Kazakhstan (MNN) — A new arrest in Kazakhstan has evangelical Christians concerned around the world.
Pastor Bahtzhan Kashkumbaev was arrested on May 17, 2013. Wade Kusack with Russian Ministries says Kashkumbaev was accused of serving hallucinogens in a "red drink." He says, "The 'red drink' that was confiscated from the church was just red tea to serve as non-alcoholic communion."
Kusack says Kahkumbaev was also charged with exerting a psychological influence over the congregation. Kusack says, "That [was] prayers, and singing. Police showed in court a video they made during the services."
This arrest is just one of many that are expected under Kazakhstan's new religion law. "This new religious law," says Kusask, "even violates Kazakhstan's own constitution which guarantees to its citizens the right to choose their religion and freely practice their religion."
In 2012, 200 evangelical churches were stripped of their registration under the new law. Many of these churches expect to face some kind of legal issues in the months ahead, says Kusack.
Kusack says there have been at least eight arrests. However, this arrest had a new twist. "He [Kashkumbaev] converted from Islam. Many people in Christian communities in Kazakhstan believe his imprisonment is punishment from law enforcement officials who consider themselves Muslim for his evangelical activities."
Kusack believes the Muslim community is sending a message. "It is punishment for him and a threat for all others not to change their religion. If you are Muslim, you should stay Muslim. If you are Christian, you should stay Christian."
This arrest is similar to the way they arrested Christians during the Soviet days, says Kusack. He says there is a huge danger. "If the church all over the world ignores this and there is no reaction from the West, I believe this type of persecution will continue."
Kusack is asking Christians to pray, but also to contact the Kazakhstan embassy in your country. In the United States, you can contact them here: http://www.kazakhembus.com/page/contact-us.