Local Vote 2007 Results

October 30, 2007 by  
Filed under Events

Sofia incumbent mayor Boyko Borissov won re-election by a landslide on Sunday after securing 53.43% of the vote, shows data with 100% of the election protocols in the capital processed. A total of 202 800 citizens of the Bulgarian capital cast their vote for the popular mayor Borissov, who describes himself as centre-right.

Former deputy central bank governor and rightist candidate Martin Zaimov came in second with 17,77% (67 454 ballots), while Bulgaria\’s former top spy and Socialist runner Brigo Asparuhov ranked third with 15,48% (58 774 ballots). Nationalist Ataka party nominee Slavi Binev came in fourth with 4.02%, while ex-king Simeon Saxe-Couburg\’s NMSP candidate Antonia Parvanova won 2.55%, according to the final results.

Borissov, a former bodyguard to communist dictator Todor Zhivkov, was appointed secretary-general of the Interior Ministry in 2001 after ex-king Simeon Saxe-Coburg won the parliamentary elections and took charge of the cabinet. He has immediately won numerous supporters with his direct and uncompromising style, as well as his tough stance on organised crime, but his opponents accuse him of being too brash and lacking expertise. Even though that stands to change with GERB poised to win a plurality of seats, Borissov has repeatedly hinted he sought to knock the Socialists out of power and has not committed himself to seeing out his second term.Tip-offs about buying and selling of votes at Bulgaria\’s local elections on Sunday heated the situation throughout the whole day, with most of them being anonymous, officials from the Central Electoral Committee said Monday. The vote buyers have targeted once again the Roma districts the most, and the money offered for a vote ranged from BGN 15 to BGN 100 in Sofia, while in Bulgaria\’s second largest city of Plovdiv the offered pay-off reached BGN 50. More than 20 people were arrested around the country on charges of attempting to buy votes, but later all of them were released.

Public Administration Minister Nikolay Vassilev admitted Bulgaria had a serious problem with this issue, which could only be overcome by introducing mandatory voting. The biggest percentage of electoral law violations was recorded in the Black Sea town of Nessebar, where the percentage reached almost 70%. In the town of Silistra on the Danube River, vote-buyers found another way to pay for the “goods” – they offered bags with flour to the voters. In the capital Sofia tip-offs for attempted vote-buying were reported in the districts of Ilinden and Vladaya.

Municipal Elections 2007

October 25, 2007 by  
Filed under Events

The commission for declassification of the secret services archives announced on October 25 that of the candidate mayors registered by the election committee, 420 had collaborated with the former secret service, BTA said.

Of the candidates in Sofia and its regions, 10 had worked with the service, Focus news agency said. Only two candidates for the central city had worked with the secret service, Brigo Asparuchov, candidate for the Bulgarian Socialist Party and Radko Hadzhiev, , candidate for United National Front.

The other eight former agents were candidates for regions and included Boyan Boyadzhiev, GERB candidate for Vitosha, Dimitur Dimitrov, candidate for Bulgarian Socialdemocrats in Krasna Polyana, Ibrahim Karahasanov, candidate for the Green Party in Lyulin, Ivan Petro, candidate for the Green Party in Lozenets, Lyudmil Yordanov, candidate for GERB in Oborishte, Plamen Krustev, candidate for BDNIE in Ilinden, Boiko Koichinov, candidate for BDNIE in Krasno Selo and Stefan Gulubov, candidate for BDNIE in Triaditsa.

Two of the members of the Central Election Committee (CEC) collaborated with the communist-era secret services, the commission for declassification of the secret services archives said on October 23 2007.

The two are Roumen Elenski and Tsvetozariya Iosifova-Krusteva, mediapool.bg said. Iosifova-Krusteva was a secret collaborator and held agent quarters. She worked for the services until 1990. Elenski was on the staff of the services. In 1982, he become an intelligence agent and in 1985 was sent to the KGB school in the USSR. In 1989, he became senior intelligence agent. National Movement for Stability and Progress nominated Iosifova-Krusteva for the CEC in 2003, while Elenski was nominated by Bulgarian Socialist Party in 2005.

