February 1, 2008
Kazakhstan Raids Another Presbyterian Church
The international community failed to call Kazakhstan’s bluff on religious rights.
We reported last November on the raids on Grace Church, a network of Korean Presbyterian church-plants, in Kazakhstan. The country’s secret police (formerly KGB, now KNB) are back at it, Forum 18 reports. Last weekend they raided the Grace Church in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan.
Leaks through the media allege that church members are engaged in spying, appropriating church members' property, failing to file financial information, inciting inter-religious enmity and holding illegal drugs, even though no-one has ever been brought before a criminal court.
Vyacheslav Kalyuzhny, the Deputy Human Rights Ombudsperson, says the Church has not complained to his office. "People are not persecuted on religious grounds in Kazakhstan," he claimed.
The claim, while absurd, has worked in the recent past. In November, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) elected Kazakhstan to be the chair, beginning in 2010:
Minister Tazhin also emphasized that religious tolerance is highly valued in Kazakhstan, and that the country "enthusiastically supports the establishment of the three CiO personal representatives on religious tolerance: for Anti-Semitism, Muslims, and for Christians and Other Religions."
In 2009, Kazakhstan will host the third Congress on World and Traditional Religions in Astana.
Kazakhstanis are wonderfully welcoming and friendly people (I lived there for a couple years), and Central Asia has a long tradition of tolerance going back to the Silk Road. But the government has pretty much scrapped that tradition. It seems far more worried about Borat than the possibility of censure from the international community over degenerating religious rights.