Kazakh government throws weight behind religion law

By May 5, 2008

Kazakhstan (MNN) — There's
growing concern among Christians over the state-backed religion law in
Kazakhstan. The legislation was approved
for further consideration last month.

Kazakhstan's Prime Minister has
thrown his weight behind it calling it "timely and necessary."  The stiffer restrictions on foreign
missionary activity and churches included in this draft will likely hamper
evangelism. 

One of the forces behind the changes
criticized evangelical missionary activity as "undermining family
traditions and social principles."
However, Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaev still needs to approve the
legislation before it becomes law.

With the new changes, the law
would sharply restrict the right to publish religious literature and would
also make it more difficult for a small group to obtain their own place for
worship, or to preach outside of the group itself.

The first Religion Law was adopted
in 1992, with few restrictions on individuals' or communities' religious
freedom. However, the law has been
strengthened five times since in 1995.

In 2005, "extremism"
and "national security" legal amendments were added that further
restricted the freedom of religion. That amendment had to be removed for Kazakhstan to comply with
international human rights commitments.

According to Forum 18, the draft law still needs to be presented to parliament's committees. Once it goes through some debate, it will be
presented to the full lower house of parliament.  December 1 is the deadline for adoption,
according to a parliamentary resolution.

Keep praying that the president would not sign the bill. Pray for endurance for those
believers facing challenges to ministry. And pray that authorities will cease their harassment of unregistered
church communities.

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