Some 15 000 to 20 000 voters are to arrive to Bulgaria’s Kurdjali on October 28, the day of the municipal elections, Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (CEDB) informal leader Boiko Borissov said on October 21 2007.

Bulgarian Parliament and the three ruling parties, Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), Movement for Rights and Freedom (MRF) and National Movement for Stability and Progress (NMSP) made that possible, Borissov said as quoted by mediapool.bg.

Borissov called “nasty and foul insinuation” the statements that if CEDB nominee for Blagoevgrad mayor Kiril Pandev won the elections, he would agree to storage of Sofia’s waste in Blagoevgrad. In the beginning I enjoyed these statements, there were similar rumour about Vidin and other cities as well, Borissov said. The administrative potential of Bulgarian cities, including Sofia, was small and European funding remained unutilised. “Only 10 to 15 per cent of the money is utilised and in the same time we complain that we are poor, hungry and weak,” Borissov said.

Orthodox and Wesleyan Scriptural Understanding and Practice

October 20, 2007 by  
Filed under Research

Dony K. Donev, D. Min.

“I sit down alone: only God is here; in His presence
I open and read this book to find the way to heaven”
– John Wesley

Our search for the theological and practical connection between Pentecostalism and Eastern Orthodoxy continues with yet another publication by St. Vladimir’s Press titled, Orthodox and Wesleyan Scriptural Understanding and Practice. The book represents an ongoing dialogue between the Orthodox and Wesleyan confessions and it emphasizes how theologians from both sides are attempting to discover commonalities in theology and praxis. To come together, not so much as theologians and thinkers, but as practical doers motivated by the proper interpretation of Scripture. As observed from the title, as well as through the text, these similarities are not necessarily in theological convictions, but in the proceeding Biblical approach toward interpretation of Scripture.

Orthodox and Wesleyan Scriptural Understanding and Practice is a compilation of essays from the Second Consultation on Orthodox and Wesleyan Spirituality under the editorship in 2000 of S.T. Kimbrough, Jr., who contributed the chapter on Chares Wesley’s’ Lyrical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures. I must issue the caution that the book is not an easy read, at least not for the reader who intends to understand it. But it is by no means a book to be easily passed by Pentecostal scholars searching for the Biblical roots of Pentecostalism within the Eastern Orthodoxy.

The book begins with an interesting observation of the exegesis of the Cappadocian Fathers by John A. McGuckin, and continues with an article on the spiritual cognition of my personal favorite, Simeon the New Theologian by Theodore Stylianopoulos. Although the discussion on Gregory the Theologian, Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa was thoughtful and presented in an interesting manner, the essay on St. Simeon struck me as well structured, but a bit shallow.

An interesting approach was taken in Tamara Grdzelidze’s essay where she presented an orthodox perspective of the Wesleyan position on authority of scriptural interpretation. The essay had a very strong exposition in regard to the Wesleyan understanding of the importance of Scripture in Christian living. However, the latter part, which dealt with the influence of tradition, was not investigated to its full capacity, which left the text (perhaps on purpose) open to multiple interpretations. Nevertheless, this issue was resolved later in the book by Ted Campbell that dealt with the subject from the Wesleyan perspective.

A central theme throughout the book was the comparison of prayers and song lyrics from both camps. Although I am no musical expert, I must agree with the authors, that theology within music has played an important role in both Orthodox and Wesleyan traditions, as it continues to do so in the everyday spiritual experience of the Pentecostal believer. This rather practical approach seemed to be the heart of the discussion where both sides could agree.Finally, the role of the Holy Spirit is viewed as central for the reading, understanding and practicing of Scripture in both the Orthodox and Wesleyan traditions. For the Pentecostal reader, it may be easy to accept this presumption as similar to the Pentecostal experience, yet the book describes it in terms which will be somewhat foreign to many Pentecostals. Although the said similarities between the interpretations of Scripture may be self explanatory for the western Pentecostal reader, they may be easily disregarded as unimportant by people who practice theology and ministry in an Eastern European context due to the ever-present tension between the Orthodox and Protestant denominations. But even if the Pentecostal scholar gathers nothing else from this book, he/she must remember this one thing: The time has come for a formal Orthodox-Pentecostal dialogue, like the one which the World Council of Churches has been trying to put together since 1991.

