CHRISTIANS IN KAZAKHSTAN FINED FOR PRAYING WITHOUT PERMISSION
Anti-terrorism officers assisted by local police raided two Baptist house churches in Taraz, Kazakhstan, during worship services on Feb. 10 and 17, fining the worshippers for conducting prayers without government permission.
Three people were fined between one and two months’ worth of average wages and two other worshippers were also fined different amounts The Express reported.
Those attending the churches were warned against publicly practicing their faith – or risk further punishment.
It’s the latest suppression of religious freedom in the former Soviet republic, according to the newspaper – and an example of the unrelenting crackdown on Christianity in the Muslim-majority country.
The house churches are members of the Council of Churches Baptists which refuses to pay fines handed down to punish those who practice religion without permission.
Balgabek Myrzayev, acting head of the social harmony committee, which monitors the practice of religion told The Express he was not aware of the raids or fines.
“Our laws don’t ban praying,” he said but defended punishing people for practicing their faith without government approval.
“Our laws don’t allow unregistered religious organizations and I don’t have the right to change the law,” he told the newspaper.
The latest raids follow a recent Kazakhstan court’s ruling that fined another church in the Council of Churches Baptists.
Kazakhstan is listed as number 34 in Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List of the Top 50 Countries Where It’s Most Dangerous to Follow Jesus.
The government is constantly working to maintain and increase its control over society, using surveillance, raids, and detentions. Christians are under nearly constant surveillance, and the threat of militant Islam is used as an excuse to restrict freedoms, resulting in worsening conditions for the Christian minority, according to the Open Doors USA website.