Catholics of Kazakhstan: Pray for peace
Despite unrest, the faithful gathered to celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. Don Trezzani: desperate people from the province hired to attack the palaces of power in Almaty. Tajiks and Uzbeks seen in the city during clashes. Internal power struggle and a definite plan behind the revolt.
Rome (AsiaNews) - In the convulsive days that Kazakhstan is experiencing, the small Catholic communities are apprehensive, but without particular problems, following the evolution of the situation. In the capital Nur-Sultan there have been no disturbances, as confirmed by local Catholics, and on Sunday, January 9, the community gathered regularly in the cathedral to celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, despite the prohibitions on gathering that prohibit groups of more than three people.
The Kazakhs are witnessing the impressive showdown in the ruling apparatus following the resignation of the government, which is expected to be replaced with a new team on January 11.
A sweeping of teh board is taking place at all levels: after the arrest of the head of the Security Services (Knb) Karim Masimov it would seem that a dead colonel has been found in his apartment. According to many observer, it is clear that it is not over, and it is very difficult to make predictions about the future of the country.
The uncertainties are confirmed by a telephone interview with AsiaNews (internet is still blocked and is connected two hours at night) with Don Guido Trezzani (see photo 1), an Italian missionary who has spent many years in Kazakhstan, where he directs Caritas in Almaty.
The large southern city of almost two million inhabitants was the epicenter of the clashes; Don Guido says that "a crowd of desperate people was gathered from the surrounding towns and villages", as he himself has witnessed, living in a "village of children" in the province, 20 kilometers from the metropolis.
The small towns of the province of Almaty have been the reservoir for the recruitment of desperate people, gathered by well-trained people armed to the teeth, who offered money to go and attack the city center and the palaces of power. This is how the occupation of the presidential residence came about, defended by young boys from the military academy overwhelmed by angry people with weapons of all kinds: "A horde of 20 thousand or more people is not something that can be organized in a day, nor in a week", says Don Guido.
Although the news is fragmented and impossible to verify, it became clear that there was a well-defined design behind the revolt.
The protests over high gas prices, which began in Zhanaozen on January 3, were in all likelihood spontaneous, and have mobilized drivers and workers who are very connected to the issue, even if we cannot be completely sure of this. In Almaty the protest was ridden with a well-defined plan:
"Many foreigners were seen, mostly from neighboring countries, such as Tajiks and Uzbeks", so it was a design from the outside as President Tokaev himself claimed.
As Don Guido recalls, "an episode from a couple of years ago came back to mind, when a weapons depot exploded in these parts, many of which were stolen; there were people going around with Kalashnikovs and various automatic weapons, which you don't buy in a store."
Perhaps there really is an internal power feud going on, now however everything is under control also due to the presence of the Russian-led forces of the Csto (Collective Security Treaty Organization). "We still celebrated all the Masses, even though many stayed home out of fear," Trezzani concludes.
Msgr. Adelio Dell'Oro (see photo 2), the Italian bishop of Karaganda, also assures that beyond Almaty and a few other cities, all is fairly quiet. "We pray for the problems to be resolved peacefully, because violence and revolutions have never created a new society or world," the bishop warns.
He describes the solidarity amid a precarious existence, since even the telephones do not always work: "I am in contact with Silvia and Lucia [two Catholics] from Almaty, they are well, even if the situation is not calm, because terrorist acts have now passed to vandalism. The [riotors] smash shop windows and steal in many places".
Msgr. Dell'Oro explains his concern for the disabled children being cared for at the Almaty; they are deprived of special foods and medicines they need. The faithful have asked for the cooperation of the Social Assistance Center of the municipality. "There is a state of emergency until January 19, you can not go out from 11 pm to 7 am; pray too, so that the problems are resolved with a true dialogue, in peace and justice for the common good."