Religious Freedom in Bulgaria

October 15, 2007 by  
Filed under Media

International Religious Freedom Report 2007
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, the law prohibits the public practice of religion by unregistered groups. The Constitution also designates Eastern Orthodox Christianity as the “traditional” religion.

There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report, and government policy contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

There were some reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice. Discrimination, harassment, and general public intolerance, particularly in the media, of some religious groups remained an intermittent problem.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 42,855 square miles and a population of 7.7 million. The majority of citizens, estimated at 85 percent, identify themselves as Orthodox Christians. Muslims comprise the largest minority, estimated at 13 percent; other minorities include Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Gregorian-Armenian Christians, and others. Among the ethnic-Turkish minority, Islam is the predominant religion. Academic research estimated that up to 40 percent of the population is atheist or agnostic. Official registration of religious organizations is handled by the Sofia City Court; it reported that 12 new denominations were registered between February 2006 and February 2007, bringing the total number of registered religious groups to 85 denominations in addition to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church (BOC), an increase of more than 15 percent.

Some religious minorities were concentrated geographically. The Rhodope Mountains (along the country\’s southern border with Greece) are home to many Muslims, including ethnic Turks, Roma, and “Pomaks” (descendants of Slavic Bulgarians who converted to Islam under Ottoman rule). Ethnic Turkish and Roma Muslims also live in large numbers in the northeast of the country, primarily in and around the cities of Shumen and Razgrad, as well as along the Black Sea coast. More than half of the country\’s Roman Catholics are located in the region around Plovdiv. Many members of the country\’s small Jewish community live in Sofia, Rousse, and along the Black Sea coast. Protestants are dispersed more widely throughout the country. While clear statistics were not available, evangelical Protestant groups have had success in attracting converts from among the Roma minority, and areas with large Roma populations tend also to have some of the highest percentages of Protestants.

According to a 2005 report of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, only 50 percent of the six million citizens who identify themselves as Orthodox Christians participate in formal religious services. The same survey found that 90 percent of the country\’s estimated 70,000 Catholics regularly engage in public worship. Approximately 30 percent of Catholics belong to the Eastern Rite Uniate Church. The majority of Muslims, estimated to number 750,000, are Sunni; 50,000 are classified as Shi\’a. The Jewish community is estimated at 3,500 and evangelical Protestants at 50,000. The report also noted that more than 100,000 citizens practice “nontraditional” beliefs. (Orthodox Christianity, Hanafi Sunni Islam, Judaism, and Catholicism are generally understood to be “traditional” faiths.) Forty percent of these “nontraditional” practitioners are estimated to be Roma.

Statistics reported by the Council of Ministers Religious Confessions Directorate reported slightly different figures, listing nearly 1 million Muslims and 150,000 evangelical Protestants, as well as 20,000 to 30,000 Armenian Christians and approximately 3,000 Jews.

Foreign missionaries from numerous denominations are active in the country.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, the law prohibits the public practice of religion by unregistered groups. The Constitution designates Eastern Orthodox Christianity, represented by the BOC, as the “traditional” religion, and the Government provided preferential financial support to it, as well as to several other religious communities perceived as holding historic places in society, such as the Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Jewish faiths.

The 2002 Denominations Act requires all religious groups other than the Orthodox Church to register in the Sofia City Court, which is also responsible for maintaining the national register of such groups. The act allows only legally registered groups to perform public activities outside their places of worship. Article 36 of the act punishes “any person carrying out religious activity in the name of a religion without representational authority.”

The Council of Ministers\’ Religious Confessions Directorate, formerly responsible for registration of religious groups, provides “expert opinions” on registration matters upon request of the Court. The Directorate also ensures that national and local authorities comply with national religious freedom legislation. In contrast with previous periods, the Directorate became more transparent and more responsive to denominations\’ concerns during the period covered by this report. All applicants have the right to appeal negative registration decisions to the Court of Appeals. Denominations reported a general improvement in the registration process since the court took over this responsibility in 2003. Some local branches of nationally registered denominations continued to experience problems with local authorities who insisted that the branches be registered locally, despite the fact that the 2002 Denominations Act does not require local formal registration of denominations. Jehovah\’s Witnesses reported that their branches had to wait up to 2 years before they could successfully register locally in Dimitrovgrad, Veliko Tarnovo, and Smolyan. These complaints were less frequent than in previous periods.

