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Kazakhstan

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Christian literature is heavily controlled in Kazakhstan. Barnabas funded the production of these booklets in the Kazakh language

In April 2013 Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, claimed that “religious freedom is fully secured” in the country. In fact Christians, who comprise at least 25% of the population, endure restrictions on sharing their faith and controls on religious literature. All churches must register with the authorities, who require that cumbersome criteria be fulfilled before registration is granted. Unregistered churches may be subject to raids and church leaders and their members given heavy fines.

One raid, on an Easter Sunday service in 2013 at a home in Zhaskent, was so traumatic that an elderly church member subsequently suffered a heart attack. The church’s leader was fined the equivalent of six months of his pension. The authorities also liquidated a Baptist seminary in 2013, and an unprecedented court ruling ordered the destruction of Christian literature that had been seized from an evangelist. This ruling was later overturned.

In a particularly invidious case, Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev was convicted of harming the health of a church member, despite her appeals to the contrary. In February 2014, the 67-year-old pastor was given a four-year prison term suspended for three years. He was also ordered to pay his supposed victim “moral damages” of two million Tenge (£6,500; US$10,800). He was alleged to have caused psychological harm to Lyazzat Almenova, though she repeatedly protested his innocence.

New laws on religious practice were introduced in October 2011 that tightened controls. A complex system of registration was established for all religious organisations, and unregistered activity was banned; all groups were required to re-register by October 2012 or face liquidation. A group must have at least 50 members to be registered, and many small churches were stripped of their legal status in early 2012. Larger congregations have also been denied re-registration on various grounds. One group of churches that refuses on principle to register with the authorities has been warned that members’ homes that are used for worship will be confiscated if the Christians continue to meet there.

Even registered churches are subject to controls and interference with their activities. Their registered status seems to provide little protection against raids, fines and the confiscation of literature.

“Non-traditional” religious groups have recently reported increased discrimination. Converts from Islam also experience pressure from their families and communities to renounce their faith.

More than half of Kazakhstan’s population are Muslims, but the country also has a large Russian Orthodox community. Yet the number of (known) believers among ethnic Kazakhs, a traditionally Muslim people group who make up just over 50% of the population, grew from none in 1990 to as many as 15,000 by 2010.

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    • Heavenly Father, we pray for Kim Jung-Wook, a South Korean Christian who has been sentenced to hard labour for life in North Korea for “spying” and attempting to establish house churches in the country. We thank You that although prosecutors demanded the death penalty, this was commuted, but we pray that Jung-Wook will be sustained by You in his imprisonment and cruel treatment and will soon be released. We pray too for the dozens of North Koreans who were detained after Jung-Wook’s arrest in October on suspicion of helping him, and for the families of any who have already been executed. We pray for political change and religious freedom in North Korea, that it may be made legal to be a Christian and to take part in Christian activity. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 23 hours ago

    • Two Christian families in Uzbekistan who meet in a private home to read the Bible and pray together have been repeatedly fined and had property confiscated. Alisher Abdullayev and Veniamin Nemirov were originally fined in 2012 for unregistered religious activity and teaching religion “illegally”. They refused on principle to pay, claiming that they had not violated any laws. But earlier this year bailiffs went to their homes and confiscated a car, a mobile phone and household items. The men and their wives were then fined again, ten times the minimum monthly wage. Officers have also raided one of their meetings, filming and harassing those present and seizing religious literature. Pray that the authorities will stop targeting the families and that they will be left alone to study and pray in peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Leaders imprisoned for up to 60 days and members for up to 45 days; fines, corrective labour or community service: these are the penalties for taking part in religious gatherings in Kazakhstan held without state permission, according to a new criminal code. Those who finance unregistered religious activity will be liable to the same punishments as leaders. In addition, a new Code of Administrative Offences lays down a wide range of penalties for exercising the right to religious freedom. Both codes have been condemned by 119 Kazakh and international human rights groups and individuals. They further tighten controls on religious practice in a context where it is already much restricted. Pray for wisdom and courage for Christians in Kazakhstan as they seek to maintain their worship and witness. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Give thanks that 55 Christians, almost all church leaders and converts from Islam, received Bible training at a three-day seminar in Kyrgyzstan that was supported by Barnabas Fund. The participants have virtually no access to Biblical training, and so the studies were a great boost to their faith and ministry. Meeting fellow church leaders, who are all dealing with similar issues, such as isolation and persecution from Muslim relatives and local Muslim communities, was also very encouraging to them and gave them the opportunity to build up a Christian support network. Pray that the Lord will continue to speak to them through the Bible passages they studied at the seminar, and that He will bless their ministries. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Christians and other minorities in Burma (Myanmar) are extremely concerned about a proposed religious conversion bill that will require people to seek permission from the authorities before changing religion. It is part of a package of four bills designed to “protect race and religion” in the Buddhist-majority country. The government says it is intended to prevent forced conversions. The draft says that forcing someone to convert would be punishable by a year in prison, while insulting another religion would be punishable by between one and two years in prison. Similar laws in force in several Indian states are used to threaten legitimate evangelism by Christians and as a pretext by Hindu militants to attack Christians, whom they falsely accuse of forcibly converting people. Pray this bill will not become law in Burma. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Sep 2014 00:00

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