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|New Religious Law Aborted for the Present|
|Constitutional Court says ‘no’ to the restriction of missionary activities
The Constitutional Court of Kazakhstan has overturned the new religion law passed by parliament in November. President Nursultan Nazarbayev now has one month to respond to the ruling. According to media reports, the law supported the restriction of activities by religious minorities. Forty-seven percent of the Central-Asian country’s 15,2 million residents are Muslims, and 44,2% are Russian-Orthodox. Roughly 1,2% are Roman-Catholic, and 0,6% belong to a Protestant denomination. The remainder belongs to no confession or to another, even smaller religious grouping. The new law gave the government the right to restrict missionary activities and forbid religious literature. Stricter penalties for non-authorised religious practice were included. The law had been criticised by the European Union, the ‘Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’ (OSCE) and numerous human-rights organisations. In 2010 Kazakhstan is scheduled to become the first former Soviet republic to take over chairmanship of the OSCE. Human-rights advocates demand the country must beforehand guarantee freedom of speech and religion.
Franz Tiessen (Saran), President of the country’s Baptist Union, attributes the Constitutional Court’s decision to the prayers of the faithful. In a letter addressed to a friend in Germany and made available to the European Baptist Press Service (EBPS), he wrote: ‘The Lord has once again demonstrated his power. Thanks be to God! We thank all those who have prayed with us.’ We want to deal wisely with the new freedom presented to us by God.
Approximately 290 congregations with more than 11.000 members belong to the Baptist Union of Kazakhstan. Due to an allegedly too-liberal theology on the part of the European Baptist Federation and the Baptist World Alliance, this Union dropped out of both organisations in 2006. Yet the EBPS has been informed that not all pastors are in agreement with this measure, arguing that during periods of crisis, mutual support across all borders is necessary. [Editor: Klaus Rösler for EBF
Source: European Baptist Federation - BWA Regional Office, Nad Habrovkou 3, Jeneralka, CZ-164 00 Praha 6