Two churches were raided by police on successive Sundays in February in the city of Taraz in south-eastern Kazakhstan, reports Forum 18 .
After the first raid, on 10 February, one church member was fined 252,500 tenge (£510; $667; €594), about two months’ average wage in Kazakhstan. Another was fined about 100,000 tenge. After the second church raid on 17 February one worshipper was fined and two others received a police warning.
The two congregations belong to the Baptist Council of Churches, which choose not to seek state registration in any of the former Soviet countries.
State religious affairs official Balgabek Myrzayev said, “Our laws don’t allow unregistered organisations and I don’t have the right to change the law.”
Authorities have imposed more than 20 fines on Baptist churches alone since the beginning of 2017. A court in the capital, Almaty, fined another Christian on 28 February who had been charged with “worshipping illegally” in late 2018.
Since 2011, when the government introduced a new religion law, Christians have faced heightened restrictions on meetings and “missionary activity”. To obtain registration, churches are required to provide the names and addresses of at least 50 members, an impossibility for smaller congregations.
Kazakhstan is officially a secular state; around 70% of the population are Muslim, with Christians comprising about 26%. Many Christians are from a Russian background and some are ethnic Kazakhs who have converted from Islam. Protestant Christians, and especially those from a Muslim background, are viewed with great distrust.