Article 8 of the act allows the courts to punish religious organizations for a variety of offenses by banning their activities for up to 6 months, banning the publication or distribution of publications, or canceling an organization\’s registration.

Concerns that the 2002 Denominations Act would make it hard for small religious denominations to register and function did not fully materialize. While the Council of Europe\’s 2003 review of the Act highlighted that the provisions for registration remained ambiguous, most religious groups reported that they successfully registered. However, some remained concerned that the act does not specify the consequences of failure to register or outline any recourse if a competent court refuses to grant registration.

Representatives of some evangelical Protestant churches reported problems in holding public meetings, particularly in the Dobrich and Varna municipalities.

The 4-year legal dispute surrounding leadership of the Muslim community remained unsettled, in part due to conflicting court decisions. In January 2006 the City Court issued official certificates of registration to rival Islamic parties in the dispute–to Nedim Gendzhev on January 25 and to Mustafa Alish Hadji on January 26. This allowed both sides to claim legal recognition and control of community funds. Previously, the Sofia City Court attempted to resolve the issue in May 2005 by formally registering Mustafa Alish Hadji as Chief Mufti. Rival Muslim leader Nedim Gendzhev then filed an appeal, and in December 2005, the Sofia Appellate Court ordered Gendzhev\’s registration as leader.

The 2002 Denominations Act designates the Metropolitan of Sofia as the patriarch of the BOC. The law prohibits any group or person who has broken off from a registered religious group from using the same name or claiming any properties belonging to that group. The Jubilee Campaign Report maintains that the law effectively outlaws the Bulgarian Orthodox “Alternative Synod” and makes it unlikely that the Alternative Synod would be recognized as a separate religious organization from the BOC.

The case of the Bulgarian Orthodox “Alternate Synod,” filed after the 2004 forceful eviction of the movement\’s priests from churches, was pending before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) at the end of the reporting period. There were no developments in several smaller cases involving property disputes between the Orthodox Church and the Alternative Synod.

For most registered religious groups, there were no restrictions on attendance at religious services or on private religious instruction. Two BOC seminaries, a Jewish school, three Islamic schools, the university-level Islamic Higher Institute, a Muslim cultural center, a multidenominational Protestant seminary, and university theological faculties operated freely. Bibles, Qur\’ans, and other religious materials in the Bulgarian language were imported or printed freely, and religious publications were produced regularly.

Schools offer an optional religious education course that covers Christianity and Islam. The course examines the historical, philosophical, and cultural aspects of religion and introduces students to the moral values of different confessions. All officially registered religious confessions can request that their religious beliefs be included in the course\’s curriculum. While the Ministry provides the course material for free to students, religious education teachers participating in the program are funded directly from municipal budgets.

The Office of the Chief Mufti also supports summer Quranic education courses.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

While the state of religious freedom improved for some “nontraditional” groups, other groups continued to face limited discrimination and antipathy from local authorities, despite successfully registering through the Sofia City Court. Article 19 of the 2002 Denominations Act states that nationally registered religious groups may have local branches. The law does not require formal local registration of denominations, although some municipalities claimed that it does.

Some municipalities, such as Rousse, Shumen, Pleven, Stara Zagora, Plovdiv, Blagoevgrad, and Kurdzhali, had local ordinances curtailing religious practices that have not been changed to conform to the 2002 Denominations Act. In most cases, these ordinances were not strictly enforced, although Mormon missionaries were prevented from distributing religious pamphlets in Plovdiv and Pleven.

