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26th statement. “Respect for the principle of religious liberty and the sacredness of
human life requires nothing less. I also appeal to all Baptists worldwide to pray God’s
protection for our brothers and sisters in Orissa.”
This is not the fi rst time Christians in Orissa have experienced violent attacks. In
December 2007 and January of this year, Hindu militants burned approximately 90
churches and 600 homes, killing an estimated 10 persons.
There are several Baptist conventions and unions in Orissa state that are member
bodies of the BWA, with total membership in Orissa of nearly 500,000 baptized
believers and approximately 3,500 churches.


Hamid Shabanov, a Baptist pastor in Aliabad in the country of Azerbaijan,
was arrested on Friday, June 20.
Elnur Jabiyev, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Azerbaijan
(BUA), reported that the “police claim to have found an illegal weapon in his
Denying the allegations against Shabanov, and suggesting that the weapon
was planted by the police, Jabiyev stated that the arrest “was a provocation by
the police,” and that it was “a deliberately targeted action.” The BUA leader
asserted that “the police’s aim is to halt Baptist activity and close the church
in Aliabad.”
BWA president David Coffey stated that “the BWA will do all we can to
publicize among the world family what has happened in Aliabad” and that
“the global family will be praying for the Shabanov family.”
General Secretary Neville Callam wrote a letter of protest to the president
of Azerbaijan and asked that the allegations against Shabanov be investigated.
“We believe that these allegations require investigation at the highest level,
in light of the fact that the Azerbaijan constitution holds the country to the
highest standards in the protection of human rights and religious freedom.”
Jabiyev thanked Callam for the letter to the Azerbaijan president. “On
behalf of the Baptist Union of Azerbaijan, we thank you very much for (your)
prayers and letters. It is a big support for all of us in this diffi cult situation in
our country.”
Callam also wrote to the Azerbaijan ambassador to the United States,
while Tony Peck, BWA Regional Secretary for Europe, met the country’s
ambassador to the Czech Republic in July to discuss Shabanov’s arrest.
Shabanov is not the fi rst Baptist pastor to be arrested in the South
Caucasus country, which gained its independence from the Soviet Union in
1991 following the collapse of communism. Last year, Zaur Balaev, another
pastor in Aliabad, was arrested on May 20, and convicted and sent to prison
in August on charges that he beat up fi ve policemen and damaged a police car
door. He was later released from prison in March 2008 following protests from
the BWA and the European Baptist Federation, one of six regional fellowships
of the BWA.
Jabiyev reported to the BWA on September 4 that Shabanov was still in
jail, awaiting trial. He stated that it “is very dangerous to live in our country
as a Christian.”
(Photo: A church burned during the attacks in Orissa state in India; Photo by Abhiram Keshari Singh)
(Photo: Hamid Shabanov, Baptist pastor in Azerbaijan, who was arrested in June.; Photo courtesy of BUA)
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