How many Christians are there in Kazakhstan?
There are 4.8 million Christians in Kazakhstan – about a quarter of the country’s almost 19 million people. The majority of citizens are Muslim.
How are Christians persecuted in Kazakhstan?
Christian freedom in Kazakhstan is severely restricted under legislation dating back to September 2011.
Surveillance, raids on meetings, fines and arrests are part of the fabric of Christian life, with the authorities using the threat of Islamic extremism to tighten its control on religious freedom. The past year has seen several believers face fines for selling Christian literature and objects. The Russian Orthodox churches experience the least problems, as they don’t tend to initiate contact with the Kazakh population.
When church gatherings are raided, and the church leaders (mostly men) are interrogated, fined or imprisoned, this not only impacts the leader and their family, it also engenders fear among the local church community.
Christian men face challenges elsewhere, too. Those involved in compulsory military service, and therefore placed in a highly controlled environment, are further exposed to persecution. Meanwhile, converts to Christianity from Islam could experience verbal abuse, beatings and loss of financial support. The ability to earn a living – either employed or self-employed – is also put at great risk.
Although Kazakh law gives equal rights to men and women, gender equality has not been achieved in practice, in large part due to traditionalist views that consider women to be subservient to men. Female converts to Christianity are at greater risk of suffering physical and verbal abuse, harassment, threats, house arrest and forced marriage. Christian women can also be targeted as a means of persecuting their husbands.
“The worst possible scenario is that the church will be closed, and several people may be jailed.” John, whose church was falsely charged
What’s life like for Christians in Kazakhstan?
John* is a member of Shanyrak church in Nur-Sultan. His church was charged by the police in February 2021, accused of insulting the feelings of Muslims.
“This is a very serious charge and has difficult consequences,” John said. “We teach in our church to respect other religions. Our goal is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ without blaming or judging others. We are still waiting for an investigation from the police.
“Meanwhile laws are changing in Kazakhstan. It will be much more difficult to meet in the future. And we still have the possible scenario that the church will be closed, and several people may be jailed.”
Sadly, John’s experience is symptomatic of the way Christian freedom in Kazakhstan is severely hindered by state surveillance and regulation.
*Name changed for security reasons
How can I help Christians in Central Asia?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Kazakhstan. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors strengthens persecuted Christians in Central Asia by providing Bibles and Christian literature, training, socio-economic development projects, practical aid, and women, children and youth ministries.
Heavenly Father, we're aware that many church leaders in Kazakhstan bear a heavy load as they lead their congregations under enormous pressure. Encourage them today and surround them with all the support they need to serve You. Strengthen and protect those facing pressure from their family and community, and boldly use them as they share Jesus with others. Open the eyes of government officials to see the good intentions and fruit of Your people, and use this to extend Your kingdom in Kazakhstan. Amen.