Sunday, October 6, 2013

Censorship in Azerbaijan is crippling for the church

Azerbaijan (MNN) ― For years, many have been intrigued by novels such as Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and George Orwell's 1984. More recently, Americans have eaten up movies like The Book of Eli and Equilibrium.

These are stories of total government control and oppression. In these stories, written works aren't allowed. While fictional in these stories, this is actually happening.

Open Doors USA reports that Azerbaijan is facing this very scenario. Censorship has become increasingly restrictive in recent years, and stricter laws and codes have been enforced to progress this control. While the country still has access to books and other media, it is extremely regulated.

The State Committee is need for the possession, importation, or reproduction of any work. Every title must be inspected. This State Committee also sets the limit to how many of any approved title is allowed. Any book sent to Azerbaijan has to be inspected before it can be released. At airports, too, inspection of books has become regular routine.

Anyone found with illegal material is subject to punishment including the confiscation of the text, raids, detentions, and fines.

This is a big problem for Christians. Even the Bible is condemned to these limitations. Most religious material must be approved. This includes other media, too. This ban and limitation on religious texts, including the Bible and the Koran, has been set in place since 2008.

Even internally it is difficult to produce copies of the Bible. Because printing and photocopy shops must get permission before they print anything, they usually will refuse to copy the Bible. This is because the State Committee usually refuses consent.

Religion overall is already looked down upon by the government. All things religious are controlled by the Committee on Religious Affairs. The government and the people of Azerbaijan are especially harsh toward Christians. This is largely because Christianity is associated with Armenia, Azerbaijan's biggest enemy.

This country needs prayer. We can rejoice that the church is still growing amidst oppression. But as more and more citizens become Christians, the need for Bibles increases. Pray that the church continues to receive converts, and that Christians in this country will grow in their faith in light of the oppression of the government. Pray that the Word will not be stopped despite the government's regulation.

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