2008: Year of the Sects in Bulgaria

December 30, 2008 by  
Filed under News

This article is a résumé of a larger publication aired in the Bulgarian media at the end of 2008 exposing a series of political and media attacks against the Evangelical Churches of Bulgaria.

The year 2008 in Bulgaria can be rightfully called “Year of the Sects in Bulgaria” as various government representatives and news agencies participated in a nationwide “witch hunt” which they called “War on the Sects.” These actions were organized in a premeditated attack to discredit evangelical churches in Bulgaria, which were repeatedly called “dangerous sects” and “cults” regardless of their bicentennial history in the country. The strategically planned actions were taken in four major cities in Bulgaria in two consecutive chronological cycles throughout the year that were properly defined by independent observers as the “Sects and the City” series.

“Sects and the City” Season One

Veliko Tarnovo: February 13, 2008

Scandalous secular television show “Masters of the Air” broadcasted an episode in which the Bulgarian language New Testament distributed globally by the Gideons was called a “new” New Testament and portrayed as “another gospel.” Eastern Orthodox Archbishop of Veliko Tarnovo confirmed this claim on air declaring a “quite war” on the publishers and distributors of the New Testament in question, while the program producers unquestionably advised the public with the words “Trust only publications of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.” What the show missed to mention was the fact that the text distributed by the Gideons is in fact the earliest translation of the Bible prepared in the new Bulgarian vernacular by Eastern Orthodox priest Neofit Petrov Rilsky in 1835-40 that has basically formed Bulgaria’s modern day grammar and language.

Plovdiv: March 17, 2008 (St. Patrick’s Day)

Plovdiv’s newspaper Maritza published a series of articles against the request of the National Christian Center to enlarge its buildings with for the purposes of its local social ministry activities. Some of the articles were entitled: “Our Child Became Depressed,” “Boycott the Meeting with the Pastor” and “Councilmen Did Not Give Land to Protestants.”

Bourgas: April 9, 2008

Days before the Bulgarian Easter, the Major’s office of Bourgas issued letter #6700.131 accompanied with an investigative analysis of the activity of local “non-traditional” churches, which aimed to portray the Assemblies of God denomination as sectarian. The directors of the schools were instructed to present the “study” to the students in class and to report the results to the mayor’s office within a 30 day period. The letter clearly showed that the municipality can  exercise control directly over the educational process and enforce open discussions on issues of faith regardless of the religious beliefs of the individual student.  

Sofia: May 15, 2008 (International Family Day)

Secondary Bulgarian news broadcaster “Frog News” published an interview entitled: “Dr. Pulieva: The New Generation Church is a Sect.” The article was a continuation to an earlier exposé by Vassil Iliev portraying the government registered charismatic church New Generation as “Legal Sect Brainwashes with Bible in Hand and Small Payment” (Frog News – April 21, 2008). In the extensive interview, Dr. Pulieva commented about the work of the church by saying that “The activity of protestant churches like ‘New Generation’ is quite dangerous. Such sects use hypnotic psychological methods similar to what Hitler used.” So far, Dr. Pulieva has not offered any proof of the research and sources used for her expert findings.

Sects and the City (Aired on the Bulgarian national bTV)

Miniseries on the “danger of sects in Bulgaria” were broadcasted on the “This Morning” show, which according to the national television station bTV is “the most watched morning informational show on Bulgarian air.” The series were initiated by ex-congressman Pavel Chernev who, according to the host of the show Petya Stefanova, “has been fighting against the religious communities for many years now …. and well knows the signs of the Satanists.”

The first episode aired on April 30, 2008 discussed Satanists, Vladimir Megre, Anastasia. The second episode from May 4, 2008 interviewed a masked man who was said to work among the sects as undercover informer with the Center for Studies of New Religious Movements. The final episode on May 7, 2008 included again Pavel Chernev along with theologian Dr. Pulieva, who this time commented that the sects are a “danger to the public health and are probably a threat to the national security.” The comment included the evangelical churches in Bulgaria, as one of the charismatic religious leader’s pastor George Bakalov was referenced by name.  

“Sects and the City” Season Two

Plovdiv: June 11, 2008

The attack against the Evangelical churches in the city of Plovidv was repeated this time including the Assemblies of God church “Holy Trinity” and its plans to purchase land for a church building. An article published by a national online news agency claimed that “The people of Plovdiv rose up against the building of an evangelical church.” This second attack in Plovdiv came only days before a seminar held on the topic “Christianity, non-traditional confessions and culture.”

Veliko Tarnovo: August 4, 2008

The second attack against the Evangelical churches in the city of Veliko Tarnovo was aired again on live televisions this time by the “Evrocom-Tsarevets” station. The subject of the attack was the Zion Foursquare Church. According to the pastor, the news crew sent to the church took an extensive interview with church employees, but broadcasted only small edited clips which misrepresented to the general public both the church and its ministry. In favor of the station management, appropriate air time was allowed to the pastor for a counter-explanation. 

Sofia: August 8, 2008

In an interview with Mladena Germanova from the Telegraph news paper, Dr. Pulieva openly addressed the public with her concern that “Sects lure with magic and hypnoses.” According to the article, Dr. Pulieva has “personally helped hundreds of people to deal with their sect addiction.” The interview did not specify over what period of time the said “helping” occurred, neither produced the testimonies from the “helped” ones. What the interview did produce was Dr. Pulieva’s list of sectarians which in her opinion were the Ahmadia, the Jehovah Witnesses and the “Word of Life” evangelical church lead by Pastor George Bakalov, who was again mentioned by name.

Bourgas: August 12, 2008

The building of the evangelical church with perhaps the greatest social impact in town was stopped by the city government although the congregation had properly obtained all documents and permits necessary for the construction. This “special” focus on the evangelical church came to much of the public surprise, since the Bourgas municipality is currently undergoing over 100 investigations for unauthorized hotel and commercial resort constructions along the Black Sea coast.


It is clear from the said above that without any doubt in 2008 in Bulgaria the evangelical churches were purposefully attacked and portrayed as sectarians blamed for various social struggles of the country. This attack was tactically planned and carefully executed to discredit evangelical churches in the cities of Veliko Tarnovo, Bourgas, Plovdiv and Sofia and through this the Bulgarian Evangelical Movement as a whole. Although the “organizers” of this attack may never be known, one cannot afford to remain quiet when political organizations use media agencies to manipulate the public opinion away from the real socioeconomic problems of the country toward the evangelical churches through acts of discrediting that not only restrict religious freedom and personal liberty, but come close to acts of open oppression. For as Pastor Martin Niemolloer concludes over half a century ago, when they come for us, there may be no one left to speak  …