New law threatens freedom of Christians in Bulgaria

»»New law threatens freedom of Christians in Bulgaria

Christians in Bulgaria are facing the prospect of a new law that will severely restrict the freedoms currently enjoyed. The Religious Denominations Act was presented to the Bulgarian parliament on 4th October 2018 and is due to be considered again on Friday 16th November. In a show of unity, Christians across Bulgaria have taken to the streets in peaceful protest and public prayer. Church leaders urge fellow-Christians from across Europe and beyond to pray and make written representations to their MEPs, Ambassadors and Bulgarian government officials.

Bulgarian Christian protest new lawHere’s a summary of the main restrictions imposed by the proposed legislation:

• Bulgarian citizens will be able to carry out liturgical activity only if they have had theological training in Bulgaria or their foreign school is approved.

• Only Eastern Orthodox and Muslim believers will be able to train clergy and run schools.

• A foreigner, even from another EU state, will only be able to preach if doing so with a Bulgarian ordained minister.

• Foreign donations will only be allowed for building construction or social aid and will need government approval. No salaries of pastors, for example, could be paid from abroad.

• No religious activities can take place outside of buildings designated for them.

• Only religious groups with more than 300 people will have legal status.

The new law directly affects the work of Transform Europe Network and its partners in Bulgaria and therefore TEN urges UK Christians to write to their regional MEPs, along the lines shown below. www.mysociety.org/wehelpyou/contact-your-meps/

COPY AND PASTE TO WRITE YOUR PERSONAL LETTER

 

Dear [NAME OF MEP]

I am writing to express my deep concern for fellow Christians in Bulgaria. As you may be aware, on 4th October 2018, the Bulgarian government introduced draft proposals outlined in the Religious Denominations Act. If it becomes law it will have a major impact on all religious denominations, other than Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Islam.

As a Christian and long-term supporter of Christian churches in Bulgaria, I object to the changes being proposed without reasonable consultation with national representatives of Christian denominations. Many of the smaller churches rely on funding from abroad to meet the needs of poor communities, refugees and the Roma people.

Churches across the UK have a long tradition of training and supporting clergy/church leaders in Bulgaria, whether as foreign nationals or indigenous citizens. For many decades, UK Christian denominations and mission agencies have raised vital funds, supported, visited and been invited to preach in Bulgarian churches.

Here is a summary of the main restrictions imposed by the proposed legislation:

  • Bulgarian citizens will be able to carry out liturgical activity only if they have had theological training in Bulgaria or their foreign school is approved.
  • Only Eastern Orthodox and Muslim believers will be able to train clergy and run schools.
  • A foreigner, even from another EU state, will only be able to preach if doing so with a Bulgarian ordained minister.
  • Foreign donations will only be allowed for building construction or social aid and will need government approval. No salaries of pastors, for example, could be paid from abroad.
  • No religious activities can take place outside of buildings designated for them.
  • Only religious groups with more than 300 people will have legal status.

This legislation transfers huge and unnecessary powers to the Bulgarian State resulting in unacceptable control to of all faith communities. No faith community in Bulgaria supports these proposals.

I ask that you use your influence to encourage dialogue between the Bulgarian government and church leader representatives.

I urge that you persuade Bulgaria, as an EU member state, to protect the rights and freedoms of religious communities to carry out their work openly and lawfully.

Thank you for your representations.

 

[YOUR NAME]

Rev. Rumen Bordzhiev, President of the Evangelical Alliance in Bulgaria: “In the context of democratic Europe, based on Christian values, faith is a sacred right that cannot be disputed. No true believers are ever a threat to national security. We love Bulgaria and our people, we believe in God, and we will continue with all legitimate means to uphold the right of religion guaranteed by the Constitution.”

 

2018-11-15T12:11:13+00:00November 14th, 2018|Bulgaria|