Many groups including those who follow minority religions, non-Muslims and non-Russian Orthodox Christians are now facing one of their worst fears that are coming true: state restriction and the annihilation of their religions. Religious persecution is not uncommon in the former Soviet Union satellite nation where the two biggest religions are Islam and Russian Orthodox Christianity.
Many are concerned at the alarming rate that the two proposed pieces of legislation has passed through Kazakhstan’s lower house of Parliament and has now been passed in the upper house, the Senate, of Kazakhstan’s Parliament; all in one day.
Critics have bemoaned the approval of the laws saying that they are going against human rights and worsening the situation the government wishes to defuse.
Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been in power since 1990 and will continue to be according to Kazakhstan’s constitution which gives special status to the first president (conveniently Nazarbayev), had earlier called for more restrictions on the growth of the multitude of religions in the country as an attack on religious extremism, religious driven violence and other potential threats.
He is due to sign the two laws that will go into effect starting immediately after he signs them.
The provisions of the laws force both current and new religious organizations and groups to go through a registration process with the government within the year or be forcibly dissolved by the courts.
Many small groups fear being denied in the registration process but have no choice if they wish to build or set up places of worship such as mosques or churches and practice their religions.
For local registrations, a religious organization must have at least 50 members. If the organization wishes to register at a regional level, they will need at least 500 members in the region while a national registration requires a total of at least 5,000 members in all of the country’s regions.
Of course, these registrations automatically rule out, financially penalize and prosecute those who do not have the required amount of members/worshipers.
The laws also state that missionary activity will be carefully monitored by the government to stamp out any traces of religious extremism and that religious literature will also be undergoing a process monitored by the government.
Moreover, even if religious groups do get past the tough registration, the government of Kazakhstan can determine a permanent location of worship for the groups regardless of complaints.
(Cover Photo: Bogartier Kazakhstan)