After a 20-year fight, the recent registration of a Bible Society in Azerbaijan has brought fresh optimism to the country’s minority Christians. There does, however, remain some confusion over the types of books it will be allowed to print, with even Bibles potentially falling foul of the country’s strict regulations.
Terje Hartberg from United Bible Societies called it “a great development, which will start a new chapter in Bible ministry for all Christians in Azerbaijan”.
However, all literature either printed or imported by the Bible Society will remain subject to approval by the government, with every publication labelled with an official sticker and its distribution permitted only at state-approved venues.
According to Forum 18, anyone who distributes any religious literature outside these strict limitations faces administrative or criminal punishment.
Meanwhile, the Old Testament and Hebrew Bible remain amongst the list of “banned” books, with text from these parts of the Bible having been confiscated in police raids.
Asked whether the prohibition of the Old Testament essentially bans the whole Bible, Forum 18’s Felix Corley told World Watch Monitor: “Well, you can’t publish, print, import or distribute any religious publication without prior permission from the State Committee, which will also set numbers allowed. So nothing is approved until it is approved.
“Then it can only be distributed in a state-approved venue with a sticker from the State Committee. It appears these stickers have not been available since April. As for the Old Testament, that appears to have been on a police list. So who knows?”
Meanwhile, as a new chapter opens for the Bible Society in Azerbaijan, the country itself may be entering a new, more restrictive period. Azerbaijan’s President is seeking to following the example of his counterparts in Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, by changing the constitution to allow for longer terms in office and no age boundaries.
- Give thanks for the long awaited registration of the Bible Society in Azerbaijan.
- Pray that, as they work towards approval for Christian Literature, that they will find favour with the government and be permitted to distribute Bibles in the Azerbaijan language.
- Pray for Christians in Azerbaijan who face many restrictions on their worship and access to literature. Pray for strengthening of the Church, for encouragement and opportunities to meet together to study God’s word.
- Pray for the upcoming voting on the changes to the constitution, that voters will be well informed about the changes and free to make their own decisions.
- Pray for Azerbaijan, for many in this country to hear the Gospel and respond to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Isaiah 55 vs 10 – 11: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”