Kazakhstan is undergoing a process of “soft Islamisation”. Radical Muslims have taken control of most of the small businesses, and Islamic money – mainly from Turkey – is funding most of the educational institutions.
Christians comprise about 25% of the population of this vast Central Asian republic. Many are from a Russian background, but some are ethnic Kazakhs who have converted from Islam. Protestant Christians, especially those from a Muslim background, are viewed with great distrust.
Kazakhstan’s secular constitution guarantees freedom of religion. From independence in 1991 until 2010, the situation for Christians, other than former Muslims, was relatively easy. However, a draconian Religion Law passed in 2011, designed to prevent extremism, has greatly increased restrictions on religious freedom.
The Religion Law requires that religious groups must have at least 50 members locally, 500 regionally and 5,000 nationally in order to register – an impossibility for smaller churches. Unregistered churches are raided by police who seize property and fine or arrest and imprison Christians for worshipping “illegally”.
The law also prohibits evangelising and bans religious organisations from receiving foreign donations. In 2018, the government approved a raft of amendments imposing even harsher restrictions, including a ban on religious teaching unless within a registered organisation – effectively making religious discussions in private homes illegal.
Property issues are used as a way of restricting freedom of religion. In 2020, two pastors in the capital Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana) appealed directly to the president to stop local authorities seizing the land on which their churches stand.
Religious literature is subject to compulsory pre-publication censorship and can be distributed only in state-approved venues. Courts ordered the destruction of 196 Christian publications in March 2020, which were being offered for free on the streets of a village in the north-eastern Pavlodar Region by two Christians, who were each fined one month’s average wages.
Pray that the Church in Kazakhstan will be given courage to continue to spread the Gospel and remain steadfast when suffering persecution from the authorities. Pray that the restrictions on religious freedoms will be removed.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet