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Following a 15-hour church raid in late August, Kazakhstan's secret police (the KNB) placed two pastors and two members of Grace Presbyterian Church in Karaganda under investigation for high treason.

Senior pastor Igor Kim, his sister, and the church administrator—all Kazakhstani citizens—as well as Aleksei Kim, the pastor of a sister church, face sentences of up to 10 to 15 years, according to Forum 18, a news service that tracks religious-rights violations.

Government leaders in Kazakhstan, the ninth-largest country in the world, increasingly view adherents of minority religions as unpatriotic. Religion in the oil-rich republic is traditionally tied to race: Kazakhs are expected to be nominal Muslims; Russians are expected to be Orthodox.

Senushi Rukhbayeva, a Kazakh scholar and convert to evangelical Christianity who, like others in this article, asked that her real name not be used, said followers of other religions are viewed with suspicion. Kazakhs who discover she is an evangelical accuse her of repudiating her culture, she said.

Another Kazakh believer told CT, "There is [a lot of] Muslim propaganda addressing the nation through mass media, which makes me feel like our country from year to year is becoming more Muslim. Evangelical Christians will certainly suffer from that."

Political pressures have also converged to create a worsening situation for religious rights. The Beslan school siege and the 2004 and 2005 color revolutions, which toppled nearby regimes, reinforced government suspicions that earnest belief is dangerous.

Several churches in Kazakhstan have had offices raided and computers confiscated, said Jason Tappit, a regional field manager for East-West Ministries. But charges of treason represent a ...

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In the Magazine

November 2007

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