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For Immediate Release

Macedonian Authorities Deny Land and Permission to Construct Baptist Church Building

You are free to disseminate the following news. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address www.www.persecution.org. Contact Jeff King President, 301-989-1708, [email protected]

(July 24, 2006) – The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC)
www.www.persecution.org has been informed that a Baptist Church in the capital of Macedonia, Skopje, is continually being ignored in its requests to expand its current building. For twenty months, church leaders have requested permission to extend their facilities or purchase land to build a new structure. All requests have been denied or ignored. In contrast, Orthodox churches have experienced no delay in gaining building permits.

The pastor of Good News Baptist Church in Skopje , Republic of Macedonia , Dr. Ivan Grozdanov, has reported that for the past twenty months requests have been ignored to allow an extension for their building. In contrast, many other buildings in the neighborhood and on the same street have been given permission to extend and build, and in fact have already extended their respective sites. The extension is badly needed because the current facility of Good News Church has become too small, only holding 55 seats, while the congregation has grown to an average of 70-100 attendees. For almost two years, church leaders have exhausted all options in requesting a building permit. More than 170 individuals signed a petition to support the request, but the mayor, Mrs. Violeta Alarova, did not respond. Further, requests were made to both the local and central governments, and in both sectors the requests were ignored and not even processed. The church leaders could not even arrange a meeting with government officials to discuss their case.

According to Pastor Grozdanov, there are three tiers of religious freedom in Macedonia . Protestant churches are at the bottom tier of the hierarchy, and not one of several Protestant groups was able to receive permission to legally build their own worship facility. In contrast, the favored Orthodox community is routinely given land and permission to construct churches. Further, the State Department’s report on International Religious Freedom for Macedonia confirms that their findings show Protestant churches had great difficulty in obtaining building permits.

International Christian Concern attempted to contact local officials, with limited success. The Commission for Faith Communities and Religious Groups insisted, according to Commission assistant Fejzula Limanoski that, “all religious groups have the same rights,” and “that this case should be finished soon.” He also said that they would try to attain a meeting with the mayor of Skopje . Mr. Limanoski’s statements strongly contradict the experience of the Good News Baptist Church , in that they have waited nearly two years for a simple response to their request to extend their building. If every religious group is granted equal rights, then Protestant bodies like Good News Church should have equivalent success in receiving permits by the government to build new worship facilities. They should also be granted an audience with their local governing body to discuss their case.

The Good News Baptist Church is an officially registered church in the city of Skopje and should be afforded the same rights as any other registered church in the city. ICC encourages all concerned parties to contact the Macedonian embassy in the United States or the Mayor’s office of Skopje , to urge officials to allow the church to move forward with their plans for a building. You can contact them at the addresses and phone numbers listed below:

Embassy of the Republic of Macedonia

2129 Wyoming Avenue, N.W.,

Washington DC 20008

Tel 202 667 0501

F 202 667 2131

[email protected]

Municipality “Centar” in Skopje ;

Mayor: Mrs. Violeta Alarova

Tel: +389 2 3211 089 and +389 2 3225 352

Here is a sample letter that can be used in speaking on behalf of Good News Baptist Church :

Dear Ambassador Dimitrov / Mayor Alarova:

It has come to my attention that the Good News Baptist Church in Skopje , Macedonia , has been denied permission to extend their building or acquire more land for a worship facility for almost two years. In contrast, many other buildings in the neighborhood and on the same street have been given permission to extend and build, and in fact have already extended their respective sites. The extension is badly needed because the current facility of Good News Church has become too small, only holding 55 seats, while the congregation has grown to an average of 70-100 attendees. Further, requests were made to both the local and central governments, and in both sectors the requests were ignored and not even processed. The church leaders could not even arrange a meeting with government officials so they could discuss their case.

I am respectfully asking that you would use your influence to petition the local authorities to grant the extension of the building, as it is an officially registered church in the city of Skopje and should be afforded the same rights as any other registered church in the city.

Sincerely,

(Your Name)