Hundreds of Congregations Refused Registration

October 31, 2012 by Open Doors in General

Church in Kazahstan

Kazakhstan has long been a model of religious tolerance in a region of the world known for harsh, restrictive policies. Recent developments signal that the era of freedom is coming to an end. The October 25, 2012 deadline has passed for religious organizations to re-register in compliance with the new law on religious activity signed by President Nursultan Nazarbaev on October 13th of last year.

In an effort to “bring order” to religious activity, the 1992 “Law on Freedom of Religious Confession and Religious Associations” regarding religious affairs was replaced last year by the new “Law on Religious Activity and Religious Associations.” The removal of “freedom”‘ from the title was hardly incidental.

Only days after the deadline passed, the intended consequences of this move have become visible. One-third of all religious groups in Kazakhstan have been shut down. While members of religious groups such as Judaism, Buddhism, and Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity were allowed to re-register, 204 of the 666 Protestant churches throughout the country will be closed. These numbers do not include the already large number of congregations that have either refused to apply for registration out of principle, or that have been unsuccessful in obtaining registration despite their intention to do so.

All activities of religious groups that have not obtained registration from the authorities are now strictly prohibited. Worship services or prayer meetings of unregistered groups can and will be raided; participants and leaders will be subject to interrogation, detention and/or fines.

The following summary of requirements to re-register demonstrates the significant impact on the church.

These restrictions effectively force the evangelical church in Kazakhstan underground. It is expected that the number of raids, detentions, interrogations, threats, and physical violence against Protestant believers will increase as they continue to courageously live for Christ.

Father, we lift up Your church in Kazakhstan as they enter an era of harsh restrictions. Bestow up the leaders wisdom and discernment as they determine the next steps. Give the people boldness to remain faithful to Your Word, no matter what. And give them opportunities to share the good news of Your gospel message to those around them. We pray that You will overrule in the government’s efforts to thwart Your work there, either by softening the hearts of the leaders or by causing Your church to grow and flourish underground. In the name of Jesus our sustainer, Amen.

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