The Ahmadi Muslim Organization reported that Blagoevgrad authorities obstructed its members\’ right to practice. On December 8, 2006, the local public prosecutor brought a case against the Ahmadi community for carrying out religious activities without proper national registration. The group resorted to registering as a nongovernmental organization (NGO) after its attempt to register as a religious group nationally was denied in 2005. The prosecution challenged the group\’s NGO status, claiming that the Ahmadis went beyond NGO boundaries by proselytizing and holding religious meetings. The case was pending at the end of the reporting period. Public Prosecutor Maria Zoteva of Blagoevgrad reportedly opposed the community, noting that it had already been denied registration and implying that the community was not an acceptable religion.

The Ahmadi community reapplied for national registration with the Sofia City Court, attempting to register as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. By law the Sofia City Court may request the opinion of the Religious Confessions Directorate (under the Council of Ministers), which may ask for the Chief Mufti\’s input. The Muftiship seemingly would not consent to any outside group registering as Muslims. The court case was pending at the end of the period covered by this report. The expert statement of the Religious Directorate, released May 8, 2007, stated that the name Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was problematic because the court should not be involved in a theological dispute as to whether Ahmadis are Muslims. Additionally, the Directorate stated that registration of the Ahmadis would “lead to the rise and institutionalization of a very serious dissent in the Muslim community,” and to the spread of an interpretation of Islam that is not traditional in the country.

Some local governments restricted certain forms of proselytizing. In Plovdiv local officials restricted Jehovah Witnesses from much of their proselytizing activity. Special regulations forbid public preaching; a church has the right to preach only in its own place of worship, otherwise individuals risk sanctions. Jehovah\’s Witnesses reported that police in Veliko Tarnovo required missionaries to present proof of registration before they could preach publicly. One member said that municipal police often stopped Jehovah\’s Witnesses who were conducting missionary activity, asked them to show their identity papers, and warned them to stop their activity. Unlike in previous periods, no missionaries reported being arrested or fined for proselytizing.

While municipalities such as Burgas, Plovdiv, Pleven, Pernik, Stamboliyski, Haskovo, and Targovishte had decrees prohibiting the offering of religious literature “on the streets and at the houses of citizens” or allowing religious literature only from the religious group registered by the municipality, during the reporting period some of these decrees were changed or softened.

Jehovah\’s Witnesses were rarely stopped while engaging in preaching activity; however, on May 24, 2007, police stopped and questioned a 14-year-old Jehovah\’s Witness preaching with an adult companion in Gorna Oryahovitsa. A local newspaper published an article accusing the group of breaking the law by using underage children to distribute “religious propaganda.”

On April 25, 2007, police stopped two Jehovah\’s Witnesses preaching in Veliko Tarnovo and asked them to produce proof that they had the right to preach publicly. The police officers wrote a protocol and warned the two to discontinue their public preaching or there would be serious consequences.

Jehovah\’s Witnesses also reported that local authorities obstructed the construction of a meeting house in Varna; after a long battle, they gained permission to begin construction on May 7, 2007. After the municipality blocked the construction, the group took the case to court and won the lower court decision and the appeal. They reapplied to have the permit verified in March 2007, and after new complaints and a new refusal to grant permission to begin construction, the survey was finally verified on May 7, 2007.

The country\’s entry into the European Union on January 1, 2007, lifted visa restrictions for EU citizens, making it significantly easier for EU-member missionaries to work in the country. In contrast with previous years, there were no reports of foreign missionaries being denied visas.

Local political and religious leaders in the Smolyan area alleged that local education authorities discouraged female students from wearing headscarves in public schools. An NGO filed a complaint with the Commission Against Discrimination (CPD) stating that the local policy effectively banned headscarves. While there is no formal national policy on religious symbols in schools, the Commission decided in August 2006 that school uniform requirements did not discriminate against female Muslim students.

There were no indications that the Government discriminated against members of any religious group in restitution of properties that were nationalized during the communist period. However, the BOC, Catholic Church, Muslim community, Jewish community, and several Protestant denominations complained that a number of their confiscated properties had not been returned. For example, the Catholic Church reported that the Government was less responsive than in previous periods, with the courts refusing to restitute a few properties.

