Kazakstan Christians Persecuted and Fined
believers rounded up across former Soviet Union
By Stefan J. Bos
Eastern Europe Correspondent,
ASSIST News Service
ASTANA / BUDAPEST , (ANS) — Leaders and other believers of non registered Baptist and Evangelical churches in the former Soviet republic of Kazakstan are experiencing a new period of persecution by central authorities, reports said Monday July 1.
In a statement released by the Keston News Service (KNS), the Kazakstan based International Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists (ICCECB) said its congregations are targeted with “fines, legal proceedings and threats.”
“Ministers and brothers who lead these churches experience particular pressure,” said the ICCECB, one of two main Baptist jurisdictions in Kazakstan, which rejects state registration on principle.
Analysts said the developments contradict statements made by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who recently rejected changes to the law on “freedom of conscience and religious associations” that would have restricted the rights of believing citizens.
Religious Groups Banned
Under those amendments all unregistered religious groups could be banned while all missionaries would have been required to register themselves with the authorities. In addition legal registration would be denied to all Muslim organizations outside the framework of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kazakstan.
However under pressure from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), President Nazarbayev referred the new version of the religion law for consideration by the countrys Constitutional Council, which ruled against them.
“One cannot help asking: were these discriminatory amendments to the law on freedom of conscience rejected (by the president and the Council) in order that the world community…would not react so strongly to the repression of believers,?” the ICCECB wondered.
Moves Against Baptists
The organization cited examples of recent moves against Baptist churches. “They are trying to force communities to register in the towns of Zyryanovsk and Leninogorsk, in the rural district of Novopolyakovka, and in the Shu district of Jambyl region by means of fines, legal proceedings and threats,” the ICCECB said.
These developments in the mainly Islamic country of nearly 17 million people, come as new reports emerge about persecution of Christians in several other former Soviet republics. Last week the Lower House of the Belarus Parliament adopted the text of what human rights workers described as one of the most restrictive religious laws in the ex Soviet Union, although a final version was postponed till the autumn, KNS reported Monday June 1.
Earlier in Turkmenistan police and political police forced a group of Protestants in a small village in the east of the country to renounce their faith publicly, the news agency said.
Protestants Rounded up
The seven or eight Protestants were rounded up in May after a female village resident received a Christian magazine through the post from Kiev . They were ordered to swear an oath on a copy of President Saparmurat Niyazov’s “spiritual book” Ruhnama renouncing the Bible and their faith in Jesus, KNS reported.
Three of the group who refused were expelled from the village and are now subject to a manhunt ordered from the capital Ashgabad by the political police (KNB), christian sources said. Human rights workers remain concerned that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, did not bring the freedom many churches in the region had expected.