KAZAKHSTAN: One District, Four Police Raids, Seven Fines

07 May 2024

Source: Forum18, Baptist Council of Churches

In one district of southern Kazakhstan, police in March and April conducted raids on four worship meetings of three local Protestant churches. Officers filmed those present, demanded that some write statements explaining why they were present and issued six summary fines. One of the church leaders was also fined in court and another is awaiting a court hearing.

The three churches subjected to police raids are all unregistered with the state. Two are of the Baptist Council of Churches, who choose not to seek state registration. Exercising freedom of religion or belief without state registration is illegal and punishable.

Police summarily fined a 47-year-old pastor of the Baptist church in the village of Konayeva and two other church members. Police also sent a case to court where the pastor was again fined for “illegal missionary activity”. Each of the fines was the equivalent of two months’ average wages. At another Baptist church, police summarily fined three members one month’s average wage each. Police also sent a case to court to punish a 77-year-old pastor despite his health condition. Members of the church complained that the situation was causing “a threat to his life and health”, as well as to the rights of church members to continue exercising their freedom of religion or belief.

“What has been happening in the last month has aroused serious concern among Evangelical communities, which have experienced persecution for their religious activity,” local Council of Churches Baptists noted in late April. The Baptists’ activity “is not illegal or extremist”, church members insist.

The official overseeing non-Muslim communities at the Religious Affairs Department says the Department knows about the raids and fines on Protestants in March and April. “The police are to blame,” the official told sources. “They take their own measures under the Administrative Code. There was no order from us.” The official noted that their department tried to stop police from punishing unregistered Christian communities for meeting for worship.

Meanwhile, the administrative case against a Protestant church member is due to resume in court on 10 May. A Religious Affairs Department official prepared the case to punish him for speaking in a flat on 8 March to a group of church members who were meeting to mark International Women’s Day. The official refused to explain why he was seeking to punish the church member.

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