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Bible Burning Spreads to Another Former Soviet State

(Updated) After court-sanctioned Bible destruction in March, Kazakhstan is proposing new regulations to limit religious freedom.
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Update (May 6): Forum 18 reports that Kazakhstan's proposed State Programme to Counter Religious Extremism and Terrorism will severely restrict religious freedom in the country. The 21-page document contains 74 recommended measures to tighten government involvement in religion, including state oversight of "publication and distribution of all religious works, sharing faith, foreign religious study and places of worship."

Forum 18 also reported in late April that the Agency for Religious Affairs has instructed members of faith communities in Kazakhstan not to talk about their faith or be reported to the police.

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Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Russia have more in common than just shared borders in Central Asia: All three are states where recently "courts have ordered religious literature to be destroyed," Forum 18 reports.

Previous reports from Forum 18 have detailed routine "Bible destruction" in Uzbekistan and destruction of Islamic books in Russia. But the newest report on Kazakhstan suggests that a recent court order to 'destroy' 121 books (mostly Bibles) confiscated from a Baptist could be the first-ever religious book burning in the country.

"Forum 18 can recall no other court decision in Kazakhstan ordering religious literature to be destroyed," the organization stated.

But Kazakhstan slowly has been restricting religious freedom since 2011, when it enacted a revised religion law designed to curb extremism. The clampdown "intensified" in 2012, when the Kazakh government banned religious groups with less than 50 members–a total of 579 churches and religious communities.

CT previously covered Kazakhstan as the site of "Central Asia's great awakening." Just a few years later, though, CT also reported the troubling trend of religious "freedom, growth, repression, and now uncertainty" in former Soviet regions.

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