Azerbaijan’s Ambiguous Bible Breakthrough

After 20-year struggle, will new Bible society even be allowed to print Bibles?

Azerbaijan's Ambiguous Bible Breakthrough

A restrictive majority-Muslim country is getting good news—or rather, the Good News.

The recent registration of a Bible Society in Azerbaijan, after a 20-year fight, has brought fresh optimism to the country’s minority Christians. But there remains some confusion about 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. Every publication is labeled with an official sticker, and distribution is only allowed at state-approved venues.

Those who distribute any religious literature outside these strict limitations face administrative or criminal punishment, reports Forum 18, a news agency focused on religious freedom in Central Asia.

The Old Testament and Hebrew Bible, meanwhile, remain on the list of banned books. Texts from these parts of the Bible have been confiscated in police raids, according to Forum 18.

Asked whether the prohibition of the Old Testament in effect bans the Bible too, Forum 18’s Felix Corley told World Watch Monitor by email: “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 …

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