Published: 15:01 GMT Daylight Time - Friday 20 May 2011
Christians denied burial rights by Muslims in Kyrgyzstan
Country/Region: Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan
A grieving family in Kyrgyzstan were forced to dig up and rebury the body of their Christian relative after being threatened by local Muslims in another dispute over burial rights in the country.
Just two days after the 77-year-old Kyrgyz believer had been laid to rest, Muslims from the village came to his family and said that they would get a bulldozer, dig the tomb out and throw the corpse away if the relatives did not rebury his body in the Christian cemetery. He had been buried in an adjacent plot that is considered "Muslim", although it is rarely used.
|A Christian cemetery in Kyrgyzstan|
Other Christians rallied in support of the family, and came to see the local mayor on their behalf. He called a meeting involving the Muslim imam of the area and the relatives of the deceased. Despite pleas to leave the body where it was, the imam insisted that it be exhumed and reburied, and this was backed by the civil authorities.
In another incident, a family had to bury their loved one, a 45-year-old Christian, 105 miles (170km) away from their village after attempts to lay him to rest in his home village and two others were blocked.
His immediate family, a wife and five children, were threatened at their home by Muslim leaders, who forbade them from burying him at the village cemetery; non-believing members of their extended family had previously gathered a 20-signature petition from villagers saying they were opposed to burying Christians there.
Christian leaders took up the issue with the authorities, who decided that the body had to be buried in a village 25 miles (40km) away from the family home where there was said to be a cemetery for Christians. But when the body was taken there, Muslim leaders and villagers had gathered; they threatened the relatives and forbade the burial.
Attempts to use a plot assigned to Christians in another village were also blocked by Muslim leaders, who threatened physical violence. A resting place was finally found in a village 105 miles (170km) away, meaning a round-trip of 210 miles (340km) for his family to visit his tomb.
His wife and five children have since been forced to leave their village after being repeatedly threatened and blocked from grazing their cattle. The dispute has caused problems for other Christians in the village, who have been told that they are not going to be allowed to farm.
Over recent years, despite the country's constitution directing that villages should allocate burial places for Christian Kyrgyz, local authorities and Muslims have frequently refused to provide such plots, opposed the burial of non-Muslims in cemeteries designated for Kyrgyz Muslims, or insisted they be buried as Muslims according to Islamic rituals. In Muslim civilisation, people are divided into autonomous religious communities with each following its own religious laws on personal matters such as burial and cemeteries. Jews and Christians are made subordinate to their Muslim neighbours and have to submit to demeaning regulations.