Azerbaijan’s government has implemented severe measures to restrict the religious freedoms of the country’s small Christian population. All worship gatherings are required to be reported to the government and churches must be officially registered. The registration process can take years and some denominations are routinely denied. During an eight month period in 2010, only two Protestant churches were among the 450 religious communities whose re-registration was accepted; 433 of those accepted were mosques. Christian worship services gathering in homes or other non-registered locations have been known to be raided by local police. Azerbaijan’s Interior Ministry congratulated security forces on three raids on Protestant services in May 2011 where church leaders were fined and Christian literature was confiscated. Such incidents have routinely occurred in 2011.
Additionally, Azerbaijan’s religious literature censorship system has prevented thousands of Bibles and other Christian literature from entering the country. “We even have to ask for permission for one book sent to us through the post,” said Pastor Ilya Zenchenko in the capital of Baku.
A former state of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan views all religious groups as a threat to their authority and retains its police state mentality. Christian activity is monitored by the secret service who often views Christians as traitors loyal to Azerbaijan’s rival Christian neighbor, Armenia. Christians also have difficulty finding and maintaining employment. Orthodox Christianity comprises roughly five percent of the population. The number of Protestants is unknown, but local church leaders report that the church is growing.
Source: International Christian Concern