OSCE examines Kazakhstan’s freedom of religion report
Freedom of religion in Kazakhstan was on the agenda at the annual meeting of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Warsaw, 12 September, as the result, several recommendations have been voiced for the Kazakhstani authorities.
Kazakhstan’s capital and trend-setter Astana has been commended by the international community for its prominent architecture and juxtaposition of religious institutions such as mosques, synagogues and churches. The rest of the country of more than 18 million follow the suit.
According to an independent report by the head of the Public Association Center for the Study of Human Rights Akzhayik Kanagat Nurmukhambetov, (Compliance with Kazakhstan’s Human Rights Freedom of Religion), the Kazakhstani authorities are not interested in “restricting certain religious organizations if their activities do not contradict the law and do not violate the interests of other citizens, whose rights are also guaranteed by the state.”
Today, Kazakhstan is a home of more than 3,500 religious entities from 18 different religions representing interests of over 130 nationalities living in the country.
There are 2,592 Islamic institutions, 589 Protestant, 337 Orthodox, 85 Catholic, 60 Jehovah’s Witnesses, 26 New Apostolic Church, 8 Krishna Consciousness Societies, 7 Jewish, 6 Baha'i, 2 Buddhist as well as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and the Unification Church (Moonies).
However, Nurmukhambetov noted, in some cases, the policy of the authorities is condemned by the conservative Kazakhstanis for allowing exercising untraditional religions.
Nurmukhambetov explained, in the near future there will be a “prejudiced attitude towards new religious trends in the Kazakhstani society because of the devotion of the local population to traditional culture and faiths -- Islam and the Orthodox church.”
According to the report by Nurmukhambetov, a representative of the New Apostolic Church in Taraz (there are about 50 parishioners since 1992), Igor Zvegintsev, said that during the registering procedure of his institution he had encountered no problems, and was provided with all possible assistance from the authorities.
Zvegintsev said “freedom of religion is respected in Kazakhstan, there are all conditions for satisfying religious and spiritual needs, no one oppresses us, on the contrary the department for religious affairs calls us to ask whether everything is all right.”
“We have enough freedom to conduct religious activities. The necessary books in our everyday life undergo religious examinations without difficulty. I do not think that anyone is limited in anything,” said Pastor of the Community of Eternal Gospel in Karaganda (there are more than 200 parishioners since 1995) Sergey Serov.
The government has created legislative conditions for the implementation of religious activities. However, some restrictive measures ensure security and protect the rights of citizens.
“The reason for that, primarily, are the increased threats of terrorism that have already occurred in Kazakhstan (in 2011, due to a number of such antisocial manifestations, 18 people were killed and five injured, in 2012 three were killed and one injured, in 2016 15 were killed and 35 injured). About 1,000 Kazakhstanis went to Afghanistan and Syria to participate in terrorist activities,” the report said.
After having conducted the independent report, Nurmukhambetov made several recommendations for the authorities of Kazakhstan.
He advised to ensure a non-selective right to freedom of religion, guaranteeing a liberated approach from the arbitrary application of legislation in this field; to amend the normative acts aimed at reducing administrative fines imposed on believers; to refuse any form of discrimination against religious associations, regardless of status and state registration; to continue to create conditions for constructive dialogue between subjects of religious relations and the state.