Restrictions reach a new level in Central Asia

By March 25, 2013

Kazakhstan (MNN) — Sharing the Gospel will soon become a criminal offense in Kazakhstan.

Forum 18 News says a new law will allow religious leaders and those who share their faith to be imprisoned for up to three or four months. This is the first time faith-based actions will be considered a criminal offense since Kazakhstan gained its independence in 1991.

It follows on the heels of increasing restrictions on religious freedom and the first court-ordered destruction of religious literature.

Pray for this law to be stopped. Pray the Gospel will spread despite restrictions in Kazakhstan.

Three new articles under the proposed law introduce new punishments for those trying to share the Gospel. One article punishes leaders of religious activities: those who participate and those who fund the activities.

Another punishes missionary activities and allows foreigners sharing their faith to be deported and banned from re-entry for five years. The third article replicates a current law, but with higher fines and up to 6 months' imprisonment.

"State bodies are currently agreeing on the text, and we expect to get government approval for the final text in May," an official told Forum 18. "The proposed text will be in parliament by July."

Despite its international human rights commitments, Kazakhstan's government continues to punish those sharing the Gospel. According to Forum 18, 14 of the 18 people fined for religious activity since the start of 2013 are evangelical Christians. Most were charged either $575 USD or $1,150 USD–nearly two months' average wages in Kazakhstan.

Along with making unregistered evangelism a criminal offense, authorities are also making changes to legislation expanded under the 2011 Religion Law. It's not clear yet exactly what those "changes" will include, but sources told Forum 18 revisions are expected to come before Parliament in the fall.

Thank the Lord that He is above all regulations and powers of man. But continue to pray as Gospel work faces an uncertain future in Kazakhstan. Pray that Kazakh believers would keep sharing the hope and love of Christ with those who need it. Pray that church leaders would find creative ways to share the Gospel.

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