Kazakhstan (MNN) — The lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament has passed new legislation that would impose tough new restrictions on foreign missionary activity and evangelical churches. The measure had its first reading in May. However, this new bill isn't stopping Christian radio from entering the country.
Gregg Harris, president of Far East Broadcasting Company, says he is surprised, but he thinks he knows why the activity of FEBC is unaffected. "We work as a nationally registered entity. In other words, we don't come into the country as an outsider. We have an FEBC entity registered inside the country. And that makes a great deal of difference at a time like this when the government is beginning to clamp down and curtail what they perceive to be foreign missionary activity."
Harris says they have big ambitions. "We're hoping to open and operate two FM radio stations in Almaty and Astana. We have been granted the broadcast license, but we don't have the specific frequencies yet to actually open the stations and actually go on the air."
He's uncertain when that will happen. "You can wait just a few weeks. Sometimes it can take months, and unfortunately it can take years. We have already been in these discussions for about two to three years, and we're hoping that something is going to happen very soon."
While they're still some time away from going on the air, Harris says they're moving forward with 24-hours-a-day programming. "We're going to stream it on the Internet and make it available for those in the country that have Internet access, so that we can begin showing the government that we're serious [and] that we're making good programming."
FEBC will be providing programming to meet changing needs in Kazakhstan. "Surprisingly, more people in Kazakhstan speak Russian than they speak Kazakh. But there is a growing nationalistic trend in Kazakhstan that means the Kazakh language will become more and more used and more and more influential."
Harris adds, "Our programming will be a mixture of Russian programming, but we will also be making Kazakh for those who are Kazakh speakers."
Harris is asking Christians to pray that "the government would move ahead, would grant us the frequencies so that we can begin raising funds and actually physically build and operate the station."