Christians getting bitten by Kazakhstan religion laws

Kazakhstan (MNN) — Nobody has been really surprised at the
increasing crackdowns over religious freedom issues in Kazakhstan.

Shortly after Tajikistan modified its religion laws,
Kazakhstan adopted new religious legislation in 2011. Then, last year, the laws
began to bite. This legislation has
made the training of Christian leaders much more difficult, and youth work now
requires the permission of both parents. Compulsory censorship on religious
materials is imposed.

Following Christ comes at a real price now. According to a report from Forum 18 News and
International Christian Concern, the fines against individuals for exercising their religious beliefs
without state permission have totaled more than $118,000. There have been 119
individuals who have been fined, some of them on multiple occasions. The
average of the fines has been equivalent to approximately two months average
salary.

Spokesman for the Slavic Gospel Association Joel Griffith says the shift is causing some
consternation among believers. “It used to be [that] in Kazakhstan you were
relatively free to minister and proclaim the Gospel. But as we’ve seen
with the other Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan in recent years has really
been cracking down on this.”

One of the more recent incidents involved a group of 16
police officers and journalists, led by
the local religious affairs official who raided a Sunday worship service in West Kazakhstan on November
10. As a result of the arrests, “10
of the church members now are facing a court date, and they could get possible fines
of one or two months’ average salary.”

Prosecutor’s Assistant Talap Usnadin defended the legality of the raid when
interviewed by Forum 18. “They had no registration and no permission to meet.” Indicating that they weren’t targeting Christians
alone, he pointed out the case of a Muslim in a village near where the raid
took place, who turned his home into a mosque with an unapproved minaret. He has also been fined.

On another front, traditional Islam is on the rise
throughout Central Asia. Saudi Arabia,
Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan have been sending Muslim missionaries to Kazakhstan.
The extremism that came with them forced
the government to consider increasingly oppressive religion laws to control
terrorism.

However, these laws are often used to limit, restrict, and even
persecute Christians, who are sometimes regarded as members of a dangerous sect.
The government’s response has recreated
a scenario with which the older generation is familiar. Griffith explains, “The older saints that are there, they’re
going to remember what life was like under atheistic Communism and how they had
to survive under Soviet oppression. The
newer generation that’s coming up would have no memories of this and how to survive
under such a thing.”

If it continues in this vein, outreach ministries will be
disrupted. For those who are working alongside the Church
in Kazakhstan, Griffith asks that you “pray
that the Lord would grant us wisdom and discretion about equipping them to be
able to proclaim the Gospel, and that we would have wisdom to do it discreetly.”

SGA is using what time they have in Kazakhstan to respond to
the needs expressed here. You can help. Click
here.

 


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