For the first time since Kazakhstan gained independence in 1991, a court has ordered religious literature to be destroyed, according to Forum 18, which is based in Oslo, Norway. Forum 18 reported that 121 pieces of religious literature mostly in the Kazakh language were taken from a believer in the northern Kazakhstan city of Shchuchinsk.
Vyacheslav Cherkasov reportedly was handing out religious literature on the city streets when police arrested him. and a suitcase full of religious books -- Bibles, children's Bibles, books and tracts on the Christian faith -- were confiscated.
The judge fined Cherkasov a month's wages on March 5 and ordered the literature -- Bibles, children's Bibles, books and tracts on the Christian faith -- be destroyed.
"Most likely the books would be burnt," an official told Forum 18.
Authorities accused Cherkasov of violating Kazkahstan's religion law, which was rewritten in 2011 to include more "religious offenses." Cherkasov is appealing the case.
"We know that religious literature has frequently been confiscated since the new religion law came into force in 2011," human rights defender Yevgeni Zhovtis told Forum 18. "But I've never heard that religious literature is being destroyed, unless it is extremist.
"This is terrible, terrible!"
This case seems to highlight the fact Kazakhstan is moving back toward its Soviet era, now joining neighboring Russia and Uzbekistan as countries where courts order the destruction of religious literature.
When Kazakhstan's government enacted the revised religion law in 2011, its restrictions seemingly were intended to curb extremism. However, most of its resulting consequences fell on the shoulders of minority Christians.
Last October, a third of all religious groups in Kazakhstan reportedly were shut down in the crackdown on religious freedom. In early 2012, 579 religious groups were banned if they had less than 50 registered members, according to AsiaNews.it. This forced many unregistered Protestant congregations to go "underground," meeting in members' homes. But even there they haven't been safe. Forum 18 frequently reports on Kazakh police raiding homes, the latest incidents occurring in January.
Missions leaders say the situation in Kazakhstan, as Mission Network News put it, "calls for much prayer," including intercession:
-- that Cherkasov's appeal will succeed.
-- for the government to release pressure on Christians so Gospel work could continue and for the crackdown on religion in Kazakhstan to end.
-- that the Lord will protect His followers in Kazakhstan and give them boldness.
Adapted from Mission Network News (www.mnnonline.org), a news service based in Grand Rapids, Mich., dedicated to keeping Christians informed on evangelical mission activity around the world. Used by permission. For the full Forum 18 report on the court-ordered destruction of religious literature in Kazakhstan, go to http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1813.
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