Tajik authorities confiscate, burn 5,000 Baptist calendars

Customs authorities in Tajikistan have confirmed they have confiscated and burned 5,000 Christian calendars ordered by a Baptist church in the Central Asian country.

The calendars were confiscated at Dushanbe International Airport in December and later burned, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Under Tajikistan's President Imomali Rakhmon, proselytism is banned.Reuters

Rahmonali Rahimzoda, who heads the enforcement branch of the Customs Service, said the calendars contained 'propaganda of an alien religion'.

'Following the conclusion of linguistic experts in the Culture Ministry that found elements of propaganda of an alien faith, the calendars were confiscated,' he said.

'One can freely enter that religious group, but it is illegal to bring religious literature into this country without special approval from the Culture Ministry.'

Representatives of Tajikistan's Church of Evangelic Christian Baptists said the calendars were 'illegally' confiscated. They said their church was ordered to pay a fine of 4,000 somonis, or about $420.

There are only around 200 registered Baptists in Tajikistan and church representatives said authorities told them the calendars were also confiscated because of their quantity, which implied they were to be used for evangelism.

Tajikistan is a 90 per cent Muslim country and propagating other faiths is forbidden.

The Baptist church was established in Tajikistan in 1929 by believers who were exiled from Russia.

In 2004, unknown assailants shot dead

A Baptist pastor, Sergei Bessarab, was shot dead in Dushanbe in 2004. No one has ever been arrested.