“Soviet methods” used on religious minorities
Astana (AsiaNews/F18) – In a conference in Romania against religious discrimination, the Kazak delegate vaunted his countries promotion of religious freedom and tolerance. At the same time in the homeland the Hare Krishna are ordered to tear down their temple and the Jehovah’s witnesses are sentenced for having held a prayer meeting.
June 7th in Bucharest, at a conference sponsored by the Organisation for security and cooperation in Europe, Yeraly Tugzhanov, Chief of the Kazk Committee for religious affairs, said that his country is “an oasis of stability and religious harmony” and that religious discrimination does not exist.
But Forum 18 reveals that on June 5th the Hare Krishna in Seleksia village, Karasai district, was ordered to demolish their temple and dwellings by Sri Vrindavan Dham twon council, as they were deemed to have been illegally built. The commune originally had 66 Hare Krishna-owned homes, plus the 47.7-hectare (118 acre) farm. Amid an international outcry, the authorities bulldozed 13 of the 66 homes in November 2006 and have repeatedly threatened to resume demolitions, most recently in early May. The faithful protest that the temple and homes are not illegal, and the arbitrary treatment at the hands of the authorities who have cut off water and electricity supplies.
On 4 June, six Jehovah's Witnesses in the Caspian Sea port of Atyrau were given huge fines – between 50 and 100 times an average salary - to punish them for their community's unregistered religious activity.
In Kazakistan non registered religious groups are forbidden to meet or hold religious activities. But the Jehovah’s witnesses requested to be registered in 2001 and have so far received no response, even if a January 30th law sets down that all request must be processed within 60 days.
The Osce does not allow limitations on religious freedom and Tughzhanov says his country wants to change the law but has neither said when or how. Since 1992 religious legislation has been amended on various occasions, but always in a more restrictive sense. In the interim there is a rising tide of intolerance towards religious minorities in Kazakhstan, comprising Protestants and Armadi Muslims, to which state media contributes with damaging propaganda.
The Council of Baptist Churches refuses to register, a move it sees as being against the concept of religious freedom and merely a means for the government to gain control. The government sentences faithful who meet to heavy fines. Aleksandr Rozinov, leader of Atyrau’s Jehovah’s witnesses tells F18 that “public official’s mentality is still that of the soviet regime”.