For the first time since the country gained independence in 1991, a court ordered religious literature to be destroyed. According to Forum 18, 121 pieces of religious literature--mostly in the Kazakh language--were taken from a believer in northern Kazakhstan.
Vyacheslav Cherkasov was reportedly handing out religious literature on the city streets when police arrested him. He was fined a month's wages, and a suitcase full of religious books--Bibles, children's Bibles, books and tracts on the Christian faith--were confiscated.
Earlier this month, a judge ordered the literature to be destroyed.
"Most likely the books would be burnt," an official told Forum 18.
Authorities accused Cherkasov of violating Kazkahstan's Religion Law, which was rewritten in 2011 to include more things as "religious offenses." Right now, Cherkasov is appealing the case.
"We know that religious literature has frequently been confiscated since the new Religion Law came into force in 2011," human rights defender Yevgeni Zhovtis told Forum 18. "But I've never heard that religious literature is being destroyed, unless it is extremist.
"This is terrible, terrible!"
Pray that Cherkasov will not lose his appeal and that the Gospel won't be held back in Kazakhstan.
This case seems to highlight the fact Kazakhstan is moving back toward its Soviet roots. It now joins neighboring Russia and Uzbekistan as a country where courts order the destruction of religious literature.
When Kazakhstan's government signed a new Religion Law in 2011, its restrictions were seemingly intended to curb extremism. However, most of its resulting consequences fell on the shoulders of minority Christians.
For example, in early 2012, AsiaNews.it reported the ban of 579 religious groups if they had less than 50 registered members. This forced many unregistered Protestant congregations to go "underground," meeting in members' homes. But even there they weren't safe. Forum 18 frequently reports on Kazakh police raiding homes, the latest incidents occurring in January.
Furthermore, a third of all religious groups in Kazakhstan were reportedly shut down in October 2012--another step in the crackdown on religious freedom.
The rapidly-declining situation calls for much prayer. Pray that the government will release pressure on Christians so Gospel work could continue. Ask the Lord to protect His followers in this country and give them boldness.
Pray that the crackdown on religion in Kazakhstan will end.