In March a group of elderly believers gathered to celebrate Easter in a private home in eastern Kazakhstan. A local ministry reported that seven police officers raided the apartment and brought two drunk men with them as witnesses. Without presenting any identification, the officers began to video-record a search of the dwelling.
Three days later the nine individuals were called to the police station for interrogation. Police asked them to sign a report stating they were engaged in illegal religious activities and the storage and sale of drugs. After refusing to sign, they were threatened by the authorities who said they would place the individuals in jail overnight. The Christians contacted the regional prosecutor’s office for help.
Their trials took place in mid-April. Several of the believers were sentenced to pay fines of $577 each, to be paid within a month. One believer was fined $1,154. The amount in fines for the group totaled $4,616.
Before the law of religious activity, Christians in Kazakhstan could meet privately without any need of registration with the government. This group of believers has applied for registration twice but was denied because they are fewer than 50 people.
Christian Aid assists a ministry in Kazakhstan that sends out more than 200 missionaries to share the gospel in their homeland as well as other countries in Central Asia. During the past two decades the ministry has planted over 120 churches.
- For the government to permit churches with congregations of less than 50 people to also be eligible for official registration
- For the elimination of unjust and exorbitant fines assessed on believers who are arrested for holding religious gatherings. Sometimes these fines equal three or more years of an individual’s salary.