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Forum18 – Pressure continues on Protestants in Atyrau [Atyraü] region of north-western Kazakhstan as the authorities find pretexts to refuse religious communities registration, Aleksandr Klyushev, head of the Association of Religious Organisations of Kazakhstan (AROK), complained to Forum 18 News Service from the capital Astana on 6 September. At least two local Protestant churches have been arbitrarily denied registration, a serious concern now that unregistered religious activity in Kazakhstan has been made illegal and punishable. Meanwhile, in Taraz in Kazakhstan ‘s southern Zhambyl region close to the border with Kyrgyzstan , a Baptist pastor was fined on 2 September more than three months’ average wages for leading a church that refuses state registration.

Rustam Kairulin, pastor of the Protestant Sonbakyn church in the Caspian Sea port of Atyrau , said he had tried to register his community with the Atyrau regional justice administration six times without success. “We were last refused registration in July this year,” he told Forum 18 from Atyrau on 6 September. “Every time, officials find some fault in our documents. But I think these are just quibbles – in fact, the authorities don’t want Christianity to become widespread in the region.”

Local Protestants in Gulsary, a district centre 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Atyrau, have tried unsuccessfully to register the Resurrection church at the Atyrau regional justice administration four times, a Protestant who preferred not to be named told Forum 18 from Gulsary. On 6 August two officials from the Gulsary district public prosecutor’s office came to a church meeting and made all the church members write statements explaining why they were taking part in the activities of an unregistered church, the Protestant reported. They warned church members that if they met again they would be fined. “Basically, they are deliberately driving us into a trap,” the Gulsary Protestant complained to Forum 18. “They find pretexts to refuse us registration, and then when we meet together they accuse us of breaking the law.”…[Go To Full Story]