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Evangelicals fined and churches raided in Kazakhstan

In just 2 moths, police raided 4 worship services and issued 7 fines for leading and participating in “illegal missionary activity”.

FUENTES Forum 18 News AUTOR 5/Evangelical_Focus 24 DE MAYO DE 2024 11:27 h
Police raid Shu Baptist Church, 28 April 2024./ Baptist Council of Churches via [link]Forum 18[/link]

Police raided four worship services at three local Protestant churches in the Shu district of southern Kazakhstan, in March and April.

“What has been happening in the last month in Shu has aroused serious concern among evangelical communities, which have experienced persecution for their religious activity”, local Baptist Council of Churches said in an statement in April.


Three raids and three fines in Shu

Police raided Shu Baptist church on 14 April, where they just explained the necessity of registering the church, reported human rights group Forum 18.

They came back on 28 April, claiming they had received a call from neighbours, although “none of them had called, as became clear later after talking to the neighbours”, pointed out the local Baptists.

Church members explained that two officers listened to the whole first sermon, while the others asked members to write statements on why they were there.

The next day police fined 3 church members, including 2 sons of the pastor, with 184,600 Tenge (385 Euros) each, accused of “participation in an unregistered, halted, or banned religious community or social organisation”.

Officials also questioned the church's 77-year-old lead pastor Andrei Boiprav, and accused him of “illegal missionary activity”. He refused to sign the record of an offence. Now his case is pending in Shu district Court without a date.

Police also raided another Protestant church meeting in the village called The Children of God. Further details on this raid were not disclosed.


Another three fines

Police also raided the Baptist church in the nearby village of Konayeva, on March 3, just before the worship service was due to begin.

According to court records, they filmed the meeting and “ignored the requests to stop filming and to explain their actions”.

Officials once again claimed that they had received “an anonymous call with a request to check what kind of meeting it was”. Lead pastor Valter Mirau wrote a statement explaining that church members meet voluntarily.

Mirau and two other church members were summoned and fined with 369,200 Tenge (770 Euros) and 184,600 Tenge (385 Euros), for “participating in an unregistered, halted, or banned religious community or social organisation” and for “leading” it.

All of them paid the fines and appealed in three court hearings in April and May, but judges rejected the cases.

Mirau was also accused of illegal missionary activity, as well as “the use of religious materials without a positive assessment from a religious expert, and spreading the teachings of an unregistered religious group”.

The pastor asked for a “just decision” but the judge found him guilty and fined him with 369,200 Tenge (770 Euros). He lost a subsequent April 30 appeal.


Prosecuted for preaching

Sergei Orlov, was also accused of illegal missionary activity after speaking of women in the Bible to a group of church members who were meeting in a private house.

A woman who filmed the meeting and reported it to the police, asking for the church to be investigated.

Orlov appealed, but the judge denied it on April 19, and the court case against Orlov is still pending.

According to Forum 18, there were 203 administrative prosecutions against individuals and organizations exercising freedom of religion in 2023. Some 172 of those were punished, mostly with large fines and convictions.


“The police are to blame”

For Saule Baibatshayeva, an official in charge of overseeing non-Muslim communities at the Religious Affairs Department of the Zhambyl Regional administration, “the police are to blame, they take their own measures under the Administrative Code, there was no order from us”.

Baibatshayeva told Forum 18 that her department always defended believers, although she did not disclose how the local administration would challenge the police raids and fines.


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