Kazakhstan is the 9th largest country in the world. It has a population of just over 18 million of whom nearly 70% are Muslim, 26% are Christian, and 4% are other religions or none. Although landlocked, it has a large seashore on the Caspian Sea. It has vast mineral resources including a large oil and gas industry which makes it economically dominant in the area.
Although constitutionally a secular state, the government of Kazakhstan, like its Communist predecessors, appears to be intent on exercising greater and greater control over its citizens.There has been a steady curtailing of the freedoms of religious groups under a new Religion Law passed in 2011. The majority Muslim population is largely unaffected by this tightening of regulations, being seen as the indigenous faith of the country.
Christian churches however are seen as a foreign influence, and a danger to national security and stability. All churches are monitored and their activities are very restricted. The Russian Orthodox Church which is the largest, caters mainly for people of Russian descent, and is largely tolerated . Members of the Protestant churches are particularly targeted. It is increasingly difficult for these churches to register with the authorities, leading to an increase in un-registered and non traditional churches. These are then frequently raided and those arrested fined, often with short terms of imprisonment, especially for their leaders. Christian literature including Bibles are often confiscated.
Christians who have converted from Islam face a double persecution. Not only are they targets of the state, but they suffer even more from their families, as they are seen as betrayers of the faith and of their ethnic traditions.
Despite this many are turning to Christ and the churches are growing.
As one Muslim convert put it. “ For the first time I heard about a God who loved me. I never knew that the almighty God loved me personally, even though I am not perfect. That thought seriously never entered my mind. I always felt guilty. I felt I had to earn His attention.”
• Give thanks to God for the faith of Christians in Kazakhstan under these increasingly difficult conditions, especially those converting from Islam.
• Pray that they will be able to practice their faith with patience, fortitude and joy knowing God’s presence in their lives on a personal level.
• Pray for God’s protection and guidance for all Christians as they go about their ordinary lives showing his love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness to all they meet.
• Pray for those who are in prison for good treatment and a quick release.
• Pray for the easing of censorship of religious material and that the registration process for churches will be made easier.