25 years, lost an appeal when they were fined for holding a prayer meeting.
Authorities arrested Pastor Hamid Shabanov in 2016 when they interrupted a prayer meeting run by his church. Pastor Shabanov received a fine of 1,500 manats–equivalent to three months’ wages–for running a church meeting without state permission.
In Azerbaijan, churches can only apply for registration when they have the signatures of 50 adult members. However, many church members are too afraid to supply their details on an official document.
Even when churches fulfil all the requirements many are still denied registration, as Hamid’s church has been.
This means small churches are often forced to operate illegally. Believers can be arrested, imprisoned and fined for practicing their faith.
Pastor Hamid refused to pay the fine and took the case to court.
“The authorities have not allowed our church to gather in one place for several years already,” Hamid told Forum 18. “If we meet again for worship, we will get a double fine.”
In the last few years, the number of raids on Christian meetings has increased. According to believers, complaints about illegal raids and fines are ignored by state agencies, despite there being freedom of religion and freedom of assembly in the Constitution of Azerbaijan.
Pray For Azerbaijan:
- Pray that Hamid’s church will be registered and able to meet regularly for worship.
- Pray that the members of the church will continue to encourage one another in fellowship.
- Pray that the government in Azerbaijan will come to know Jesus Christ and be saved.
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