What’s the last thing you’d expect to happen at your birthday party? Justin Bieber turning up to sing you happy birthday? Your mates clubbing together to buy you a new Porsche 911? Both are pretty unlikely. So, if you chose to have a quiet meal with a few friends, the last thing you’d expect was to have your party raided by the police.
That’s just what happened to a group of Christians in Kazakhstan. Trouble began last year on the evening of 11 November 2018, when they were enjoying a meal in the home of Svetlana Demina to mark her husband’s birthday. Those present prayed before starting to eat.
Police suddenly burst in, claiming a call had come in that a ‘sect’ was meeting there. Officers forced those present – including those with children and those with disabilities – into vehicles to take them to the police station.
Officers questioned them for three hours, putting them under pressure to admit they belonged to an organised community. The church has fewer than 50 adult members, making it too small to be able to apply for state registration and so it does not officially have the right to exist.
Officers also seized five Christian books, a notebook, and two boxes, one marked ‘Prayer needs’ and one marked ‘Donations’.
The case against Svetlana has recently been dismissed. A police officer involved in the case refused to explain why the group had been fined and why police had raided a meeting in a private home.
This is the kind of harassment our church family Kazakhstan are facing on a regular basis. Members of Protestant churches are particularly targeted since they are regarded as a foreign influence aiming to destroy the current political system. No religious activities beyond state-run and state-controlled institutions are allowed, and churches are monitored. Unregistered churches are frequently raided and fined.
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