(Image courtesy of SGA)
Kazakhstan (MNN) ― Joel Griffith with the Slavic Gospel Association says they're celebrating the completion of a difficult feat in the nation ranked # 45 on the Open Doors World Watch List. Two of the churches supplied by SGA have obtained successful re-registration with the government.
"From SGA's standpoint, we're happy to hear that," said Griffith. "But obviously from a broader, religious freedom aspect, we are concerned.
"One group that has freedom today might not be granted that freedom tomorrow."
That's because officials are starting to crackdown on religious groups lacking a history of being recognized by the Kazakhstani government. Forum 18 News Service reports that shortly before the October 25 deadline, members of one Protestant community were pressured by authorities to withdraw their signatures from their church's re-registration application.
Forum 18's report went on to describe continued actions taken against religious communities by state-backed organizations. One group in Oral held a meeting for school children and university students, discussing why young people join "non-traditional religious cults" and how the trend could be stopped.
Students were also "instructed to follow Kazakh people's traditional Hanafi Muslim movement," said Forum 18.
"In the Central Asian countries that are largely Muslim-dominated, we've seen significant crackdowns," said Griffith. "That is something we want to keep an eye on."
He added that just because SGA-supported churches made it successfully through re-registration, that doesn't mean they should relax their guard.
"They need to be very careful," he stated. "In Kazakhstan, even with the registered churches, there have been difficulties. For instance, children's ministries, summer camps, [and] things like that often have to be done very discreetly."
While it's still too early to forecast the law's implications for SGA-supported churches, Griffith says there are plenty of reasons to pray. Pray for churches as they go through the re-registration process in Kazakhstan, and pray that the Gospel would not be hindered.
"Certainly pray that the resources would come in that we [can] send to help these churches as they advance the Gospel," said Griffith.
SGA partners have significantly helped evangelical churches in Kazakhstan through a variety of ministries, including support of the Almaty Bible Institute. SGA also supports children's ministries, summer camps, and national church-planting missionaries in Kazakhstan.