HRWF (17.08.2017) – For the first time in Kazakhstan, the priest of an Orthodox parish is charged for violating the law “On Religious Activities and Religious Associations.”

End of July and early August, Fr Vladimir Vorontsov, from the village of Merke (Zhambyl region of Kazakhstan), organized a ten-day camp in the mountains for a group of Orthodox children and some parents. On 2 August, representatives of the local administration, the police and members of the National Security Committee (KNB) invaded the camp for inspection. They had been told about the priest’s spiritual retreat by an anonymous call.

Initially, the priest was rudely accused of extremism, detaining children illegally and smuggling religious literature. The law enforcement forces tried to interrogate the children about their activities and only a call to the deputy head of the regional administration slowed down their ardour. They left, allowing the camp participants to continue their vacation.

However, two days later Fr Vorontsov received a protocol outlining his violation of the administrative code and on 6 August the court summoned him for holding religious meetings in inappropriate places.

Under the law on religious activities, any ritual can only be held in registered places for worship. For this reason, religious minorities – Protestants, Hare Krishna worshippers, non-mainline Muslim groups – are systematically subjected to fines or administrative arrests, even for Bible studies or prayers in private apartments. However, until now, representatives of Orthodox churches had never been arrested for allegedly violating “On Religious Activities and Religious Associations” as Orthodoxy is considered as one of the traditional religions of Kazakhstan.

According to Vladimir Vorontsov, the regional administration for religious affairs summoned Orthodox clergymen of various parishes on 10 August and rudely admonished them.

There was no official reaction of the Metropolitan (Bishop) District of the Russian Orthodox Church in Kazakhstan about the incident with Vladimir Vorontsov.

A number of parents complained with the Consul General of the Russian Federation who was very surprised and promised to support their claim.

The Union of Orthodox Citizens claimed demanded to draw back all charges against Vladimir Vorontsov.

Official statistics about the religious situation in Kazakhstan

In June 2017, the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, approved the Concept of State Policy in the Religious Sphere of the Country for 2017-2020. Interfax reported its content saying that, as of 1 January 2017, there are 3,658 religious associations and their branches representing 18 denominations registered in the country.

The most numerous among them are the Islam of the Hanafi School and Orthodox Christianity. There are also Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist and other communities.

3,464 religious buildings are registered in the republic: 2,550 mosques, 294 Orthodox and 109 Catholic churches, 495 Protestant churches and prayer houses, seven synagogues, two Buddhist temples, seven prayer houses for the “Society for Krishna Consciousness” and the Baha’i community.

Operating mosques are the property of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Kazakhstan.

The Orthodox Church of Kazakhstan has the second largest number of followers. It comprises 325 religious entities, including 301 parishes, nine dioceses and 294 religious buildings, as well as the Metropolitan district in Kazakhstan.

Other Orthodox churches include the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, the Pomor Orthodox Church and three Old Believers churches.

The Catholic Church in Kazakhstan is represented by 85 religious communities, five of them belong to the Greek Catholic Church.

There are 667 Protestant communities in the country, the largest of them are the churches of Pentecostals, Evangelical Christian-Baptists, Presbyterians, Seventh-day Adventists and Lutherans.

There are also 531 registered missionaries – in total, they represent 13 religious denominations: 257 are Roman Catholic and 84 are Orthodox – citizens of Russia.

Source : Fergana News Agency, 15 August 2017