Bulgarian evangelicals alarmed by religious law “threatening the rights and freedoms of churches”, Evangelical Focus
Bulgarian evangelicals called on international bodies to respond to new legislation that could severely restrict religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities.
“The Bulgarian state wrongly takes power in the internal life of religious communities”, Evangelical Alliance Bulgaria (EAB) denounced in a letter sent this week to the European Evangelical Alliance.
“Almost all the articles of the newly proposed bills wrongly and unjustly claims political authority over religious lifeÂ», Writes the pastor Roumen Bordjiev.
In the last few months, parliament discussed new legislation that will allow a “state policy of interference in church affairs,” the EAB president said.
WHAT DOES THE NEW LEGISLATION SAY?
Here are the main issues with the new legislation:
– Only Bulgarian citizens may exercise liturgical activity if they have followed a theological training in Bulgaria or if their foreign school is accredited.
– Only Orthodox and Muslim believers in the East will be able to to train the clergy and run schools.
– A foreigner will only be able to preach if he does so with an ordained Bulgarian minister.
– Foreign donations will only be allowed for building construction or social assistance and will require government approval. No pastor’s salary, for example, could be paid from abroad.
– No religious activity can take place outside the buildings designated for them.
– Only religious groups of +300 people will have legal status.
ALL RELIGIOUS GROUPS OPPOSE THE LAW
After receiving the “Green light” at first reading in parliament on October 4, a deadline for possible objections and discussions has been opened. Parliament authorized a interim period for possible objections which will end on November 16. In the meantime, a working group made up of politicians and religious representatives is supposed to work on the drafting of the proposed articles. At present, however, the working group has not yet started its work.
After carefully analyzing the law, the Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance declared that the legislation “is so flawed, amendments cannot solve the problems – Instead, it should be scrapped â.
“Literally, no religious community has expressed its agreement with the proposed changes,” said the Bulgarian evangelical body. In fact, the The Eastern Orthodox Church, the Muslim religion, all Protestant faiths, the Armenian community, the Jewish community and the Catholic Church have all issued statements of protest.
EVANGELICS RISE IN DEFENSE OF THE EXPRESSION OF FAITH
Evangelical Christians are one of the minority faith groups that would see their rights and freedoms affected. This is why the Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance âinsisted on being invited to the committee to discuss the amended articles of the law (â¦) We also have requested a special meeting with the Prime Minister of the country, Mr. Boyko Borisov in order to express our explicit refusal to accept such government intervention in religious affairs â.
In addition, âvarious NGOs are also considering joining forces and possibly even taking legal action, led by the unanimous opinion that the the law is discriminatory, unconstitutional and unfairâ.
PEACEFUL RALLIES AFTER SUNDAY WORSHIP SERVICES
It happens Sunday afternoon November 11, Evangelical Christians across the country will take to the streets after worship at peaceful gatherings for their right to practice their faith. Churches of various denominations in the towns of Sofia, Ruse, Bourgas, Silistra, Dobrich, Kotel (among others) mobilize their members to join the street demonstration.
They will wear signs, saying “New Religion Bill Takes Us Back to Communism!“, and “Religious freedom in Bulgaria is in danger!“
‘WRITING LETTERS TO THE BULGARIAN GOVERNMENT’
The Bulgarian Evangelical Alliance also called on believers to take the following actions: âprayâ for the situation; “Alarm” other Evangelical Covenants about the situation in Bulgaria, contact “the European institutions, MEPs and international organizations for the defense of human and religious rights”; write letters to the Bulgarian government.
EEA: THE SITUATION IN BULGARIA IS “ALARMY”
In response to the letter from the Bulgarian Evangelicals, the European Evangelical Alliance Express his concern at the “alarming developments in Bulgaria”.
According to the body representing millions of evangelical Christians across the continent, the new legislation would give “enormous and unnecessary power to the Bulgarian state to interfere with all religious communities”. Therefore, “If the Parliament wishes to continue the discussions, then the representatives of the churches should be involved”.
The AEE calls “to pray and encourage others to pray” and to “contact the Bulgarian Embassy in your nation and write to politicians in Sofia. Write a short letter / email explaining the main issues of the proposed legislation as stated above. Ask politely but firmly why Bulgaria would introduce legislation so excessive and so harmful to all religious communities. Demand that the legislative proposal be abandoned â.
For those in European Union Member States, the EEA encourages them to ‘write a short letter to MEPs in your country, explaining the main issues of the proposed legislation and asking them to speak urgently to their Bulgarian colleagues to ask them why Bulgaria would introduce such legislation. excessively controlling and would cause great hardship to all faiths. Click on here to find MEPs from your nationâ.
WORLD EVANGELICAL ALLIANCE: STRENGTHENING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
The Global Evangelical Alliance‘s also reacted to the letter of the Bulgarian evangelicals.
general secretary Efraim Tendero said: âAt a time when governments around the world face the challenge of strengthening freedoms while maintaining security, we call on Bulgaria and other democratic countries to lead by example and strengthen the right to religious freedom rather than weaken itâ.
The EAJ statement added: âWe call on the Bulgarian authorities to reconsider their bill to amend the law on religious denominations (…) and we call on evangelicals around the world to accompany our brothers and sisters in Bulgaria in prayer as ‘they engage with their political leaders to identify the best way forwardâ.
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– Bulgarian evangelicals are alarmed by religious law “threatening the rights and freedoms of churches”