Washington, D.C. (ICC) -- Kazakhstan has garnered international condemnation with the case of Pastor Masket Djabbarbergenov, who was accused of teaching religion in his home and, fearing for his life, fled to Kazakhstan from his native Uzbekistan. He and his family registered for refugee status and were denied. Kazakh officials arrested Djabbarbergenov and are threatening to send him back to Uzbekistan despite being advised from the UN Committee Against Torture not to do so. Returning him there would most certainly result in torture and possibly a 15-year prison sentence.
This and other infringements of religious freedom are due in part to Kazakhstan's newly adopted Religion Law. The law went into effect last year and has many calling for the U.S. Department of State and the honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton to send a special envoy to investigate violations of religious freedom. The new law requires all religious communities to register or re-register their organizations and churches with the government. On October 25, 2012, the new "re-registration" deadline was enforced for all religious communities. All churches were required to turn in paperwork that included the signatures of at least 50 church members. If a church did not have 50 members, they were not eligible for registration and were scheduled for liquidation.
The government of Kazakhstan has been forceful and aggressive and boasts of successfully stripping 579 religious communities of their registration rights. They have also reduced the number of officially recognized faiths from 46 to merely 17. Included in the reduction are faith-based civic organizations which fell to 3,088 from the previous total of 4,551. If any of these groups continue meeting to practice their faith, which is no longer officially sanctioned by the government, they could face criminal charges.
All faiths and many denominations have been a target of the government, including Scientologists, Jehovah's Witnesses, sects of Islam, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, Seventh Day Adventists, Methodists and Baptists.
Kazakhstan's new religion laws infringe on the religious freedom of its people and deserve immediate attention from the U.S. Department of State. Without involvement from the international community, life for religious minorities in Kazakhstan is certain to continue on this downhill trajectory.
International Christian Concern is a Washington, D.C.-based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides awareness, advocacy and assistance to the worldwide persecuted church. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441 or visit www.persecution.org.
c. 2012 International Christian Concern. Used with permission.
Publication date: December 8, 2012