They Cry in Silence Jul/Aug 2005
In 1936, Kazakhstan, a state just south of Russia, was incorporated into the Soviet Union. With the Soviet breakup in 1991, Kazakhstan became an independent nation, which allowed for a religious renewal and the freedom to propagate the faith. The country is predominantly Muslim (47 percent). Russian Orthodoxy runs a close second at 44 percent. protestants constitute only a sliver of the population at two percent, and seven percent is referred to as “other.”
Since the relatively free exercise of religion began, it was the protestant and “other” groups, with their message of faith in Christ, that began to make significant inroads—inroads viewed as unacceptable by Muslims and the Orthodox hierarchy.
Consequently, the government cracked down on freedom of religion, and one of the first fronts of attack against believers began with the children. It is noteworthy that opponents of the faith are always well aware of the fact that if they can deprive a generation of boys and girls of religious training, they can produce a generation of biblical illiterates whom the state or state religion can easily manipulate. This is precisely what is taking place in Kazakhstan today.
In January officials in a central Kazakhstan town forced schoolchildren to answer questions about their religious beliefs, including whether they attended a place of worship. Although this action was illegal, it followed an earlier directive that banned anyone under age 18 from attending worship services or Sunday school. According to a report by Forum 18 News Service, the Ministry of Education and Science claimed the order was to ensure the security and health of the children.
How interesting that such officials find it beneficial to protect children from attaining the knowledge of God.
Another target was a Baptist-run orphanage in northern Kazakh. Despite the fact that locals considered it the best home in town for orphans, officials closed it down and turned out the 30 children being cared for there. Baptists fear closing Hope orphanage will enable local authorities to seize the building on the pretext that the home was operating without a permit, Forum 18 reported.
The founder of the orphanage said other child-care facilities are allowed to operate without permits and that the real reason for closing Hope is the increasing severity of official state policy against religious believers.
His fear is born out in the planned new restrictions banning unregistered religious activity, along with unapproved missionary activity. In addition, all religious literature must now be approved by local officials. A group of protestant churches complained. “It is the former KGB that lays down religious policy in the country,” a human rights activist told Forum 18.
A sad footnote, one that is becoming all too familiar in the former Soviet commonwealths, is that an Orthodox priest expressed joy at the crackdown. Forum 18 quoted him: “Now protestants and religious missionaries will not be so free in their activities in Kazakhstan.”
The message is that religion without spiritual reality can as quickly become a weapon in the hands of evildoers as guns and knives. The results, however, are much more devastating.