Founder of ASSIST Ministries
TALDYKURGAN, KAZAKHSTAN (ANS) -- Baptist pastor Viktor Lim was ordered deported from Kazakhstan for leading a registered religious community and left in mid-August. Lim, a stateless person, had lived in the country for 20 years and his wife and children are Kazakh citizens.
A church service in Kazakhstan
According to Felix Corley, of the Forum 18 News Service (www.forum18.org), the authorities classed his action as "illegal missionary activity" for which punishment is a fine and, for non-citizens, deportation.
"The appeal hearing lasted just 10 minutes - it was a pure formality," Pastor Lim complained to Forum 18 News Service.
Zhumagul Alimbekov, head of the Religious Affairs Department of Almaty Region, which lodged the suit against Pastor Lim, refused absolutely to discuss his deportation or the moves to deport Russian Orthodox priest Fr. Sofrony.
"I can't comment on court decisions," he told Forum 18. Asked why foreign citizens or people who have no citizenship cannot exercise their internationally-recognized right to freedom of religion or belief while legally resident in the country he put the phone down.
According to Elizabeth Kendal, an ANS columnist, the population of Kazakhstan is 63 percent Turkic (mostly ethnic Kazakhs) and 31 percent Slavic (mostly ethnic Russians). It is 54 percent Muslim, 34 percent non-religious and 12 percent Christian (who are overwhelmingly Orthodox). Protestant fellowships are viewed with suspicion, derided in the media and targeted in policy as 'new religious movements' (cults) and 'foreign'. Religious liberty has been in decline for several years, in line with the loss of US influence. The treatment being suffered by several dissidents (including a Protestant pastor) indicates Kazakhstan is returning to Soviet-era methods of social control. The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was appointed Prime Minister of the Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan in April 1990. He has continued on as President since the break-up of the USSR.