A court in Azerbaijan has ruled to close down Greater Grace Protestant Church in Baku, according to a report from Christian advocacy organisation Release International.
This is believed to be the first forced liquidation of a religious group in the country since a tough new Religion Law was passed in 2009.
Andy Dipper, chief executive of Release, said, ‘Our concern is that other churches could now be forced to close. The Azerbaijan authorities have long been suspicious of Christianity. Church leaders fear this latest step may be the start of a phase to apply the force of law to eradicate churches and Christian activities’.
The decision to close the church was announced on 25 April, according to liberties group Forum 18, at a hearing where the church was not even present. The court’s decision will come into force after one month, unless Greater Grace Church appeals.
The church says it will appeal all the way through the courts, even to the European Court of Human Rights if it has to. Mr Dipper said, ‘Please pray that Greater Grace Church will win their appeal. In Azerbaijan there is no freedom of religion without state permission, and that is no freedom at all. This is a backwards step for Azerbaijan’.