Kazakhstan (MNN) — When Kazakhstan's government introduced two new religion laws in October, no one was sure just how they would be enforced. Although the form of enforcement is still a bit hazy, recent reports indicate that the crackdown is intended to come down hard.
Forum 18 News recently unveiled the contents of a senior state officials meeting that occurred soon after the laws went into motion. State Secretary Kamat Saudabaev apparently pushed the enforcement of the laws as necessity.
"They're going to be devoting considerable resources to promoting this new religion law that they're calling ‘progressive,'" explains Joel Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association. "You have to sort of wait and see how this plays out over time, but reading between the lines, it really seems like they're bound and determined to enforce some uniform religion throughout the country. It's a particular brand of Islam that I guess is unique to Kazakhstan."
Up until now, it has been clear that the government wants to rid Kazakhstan of radicalism and perhaps most religion, especially considering the stringent new restrictions on church registration, public prayer rooms, and child participation in religious activities. But the push not for the absence of religion but instead for a uniform religion was recognized in this most recent report.
The government still has yet to make clear just what the enforcement of any part of the laws will look like. Forum 18 found that many churches who have asked government officials what new registration qualifications will look like have been met with silence.
Christians, says Griffith, are just trying to lie low and share the Gospel discreetly so as not to ruffle feathers. They're deferral is to stay out of politics.
But the major immediate concern is: what could happen–even if festivities are discreet–this Christmas.
"For their churches there, [Christmas is] probably their largest evangelistic season of the whole year," says Griffith.
Kazakhstan has been unique amid Former Soviet Union nations for the last few decades. It has provided a large measure of religious freedom, and Christians have been allowed to conduct all celebrations without much need for concern. With new laws in place, though, no one is sure what to expect.
"Who knows what's going to happen this year! We really need to be in prayer about this," says Griffith. "Pray that the churches will be protected as they seek to reach children with the Gospel."
To learn more about how you can support church leaders and SGA Christmas festivities–which actually take place January 7–visit www.sga.org . Continue to pray for positive change in Kazakhstan, that believers might be able to share the truth freely.