Kazak lawmakers surprise international community by passing religion law

By December 3, 2008

Kazakhstan (MNN) — Hours after
Kazakh officials vowed to cooperate with the international community on a
controversial draft law on freedom of belief, the Kazakh lower house of
parliament passed the bill.

In 2010, the
country will lead the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE).  Even while promising a public review of the legislation,
the law moved to the desk of President Nursultan Nazarbayev for final approval.

Joel
Griffith with
Slavic Gospel Association says the next move is difficult to guess.  "The president of Kazakhstan was quoted
earlier as saying that he was uncomfortable with the idea of missionaries in
Kazakhstan. He basically said, 'We
really don't need missionaries in Kazakhstan.' But again, considering that Kazakhstan is part of this international
organization that expects adherence to international standards; we really don't
know what tactic he'll take." 

According to Forum 18, the
current form bans unregistered religious activity. The law, as it is now, also bans anyone from
sharing beliefs without both the written backing of a registered religious
association and a missionary registration. It would require permission from
both parents for children to attend any religious event.

Other concerns include changes
involving small "religious groups," like house churches. They would not be allowed to maintain places
of worship "open to a wide access," nor would they be allowed to
conduct missionary activity.

Penalties increase for holding
religious services, conducting charitable work, importing, publishing,
distributing religious literature, building, or opening places of worship. That could have a significant impact on SGA's
work.

Griffith urges prayer for
wisdom. "Pray that it would be
vetoed because we want for churches to be able to proclaim the Gospel and
worship as they choose. Pray that the churches would not be discouraged in the
face of these challenges. These types of
challenges often provide a window for the church to shine." Pray
for wisdom for SGA teams as they see a closing door to
evangelistic work.

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