The raids on Christian churches and homes in Kazakhstan are a "backward step" for the country, considering that President Nursultan Nazarbayev released positive remarks about Protestant Christianity, a local religious freedom expert remarks.
Religious Freedom and Business Foundation research fellow and country director Kevin White says the pressure that the government puts on Christians in the country presents a stark contrast from the positive comments of President Nazarbayev on the Protestant community. The expert comments on this in light of the raids that happened during the Holy Week, the World Watch Monitor details.
On March 25, Christians' gathering to celebrate Good Friday in Almaty was interrupted by raids at five buildings of the New Life Pentecostal Church. Six of the church leaders' homes were also raided by authorities on that day. On Easter Monday, police also raided the church office and confiscated files and other items. Forum 18 says they seized 54 computers, around $280 in cash, and financial documents.
A local Christian, who spoke under conditions of anonymity, said Pastor Maxim Maximov took his wife Larisa and fled Kazakhstan after he was fined US$200,000 for an alleged administrative error. The allegation was linked with his role in the distribution of Gideons New Testaments to Russia. On March 25, the pastor posted a Facebook message asking for prayers for his family and co-pastors because of the ongoing persecution in his home country.
"I NEED YOUR HELP. THIS IS AN URGENT PRAYER REQUEST. Please pray for my family and all pastors of Almaty New Life Church as there are police searches at my and their homes," said Pastor Maximov in his Facebook post. "THIS IS WHAT'S GOING ON RIGHT NOW! There are serious persecution of Christians in Kazakhstan have begun!"
Earlier this year, Worthy News reported about the arrest of Christian convert Yklas Kabduakasov after he ditched his Islamic faith. He was originally given a restricted freedom sentence, but the judge later changed the sentence to two years in a prison labor camp.
For White, such happenings destroy the image of a free and tolerant country that Kazakhstan is trying to project to the West. After the progress that the country has made to campaign for religious freedom, the church raids and ongoing persecution are such a shame, he adds.