World Watch List: 35
Leader: President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
Population: 18.5 million
Christian: 4.8 million
Main Religion: Islam
Source of Persecution: Dictatorial Paranoia
Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Central Asia through:
- Literature Distribution
- Bible, Children and Youth, and Vocational Training
- Women’s Ministry
- Advocacy and Awareness Training (SSTS)
- Social-Economic Development
- Emergency aid relief
”Because we live in close communities every person is under control. If somebody changes his faith it’s a betrayal of his community. They say, ‘You started to believe in the Russian God and many problems are coming’. So, that’s why they kicked me out of the community.”
– Bahtor (pseudonym), a Christian in Kazakhstan
Source of persecution: Dictatorial paranoia / Islamic oppression
Illegal and suppressed
All religious activities outside of the state’s control are illegal and suppressed. Churches have to be registered in order to meet for worship, but it is difficult to get registered, so they meet secretly. These meetings are frequently raided, and those present will be arrested, fined or imprisoned. Distributing Christian literature or sharing their faith can also result in fines. At least 19 Christians were arrested in the WWL2020 reporting period.
Seen as a tool
Officially, Kazakhstan is a democratic and secular nation. Like the other Central Asian countries, 70 years under as part of the Soviet Union has deeply influenced the government. It seeks to restrict all religions, including Christianity and Islam. Islam, because of the threat of militant groups, and Christianity as it is seen as a tool of the West to destroy the current regime.
The persecuted but growing church
The country has the largest number of Christians in the region, due to the presence of Russian Orthodox Christians in the northern provinces. They make up 90% of the Christian population, while indigenous Kazakh Christians number around 15,000. Just 30 years ago, this number was practically zero.
Russian Orthodox churches experience the least problems from the government because they do not usually attempt to make contact with the Kazakh population. It is the indigenous Christians with a Muslim background who are bearing the brunt of persecution both at the hands of the state and from family, friends and community, particularly in the countryside. Believers often keep their faith secret. But those who are discovered may be locked up by their families for long periods, beaten and may eventually be expelled from their communities. Local mullahs also preach against them.
- For protection for Kazakh Christian converts, and also that they will stand strong in the faith.
- For wisdom for pastors and leaders who are leading secret churches and believers from a Muslim background, to know how they can build them up in the faith.
- That the government authorities or Muslim relatives of Christians who are persecuting the church will have an encounter with Jesus themselves and come to know Him as Lord and Saviour.