Keston News Service Temporarily Shuts Down

Jan 31, 2003 05:55 PM EST

OXFORD, England -- Keston News Service shuts down on account of financial troubles. The news service, noted for "making known the needs of all religious believers and to uphold religious freedom in every case," will convene on Feb. 1st to discuss the institute's financial problems and to appoint a new chairman of its council of management.

According to Malcom Walker, the Keston librarian responsible for the KNS archives said, "we were no longer able to produce Keston News Service and our website has not been updated since November."

He also noted that the director of KNS, Lawrence Uzzell along with several of the Keston Staff joined the Chechnya Weekly. Uzzell currently serves as editor to CW.

Keston News Service runs on donations from churches and other institutions.

In spite of the halt in operations, persecuted Christians continue to send up to date information to KNS.

"We have received this morning the text of an open letter to [Georgia's President] Eduard Shevardnadze from Christian leaders in Tbilisi in which they protest about the violent attack on the service of prayer for Christian unity," Walker said.

On Jan 28, Keston received, according to Walker, "a communication about pressure on a Baptist pastor, Sergei Kuleshov, in Khabarovsk, who has being trying for four years to obtain permission to build a church in that city."

Throughout its 32 year service since 1970, the Keston News service played a pivotal roll in providing information, and producing political force. Pressure from KNS, in conjunction with other Christian newsletters had led to worldwide actions fro suffering Christians and changes in government laws in freeing religious prisoners.

Before financial crises hit, the Keston Institution mentioned, "The former Soviet republics of Central Asia feature all too prominently in [KNS] reports. State control of religious activity is on the increase in this region. Members of unregistered faiths, in particular Protestant Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses and minority Muslim groups, face harassment, fines, imprisonment and physical abuse.

"Turkmen members of minority faiths are imprisoned for refusing to take part in the compulsory national service and they too face beatings and abuse. Uzbekistan has been using the threat of terrorism as an excuse to crack down on all independent Muslims."

In recent years, KNS had reported on events in China, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea. According to its statement, there are "non-officially-recognized Chinese Catholic and Protestant churches are repressed and their leaders imprisoned on trumped-up charges, sometimes facing the death penalty.

"For Lao Christians the situation is grimmer still; the Lao government has begun a systematic campaign to eradicate the 'Jesus religion' completely, forcing church leaders to recant their faith at gunpoint and under torture."

The general meeting, scheduled for Feb. 1st is set to initiate the continuation of the Keston News Services.

By Pauline C.