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Macedonia church crisis: building code ‘violations’


SKOPJE, Macedonia (BP)–In actions reminiscent of their
communist past, officials in Macedonia have inspected
evangelical churches in the country and given them a short
period to make safety improvements or face closure,
according to a report in European Baptist Press Service.
Some of the items were required immediately, others
were to be done within six months from the time the orders
were issued, EBPS reported.
A new law regulating religion in Macedonia
differentiates between faith communities and sects. Members
of the state-recognized faith groups — Orthodox, Muslims
and Catholic — face no such inspections or deadlines
regarding their properties.
During the month of October, EBPS reported, police
inspectors came three times to the Baptist Church in Skopje
and to the Evangelical Church (Assemblies of God); both
congregations have been vocal opponents of the new religion
law.
The Baptist church building in Skopje was instructed to
provide the following or face closure:
— a lightening rod, which, in addition to roof work,
would include digging along major streets surrounding the
building.
— a fire hydrant, which also would require digging
through major streets and getting special permissions.
— emergency lights.
— more fire extinguishers.
— underground utility installations (heating,
electricity, telephone).
The total cost to the congregation of less than 100
people would be approximately US $20,500. Macedonian
Baptists have a total of three churches and 150 members.
The Skopje congregation has increased its giving; some
members have offered to sell their cars to help, according
to pastor Ivan Grozdanov. But its resources may not meet the
requirements in the time allotted.
A fund has been established by the European Baptist
Federation for donations to help the church comply with the
government demands.