The Jewish community reported difficulties in recovering some restituted buildings, including a hospital in central Sofia and a former rabbi’s house in Varna. After the Government formed a special commission in 2006 to review seven outstanding claims of the Jewish community, the commission’s report, presented to the Prime Minister in October 2006, found that the community had valid claims and recommended that the Government either return the properties to the community or find comparable properties as compensation. The commission chose not to review the controversial 2005 court decision on the Rila Hotel, which held that the expropriation procedure was properly executed by the communist government and that the community was not legally entitled to any further compensation. The Government and Shalom were working on resolving all outstanding restitution cases at the end of the period covered by this report.

The Constitution prohibits the formation of political parties along religious lines.

Military law does not allow religious groups to conduct any activity on military premises and prohibits ministering at any level within the armed forces. However, military personnel can attend religious events outside the barracks.

Minority religious groups complained they had no access to television to broadcast religious services or programs. One Protestant radio group was given a broadcast in 2002, but as of 2006 it had not been allocated a frequency. The case was taken to the Supreme Court.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

Abuses of Religious Freedom

The Alternative Orthodox Synod continued to await a decision from the European Court of Human Rights on the case related to the 2004 forceful expulsion of its members from their parishes.

Protestants said that heavily Muslim areas with a majority ethnic Turkish population sometimes place restrictions on their worship. Protestant pastor Pavel Hristov, head of the Bulgarian Missionary Network, reported that in the town of Djebel, a church which failed to apply for a tax declaration in time was closed by the local court. The pastor claimed that the ethnic Turkish authorities were searching for an excuse to move against the church.

In July 2005 a Jehovah’s Witness was fined by Plovdiv authorities for “distributing brochures with religious content,” but on July 17, 2006, the Plovdiv District Court dismissed the penalty upon appeal. Jehovah\’s Witnesses reported that no members were fined for distributing religious literature during the period covered by this report.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Anti-Semitism

Dimitar Stoyanov, a member of the extremist political party Ataka and a new Member of the European Parliament as of January 1, 2007, stated that he opposed the “Jewish establishment” and was quoted saying, “There are a lot of powerful Jews, with a lot of money, who are paying the media to form the social awareness of the people. They are also playing with economic crises in countries like Bulgaria and getting rich.”

Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom

Despite initial fears that the 2002 Denominations Act would hamper religious organizations’ ability to operate freely, the number of groups registered with the Government increased from 36 in 2003, when the Sofia City Court took over this responsibility, to 85 in 2007.

Some religious denominations reported that the Religious Confessions Directorate had become more active in assuring that national and local authorities respect and promoted religious freedom and that the national government was more receptive to their concerns. For example, a Protestant group, the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association, gained legal status on February 23, 2007. The association represents approximately 120 Protestant pastors and individuals mainly affiliated with the Church of God and Assemblies of God but also includes Baptists and Lutherans.

Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination

There were some reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice.

Relations between different religious groups generally remained civil and tolerant; however, discrimination, harassment, and public intolerance of some religious groups remained an intermittent problem. While human rights groups reported that societal discrimination against “nontraditional” religious groups continued to gradually lessen, it was not uncommon for the media to disseminate negative and derogatory stories about such groups. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) reported a slight improvement with media, but Jehovah\’s Witnesses continued to report numerous print and broadcast media stories with negative, derogatory, and sometimes slanderous information about their activities and beliefs.

The Chief Mufti\’s Office reported several cases of mosque desecrations. On May 3, 2007, pigs\’ heads were hung on two mosques in Silistra. In late July 2006, a swastika was drawn on the wall of the mosque in Kazanluk; police identified the perpetrators as five teenagers who were part of a group of soccer fans spraying graffiti on buildings, apparently without political or ethnic motives. On July 26, 2006, the Kazanluk mosque was set on fire by a torch thrown through a window. On July 18, 2006, a window of the Banyabassi Mosque in Sofia was broken, and the door of a mosque in the town of Aytos was defaced with paint. The Chief Mufti’s Office expressed concern that while the vandals were usually apprehended, they rarely received legal penalties or punishments. The National Assembly adopted a declaration condemning the escalating threats to religious tolerance and ethnic peace.

