SLOVENIA: Hindus registered, but others still wait
"We are very happy to get registration, of course," Natasa Sivic, leader of Slovenia's Hindu community, told Forum 18 News Service. Her community – one of three religious groups granted registration in August by Drago Cepar, head of the government's Office for Religious Communities – had been waiting seventeen months. Among the seven Cepar identified to Forum 18 as having lodged registration applications is the Christian Outreach Centre in Ljubljana. "My husband was told at the religious office that they couldn't accept any new communities because as Slovenia is joining the European Union all laws need to be changed," co-pastor Carol Vidic told Forum 18. "That was their excuse."
"We are very happy to get registration, of course," Natasa Sivic, leader of the Hindu community, told Forum 18 from Ljubljana on 2 September. She said Cepar had written to her community on 26 August to inform it that registration had been granted. She said there are a number of minor formalities the community must undertake to complete the registration process. The Hindu community has already been added as the 34th on the list of registered religious communities on the Office for Religious Communities' website (www.gov.si/uvs).
After taking office in 2000, Cepar refused to register any new religious communities, a policy he reversed in August of this year in the wake of strong pressure from officials, religious communities and journalists. Just before granting the Hindu community registration, he registered the Calvary Chapel in Celje and the Dharmaling Tibetan Buddhist association (see F18News 27 August 2003).
Cepar told Forum 18 that the other seven groups "whose written materials we have received" are: the Christian Outreach Centre of Ljubljana, the Christian Centre in Ljubljana, the International Church of Christ, the Holy Church of Ultra Teleme, the Universal religious community of the rising sun, the original native of the invincible sun of the empire of the sun and the Raelians.
Carol Vidic, who co-pastors the Christian Outreach Centre congregations in Ljubljana and Maribor with her husband Klemen, told Forum 18 on 2 September that the Ljubljana centre had applied for registration at the beginning of the year. "My husband was told at the religious office that they couldn't accept any new communities because as Slovenia is joining the European Union all laws need to be changed," Vidic reported. "That was their excuse." She said the church had been forced to register after that as a social organisation instead. "That was easier – there was far less hassle." However, the Centre continues to seek registration as a religious organisation.
Other groups on the list remain controversial. The Raelians sparked worldwide controversy last December when they claimed to have achieved the birth of the world's first cloned baby.
27 August 2003
Fifteen months after applying for registration, the Calvary Chapel Protestant church in Celje became on 7 August the first new religious community to be granted registration in Slovenia since 1999. The registration of the Tibetan Buddhist Dharmaling association followed on 22 August. The head of the government's Office for Religious Communities, Drago Cepar, who until this month had refused to register any new communities, met Hindu leader Natasa Sivic on 25 August. "He promised to register us this week," she told Forum 18 News Service. "It has been a big problem not having registration." The Hindus have been waiting for registration for seventeen months.
9 July 2003
Before the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Freedom of Religion or Belief on 17-18 July 2003, Forum 18 News Service http://www.forum18.org/ surveys some of the more serious abuses of religious freedom that persist in some countries of the 55-member OSCE. Despite their binding OSCE commitments to religious freedom, in some OSCE member states believers are still fined, imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their faith, religious services are broken up, places of worship confiscated and even destroyed, religious literature censored and religious communities denied registration.
18 June 2003
Pressure is mounting on Drago Cepar, Office for Religious Communities director, not to block registration applications. Ten communities are known to have applied since Cepar became director three years ago but their applications languish unanswered. Government secretary Mirko Bandelj wrote to Cepar on 12 June instructing him to "handle promptly" the registration of the Dharmaling Buddhist group. The ombudsman has also urged him to register the Buddhists and the Stoic Pantheists, who have also complained of denial of registration. "The problem in our opinion is with the religious affairs office, which does not respond to the applications," Barbara Samaluk of the ombudsman's office told Forum 18 News Service. "I really wonder how such discrimination can still take place in a country which will enter Europe next year!" Abbot Gelong Shenphen of the Dharmaling community told Forum 18.