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Kazakhstan

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Christian literature is heavily controlled in Kazakhstan. Barnabas Aided 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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    • Cry out to the Lord for Alexis Prem Kumar, a 47-year-old Christian minister from India who was abducted in Afghanistan on 2 June. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but three Taliban militants have been arrested in connection with it. Alexis had worked for an NGO in Afghanistan since 2011, helping returning refugees. He was leaving a school near Herat for Afghan children who have recently returned from Iran or Pakistan when he was seized. Give thanks for Alexis’ willingness to serve the Lord in what remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world for Christians, and pray for his safe return. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 15 hours ago

    • The case of an Egyptian Christian man arrested following complaints by Muslim neighbours that he had been using his home as a church without a permit highlights the need of the Christian community for more places of worship. The 55-year-old man from Minya in Upper Egypt, where Christians are particularly vulnerable to persecution, was arrested once before, in 2011, for the same offence. Every church building in Egypt requires a permit, but these are notoriously difficult to obtain. Pray that the authorities will show leniency to the Christian man and that a provision in the new constitution addressing the issue of church buildings will be enacted. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Kidnapping for ransom has been a persistent problem for the Christian community in Egypt amid the political upheaval and instability following the “Arab Spring” revolution of 2011. On 14 June, Wadie Ramses, a well-known surgeon, was seized in El-Arish. The assailants opened fire on his vehicle and took him away wounded. They later demanded a ransom of ten million Egyptian Pounds (£800,000; US$1.4 million) for his release. Two days later, Christian merchant Gemal Shenouda was captured near his home in the same city. It is thought that Islamic militants with links to al-Qaeda, who have been behind escalating violence in the Sinai region, are responsible for the kidnappings. Pray for the safe return of our two Christian brothers and that they and their families will know the Lord’s peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • On 18 June, Bishoy Armia Boulous (31) was sentenced to five years in prison and given a fi ne of 500 Egyptian Pounds (US£70; £40) for “disturbing the peace by broadcasting false information” in connection with reports he produced relating to anti-Christian violence in Minya for a Christian TV channel. His lawyer believes that Bishoy has been targeted because of his conversion from Islam. The Christian gained notoriety in Egypt in 2007 as the first person to try to change his religion on his ID card, a case that is still unresolved owing to the political tumult in the country over the last three years. Pray that the Lord will be Bishoy’s strength and shield (Psalm 28:7), and that he will soon be released. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Sep 2014 00:00

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