VMRO, a fringe political party, attempted unsuccessfully to disrupt a large gathering of Jehovah\’s Witnesses on April 28 and 29, 2007, in the city of Dobrich, and the municipality allowed the organization to go on with the event. A few weeks prior, on April 2, 2007, the VMRO succeeded in preventing a religious gathering of Jehovah\’s Witnesses in Varna, forcing cancellation of their contract with the Palace Cinema. Leading up to the April 28-29 gathering, local media outlets publicized VMRO views on Jehovah’s Witnesses, citing the group\’s comments about the antisocial practices of Jehovah\’s Witnesses, their demands that the municipality stop the gathering, and threats to gather “members and sympathizers” as a sign of protest. After intervention from the Religious Confessions Directorate, the municipality of Dobrich provided Jehovah\’s Witnesses with enough police protection to assure that the event was not disrupted.

The Ataka party launched a campaign to silence the speakers on the Sofia Mosque, claiming that the invitation to prayer was disturbing persons in the capital’s central area. On the request of the Sofia mayor, the Chief Mufti\’s Office promised to turn down the volume “if [it] exceeded the permitted limit.”

In November 2006 some newspapers published articles alleging that the Ahmadi Muslims were terrorists and asserting that letting Ahmadis register was a threat to national security.

The investigation into the 2005 desecration of Turkish graves in Haskovo by three teenagers was ongoing at the end of the reporting period, and a case regarding the cancelled traineeship of a young female Jehovah\’s Witness student was pending in the Supreme Administrative Court.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. The U.S. Embassy regularly monitored religious freedom in contacts with government officials, Members of Parliament (MPs), clergy and lay leaders of religious communities, and NGOs.

Embassy officers met with Orthodox leaders and clergy, senior and local Muslim leaders, religious and lay leaders of the Jewish community, and leaders of numerous Protestant and “nontraditional” denominations. During the period covered by this report, the Embassy remained closely engaged with government officials, MPs, religious organizations, and NGOs concerning the 2002 Denominations Act. The Embassy also remained concerned with government interference in the BOC schism and with reports of discrimination against “nontraditional” religious organizations. Embassy representatives met with various religious groups and government entities regarding the restitution of properties and with Muslim leaders regarding Islamic extremism and the Muslim leadership dispute.

Released on September 14, 2007

Important Bulgarian Books

October 10, 2007 by  
Filed under Media

Haralan Popov. Bulgarska Golgota. Sofia: Ab Publishing House, 2005.
English title: Bulgarian Golgotha. First edition in Bulgarian. The book was originally published in 1980 in Grand Rapids under the title Tortured for the Faith. It tells the story of one of the fifteen Bulgarian pastors of the infamous Pastoral Trial of 1948-1949 which took place in Bulgaria. During the trial, evangelical ministers were sentenced to years in maximum security prisons for allegedly serving as spies for various western governments. Pastor Haralan Popov spent over thirteen years in various prison facilities across Bulgaria, many of them were at the notorious Belene Death Camp located on an island in the middle of the Danube River.

Ivan Zarev. Istoria na ewangelskite petdesiatni carkvi v Bulgaria 1920-1989. Sofia, 1993.
English title: History of the Evangelical Pentecostal Churches in Bulgaria 1920-1989. The author served as pastor and president of the Union of Pentecostal Churches in Bulgaria during the time of the Communist Regime. This publication is the first attempt to provide a historical overview of the Bulgarian Pentecostal Movement published in the Bulgarian vernacular after the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Mitko Mattev. Na Slovoto Ti upovah … Sofia: ORA Bulgaria, 1993.
English title: Your Word I Trusted. First edition in Bulgarian. The book tells the story of one of the fifteen Bulgarian pastors of the infamous Pastoral Trial of 1948-1949 which took place in Bulgaria. During the trial evangelical ministers were sentenced to years in maximum security prisons for allegedly serving as spies for various western governments. Pastor Mitko Mateev spent over four years in various prison facilities across Bulgaria, many of them were at the notorious Belene Death Camp located on an island in the middle of the Danube River.

