The government of Kazakhstan enacted two new laws on Oct. 24, 2011, further restricting freedom of religion. All registered churches must now re-register with the government, and only churches meeting new criteria will be registered.
As churches begin the rigorous re-registration process, organizations and human rights defenders from around the world are strongly criticizing the new laws. Jens Eschenbaecher, spokesperson for the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), told Forum 18 News, “The legislation appears to unnecessarily restrict the freedom of religion or belief and is poised to limit the exercise of this freedom in Kazakhstan.”
Both laws force churches to compile documentation and re-register with the government. Forum 18 News reports that the first law, The Law on Religious Activity and Religious Associations, imposes a complex registration system, bans unregistered religious activity, enforces greater religious censorship and requires both central and local government approval to build or open new places of worship. Any current church that does not re-register faces court liquidation. The second law amends nine existing laws and legal provisions, according to Forum 18 News. One provision prohibits inviting children to participate in religious activities if their parents object. According to Mission Network News (MNN), some fear this provision could shut down summer camps and other children’s events.
Nazgul Yergalieva, head of the Legal Policy Research Center in Kazakhstan, told Forum 18 News, “Strict regulation and limitation of fundamental rights, such as freedom of religion, by governments has already proved to be a dangerous path, leading to social tension and resentment.” Please pray that Christians in Kazakhstan will remain courageous and strong as they face increased government pressure.