Kazakhstan religion law stiffened, to Christians’ dismay

By October 15, 2008

Kazakhstan (MNN) — Kazakhstan is
looking at tightening already draconian restrictions on its controversial
religion law.

Joel
Griffith with
Slavic Gospel Association says there have been some new amendments this week that are being
debated in the Kazakh Senate. "It
would, for the first time, explicitly ban unregistered religious activity. It
would ban sharing beliefs by individuals not named by registered religious
organizations, or without personal registration as missionaries. It would
require all registration applications to be approved centrally, and it would
pose a wider range of fines on individuals and communities."

In short, the proposal calls for
tighter registration requirements for all religious groups, a smaller number of
religious communities and increased penalties for members of unregistered
communities. Under the current draft, repeat "offenses" would lead to
a religious community being banned.

Although Kazakhstan's
constitution guaranteed freedom of religion in early 2002, the Parliament's
action has moved a different direction. That
has also gotten the attention of the U.S. Commission on International Religious
Freedom (USCIRF). The country is being
closely monitored by the commission for its violation of religious liberty.

According to Forum 18, several
legal specialists in Kazakhstan believe the provisions and amendments of the
draft Law allow for broad interpretations which could be used to restrict religious
freedom.

Griffith urges prayer. "Pray for the protection of Kazakh
churches, not only their freedom to worship, but also to proclaim the Gospel.
We trust that they're going to do what the Lord has called them to do anyway,
but it's certainly going to make life a lot more difficult for the believers
there."

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