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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #41

KAZAKHSTAN

 

Country rank

41

Persecution score

64.09

Last year’s rank

35

Region

Asia

Persecution Type

Dictatorial paranoia (Strong), Islamic oppression (Medium)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

18,777,000

Christians

4,852,000 (25.8%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Presidential Republic

Leader

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Central Asia through:

• Literature distribution
• Bible, children and youth, and vocational training
• Women’s ministry
• Advocacy and awareness training (SSTS)
• Socio-economic development
• Emergency aid relief

ABOUT KAZAKHSTAN

 What does persecution look like in Kazakhstan?

Persecution in Kazakhstan hasn’t changed much over the years. Legislation dating back to September 2011 restricts the ability to worship freely. Kazakhstan’s government has steadily increased its control over religious expression in the country, which means increased surveillance, raids on church meetings and arrests. It uses the threat of militant Islam to restrict more freedoms.  

Russian Orthodox churches experience the fewest problems from the government because they do not usually attempt to evangelize the Kazakh population. It is the Kazakh Christians from a Muslim background who bear the worst persecution, both at the hands of the state and from family, friends and community. Some converts are locked up by their families for long periods, beaten and may eventually be expelled from their communities. Local mullahs also preach against them. 

In short, pressure is high for Christians across the board. Muslim families, friends and villagers put pressure on converts, while the government imposes many restrictions on the functioning of Christian churches of all denominations and backgrounds. 

How women experience persecution

The traditional Islamic and cultural practices that treat women as inferior to men are the main factor that makes women and girls who convert to Christianity more vulnerable to persecution. Female converts are at greater risk of suffering physical and verbal abuse, harassment, threats and house arrest. A family might keep a convert under house arrest, because the exposure of a convert in the family would bring great shame to the family in the eyes of their community. Such persecution is experienced especially by converts, but Christians who didn’t convert from Islam, yet are married to a non-Christian, may also experience this. 

Forced marriage to a Muslim is not uncommon and is sometimes linked to abduction. Spouses and children of converts in rural areas have also experienced pressure from their families who try to keep them within Islam. Some female Christian converts find the pressure so intense, they are either forced to hide their faith or even leave their homes. Women have very little possibility of living on their own, with few skills, very high unemployment and no outside support from authorities. 

How men experience persecution

Christian men are subject to verbal and physical abuse, accusations and threats, beatings, home detention, rejection and loss of their inheritance. 

When a Christian gathering is raided, the leaders—generally men—bear the brunt of the raid. Obligatory military service for young men provides an extra potential risk of persecution because it is a highly controlled environment in a Muslim-majority state. Further, those Christians who, for religious reasons, do not want to take up arms are still forced to join the army. 

When a Christian man becomes a target of persecution—for instance, by losing his job—his whole family will be affected. If a man is a church leader, any persecution he faces will also affect the congregation he serves, which can easily result in an increase of fear in the church community. 

In addition, men who convert to Christianity are also vulnerable to persecution from their family. Young men who are still students and need financial support risk losing that support if they leave Islam.  

What has changed this year?

Even though Kazakhstan actually fell six spots on the World Watch List for the 2021 report, its persecution level for Christians was largely the same as in previous years. Its World Watch List rank indicates more of a general uptick in persecution across the world than a decrease of pressure or oppression for God’s people in the former Soviet republic. 

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Converts from Islam are particularly vulnerable in Kazakhstan, as they bear the weight of persecution from their families and communities and they receive the general discrimination and pressure put on Christians by the government. Additionally, pressure on converts to Christianity is generally more intense in rural environments.  

How can I help Christians in Kazakhstan

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Kazakhstan?

Open Doors provides immediate aid to Central Asian believers when they are imprisoned, excluded from families and communities, and deprived of livelihood and employment because of their faith in Christ. Open Doors also strengthens the persecuted church in Central Asia primarily through literature and Bible distribution, Christian training, socio-economic projects and prayer support.  

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Central Asia, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

-Pray for Christians—and particularly for church leaders—in Kazakhstan who endure government suspicion and interference in their lives and faith. Pray they would be able to worship without impediment and that church leaders who are detained would be set free. 

-Pray for converts from Islam, that they would be protected from oppression and discrimination from their family, friends and community. 

-Pray God would work through the hearts of the leaders of Kazakhstan. The country has been a single-party government for decades, and control is tight. Ask that God would make known the truth of His Kingdom to the government of Kazakhstan.  

 

A PRAYER FOR KAZAKHSTAN 

Dear Lord, we ask You to pour out Your Holy Spirit anew upon Your people in Kazakhstan. Bless and strengthen those who follow Jesus despite the risk. Make Your face known to believers and unbelievers alike. Help those who are living under constant pressure; let them feel the peace only You can bring. In the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.