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Kazakhstan: Anti-terrorism police raid Baptist worship meetings and fine Christians for conducting prayers without government permission

There are over four million Christians in Kazakhstan. Most belong to the Orthodox Church in Kazakhstan, under the Moscow Patriarchate. There are also Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Mennonites, and others. However, as this story indicates, religious observance is strictly controlled, with crackdowns on Christians who do not obey government requirements to obtain official permission to hold worship services. The Order requests that the government of Kazakhstan affirm its respect for religious freedom by removing these restrictions, and allowing its people of all faith traditions to worship freely.

“Christianity crackdown: Police fine Christians for PRAYING without permission,” by Laura O’Callaghan, Express, March 11, 2019:

ANTI-TERRORISM POLICE raided Baptist worship meetings and fined Christians for conducting prayers without government permission, in the latest suppression of religious freedom in Kazakhstan.

Three people were issued with fines ranging between one and two months’ worth of average wages and two other worshippers were issued with official fines. According to Oslo-based website Forum 18, authorities pounced on the gatherings in Taraz, a city of 351,000 people near the country’s border with Kyrgyzstan, on successive Sunday mornings in February. The congregations are members of the Council of Churches Baptists which refuses to pay fines handed down to punish those who practice religion without permission.

Local police assisted counter-terrorism officers in the latest development as part of the ongoing crackdown on Christians in the Muslim-majority country.

Balgabek Myrzayev, acting head of the social harmony committee, the body which monitors the practice of religion in Astana, said he was not aware of the raids or fines.

He defended punishing people for practicing their faith without approval from the central government but insisted “our laws don’t ban praying”.

He said: “Our laws don’t allow unregistered religious organisations and I don’t have the right to change the law….

Photo by Eurovaran – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62418051

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