“They behaved like they were detaining some criminals,” said Pastor Li after Kazakh authorities stormed a church- run children’s camp in July 2015 and made a video recording of the raid. Officials then passed on the video footage they shot to media channels and alleged the children were being taught religion illegally, without parental permission, and were given “suspicious” drinks and chewing gum. These allegations were then repeated in news reports, even though all of the official approvals were in order.
Believers in Kazakhstan are often fined for Christian activities in this country which is 53% Muslim, especially those who belong to unregistered or non-traditional churches. Christian converts from Islam often experience pressure from family members and the local community to recant.
Kazakhstan has steadily become more restrictive of religious freedom as the government seeks to increase its control over the population. While the Constitution determines that the country is secular, a Religion Law was passed in 2011 that seriously curtailed religious freedoms for Kazakh citizens. The new law demanded that all religious institutions officially re-register with the state, but it also placed greater restrictions for obtaining registration. In order for a religious body to register on a national level, for example, it must provide the names and addresses of a minimum 5,000 members appropriately distributed across the country’s geography. The law also prohibits citizens from sharing their faith with others and operates strict censorship on all religious literature.
Pray for Christians in Kazakhstan as they seek to practise their faith in a society that attempts to undermine their work. Pray that they will be filled with patience to persist and with wisdom to know how to show God’s love to those around them. Ask that they will be treated fairly in their dealings with police and official authorities. Pray also that the censorship rules on religious literature will be eased, and that the registration process for churches will be lightened dramatically.