Restrictions on worship continue in Kazakhstan

Restrictions on worship continue in Kazakhstan

EKIBASTUZ, Kazakhstan — Local police in Kazakhstan continue their crackdown on Christian church services. In October police raided the Sunday morning worship service of Baptists in Ekibastuz. A police official “stood at the door of the meeting hall not letting anybody out,” the church pastor said. The official reportedly said the raid was “because you do not have registration.”

Twenty church members were fined and told that they “should not meet for worship until they register.” The pastor said police accused everyone at the meeting of the unlawful unregistered exercise of freedom of religion and belief, despite Kazakhstan’s constitutional guarantee of freedom of conscience.

Kazakhstan’s council of Baptist churches refuses to register with state authorities because of fear it would lead to state control of their churches.

Kazakhstan’s Code of Administrative Offences states that “leadership of an unregistered, halted or banned religious community or social organization” may be fined without due legal process. Fines typically equal one to three months wages, according to Open Doors.

In Oskemen (Ust-Kamenogorsk), meetings for worship by New Life Church remain banned until Dec. 19 after church members, relatives and friends sang religious songs at a holiday camp in August without state permission. (F18)