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Kazakhstan

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Christian literature is heavily controlled in Kazakhstan. Barnabas funded the production of these booklets in the Kazakh language

In April 2013 Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, claimed that “religious freedom is fully secured” in the country. In fact Christians, who comprise at least 25% of the population, endure restrictions on sharing their faith and controls on religious literature. All churches must register with the authorities, who require that cumbersome criteria be fulfilled before registration is granted. Unregistered churches may be subject to raids and church leaders and their members given heavy fines.

One raid, on an Easter Sunday service in 2013 at a home in Zhaskent, was so traumatic that an elderly church member subsequently suffered a heart attack. The church’s leader was fined the equivalent of six months of his pension. The authorities also liquidated a Baptist seminary in 2013, and an unprecedented court ruling ordered the destruction of Christian literature that had been seized from an evangelist. This ruling was later overturned.

In a particularly invidious case, Pastor Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev was convicted of harming the health of a church member, despite her appeals to the contrary. In February 2014, the 67-year-old pastor was given a four-year prison term suspended for three years. He was also ordered to pay his supposed victim “moral damages” of two million Tenge (£6,500; US$10,800). He was alleged to have caused psychological harm to Lyazzat Almenova, though she repeatedly protested his innocence.

New laws on religious practice were introduced in October 2011 that tightened controls. A complex system of registration was established for all religious organisations, and unregistered activity was banned; all groups were required to re-register by October 2012 or face liquidation. A group must have at least 50 members to be registered, and many small churches were stripped of their legal status in early 2012. Larger congregations have also been denied re-registration on various grounds. One group of churches that refuses on principle to register with the authorities has been warned that members’ homes that are used for worship will be confiscated if the Christians continue to meet there.

Even registered churches are subject to controls and interference with their activities. Their registered status seems to provide little protection against raids, fines and the confiscation of literature.

“Non-traditional” religious groups have recently reported increased discrimination. Converts from Islam also experience pressure from their families and communities to renounce their faith.

More than half of Kazakhstan’s population are Muslims, but the country also has a large Russian Orthodox community. Yet the number of (known) believers among ethnic Kazakhs, a traditionally Muslim people group who make up just over 50% of the population, grew from none in 1990 to as many as 15,000 by 2010.

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    • Please pray for Christians in northern Cameroon, where Boko Haram is terrorising people, especially Christians and security forces, just as in neighbouring Nigeria. The Islamist militants openly declare themselves to be Boko Haram, and issue threats by letter, including to pastors telling them they must leave. Two pastors were killed in the village of Assigashia on the night of 25-26 August, hich has caused great distress and consternation. The Cameroonian Christians ask for prayer that God will bring peace and security, that the kidnapped will be released, that believers will stand firm despite being targeted, that God will comfort the traumatised, and that church leaders will know how to prepare their people for persecution. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 7 hours ago

    • “The cathedral in Damaturu now has only about 40 members instead of 450 members. The church in Potiskum now has only about 15 members instead of 500 members… the southern part of [Yobe state] is still very dangerous and most of the churches here have closed down.” A senior church leader in Nigeria wrote to Barnabas Fund in August about the impact on the Church of Boko Haram’s violence. Nevertheless Christians were still holding worship services every Sunday, discipling the young people and even commissioning pastors. Praise God for such perseverance, and pray that a Christian presence and witness may remain in north-east Nigeria. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Oct 2014 00:00

    • Heavenly Father, we pray to You for our Christian brothers and sisters in north-eastern Nigeria, who are so vulnerable in the face of attacks by Boko Haram militants. We remember especially those who used to live in Madagali, in Adamawa state, until their town was seized by Boko Haram two months ago. We think of those who were betrayed into the hands of Boko Haram by their neighbours pointing out Christian homes or places where Christians had hidden. We bring before You those who saw their menfolk beheaded, and women forcibly converted to Islam. We cry out to You to intervene and bring an end to the murderous attacks by Boko Haram. We pray for all the thousands of Nigerian Christians who have suffered in similar attacks that they will not lose hope or faith in You, but will know Your peace which passes understanding. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Oct 2014 00:00

    • Pray for a pastor in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania whose home was attacked on 17 May; two of his children were injured. When he went to report the incident to the police, he was falsely accused of raping a young woman who had left Islam to follow Christ. The pastor had taken her into his home, along with four other converts, after she was thrown out by her family; it was they who made the accusation against him. He has faced much opposition because of his fruitful outreach to Muslims, and several failed attempts have been made to frame him with false accusations. Pray that the sovereign Lord will help him and that he will not be disgraced (Isaiah 50:7-9). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Oct 2014 00:00

    • A church on Mafia Island, part of the Zanzibar archipelago, was attacked on 9 May by around 80 young Muslim men armed with arrows and knives. The church members, who are mainly converts from Islam, had gathered for their weekly overnight prayer session when the attackers appeared, shouting “death to ritad’i” (those who leave Islam). They set fi re to the church, leaving the interior in ruins, and then went in search of the pastor, but he was not at home. The incident followed a bomb blast at another church in Mwanza in mainland Tanzania on 5 May, in which a worker at the church rest house was critically injured. Pray that the authorities will effectively address the increasing incidence of attacks against churches. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Oct 2014 00:00

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