Hristo Kulichev ed., Dimitar Furnadjiev, Gerasim Popov, Todor Shopov, Vladimir Todorv-Hindalov. Vestiteli na istinata. 2ed. Bulgarsko Bibleisko Druzhestvo, 1994.
English title: Heralds of the Truth: A History of the Evangelical Churches in Bulgaria.
The book is, by far the most comprehensive historical overview of the Bulgarian Evangelist Movement available in the Bulgarian vernacular. It was combined by Bulgarian evangelical pastors prior to the establishment of the Communist Regime in 1944 and reedited after the Fall of the Berlin Wall. The editor, Pastor Hristo Kulichev, is one of the Bulgarian heroes of the evangelical faith who survived persecution for his faith by the Regime to tell a story that needs to be remembered by future generations.

Pavel Ignatov, Bezkravnoto gonenie na carkvata. Sofia: Lik, 2004
English title: The Bloodless Persecution of the Church.
The author has served as a pastor for the Central Church of God in Sofia and a head presbyter of the Church of God in Bulgaria since 1982. This is his first book which overviews the roots of the Bulgarian Protestant movement, follows through the establishment of the first Pentecostal churches in Bulgaria in 1920 and continues with the persecution of the underground Church of God in Bulgaria during the Communist Regime (1944-1989) and spiritual revival in Bulgaria which followed in the early years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall.

Pavel Ignatov, Problemi na evangelizma (Chast 1). Sofia: Lik, 2006
English title: Problems of Evangelism (Part 1)
The author has served as a pastor for the Central Church of God in Sofia and a head presbyter of the Church of God in Bulgaria since 1982. This is his second book which deals with the roots of Protestantism in the Bulgarian lands and follows the history of the contemporary Bulgarian evangelical movement through the establishment of the Communist Regime in Bulgaria in 1944.

Mladen Mladenov, Epizod na viarata. Sofia: Maranatha, 2002.
English title: Episode of Faith.
This is an autobiography of Bulgarian Pentecostal pastor Mladen Mladenov. The book tells the story of his life, salvific experience, calling to ministry and his exile for preaching the Gospel. The author chooses short stories from each period of his life to convey his personal experience as a Christian believer and minister during and after the Communist Regime in Bulgaria (1944-1989). The book concludes with several devotions that have become stepping stones in the ministry of Pastor Mladenov.

Bulgarian Chaplaincy Associations Recognized by U.S. Department of State

October 5, 2007 by  
Filed under News

chaplaincy-in-bulgariaBREAKING NEWS [October 8, 2007]
Original source: U.S. Department of State www.state.gov

For immediate release

Bulgarian Chaplaincy Associations Recognized by U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State has released its annual International Religious Freedom Report for 2007. In the section about Bulgaria, the work of Cup & Cross Ministries has been noted through the recognition of the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association.

Cup & Cross Ministries has worked toward the establishment of the Bulgarian chaplaincy Association since the year 2000. After five years of training chaplains, strategic professional placement and providing ministry in all respective areas of chaplaincy, in 2005 we began the process of registration with the Bulgarian government. This process was both difficult and a long test of our endurance. Although we were not openly denied registration under the 2002 Religious Act, various courts throughout Bulgaria hesitated and delayed our legal registration. Our ministry activities were closely watched and members of our staff were called in for interrogation on various occasions. After resorting to international human rights and religious freedom organizations, finally on February 23, 2007 the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association received registration by the Sofia Municipality Court to become the first legal chaplaincy organization in Bulgaria officially recognized by the Bulgarian government. The current U.S. Department of State report overviews the above process. The direct quote of the report follows:

International Religious Freedom Report 2007
Released on September 14, 2007
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90168.htm

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom
Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom

Some religious denominations reported that the Religious Confessions Directorate had become more active in assuring that national and local authorities respect and promoted religious freedom and that the national government was more receptive to their concerns. For example, a Protestant group, the Bulgarian Chaplaincy Association, gained legal status on February 23, 2007. The association represents approximately 120 Protestant pastors and individuals mainly affiliated with the Church of God and Assemblies of God but also includes Baptists and Lutherans.

Church of God Theological Seminary Address (MP3)

October 1, 2007 by  
Filed under Media

Click on the link to listen to the message: http://cupandcross.com/news/2004-05/address.mp3