LONDON (BP)–A Baptist family has been denied access to their home in Kazakhstan, which also has left a local Baptist congregation without its regular meeting place as government authorities continue a crackdown against unregistered religious communities, Keston News Service has reported.
The Nizhegorodtsev family, who live in the village of Georgievka in eastern Kazakhstan’s Zharma district, have already been fined by the authorities for leading the church. The judge who sealed their house May 16 also confiscated the family’s washing machine as the parents refused to pay a fine imposed last February for refusing to halt the church’s activity. A local official told Keston that the family was not registered to live at the house, while a court official defended the court’s ruling.
G. Kumargalieva, the senior legal enforcer in the Zharma district for the administrator of courts in the region, arrived at the Nizhegorodtsev family home on May 16. “She confiscated the washing machine in lieu of the fine, took their personal identity documents, issuing instead a simple receipt without an official stamp, and sealed up the house with a simple strip of paper with her own signature,” a May 22 statement from local Baptists declared. “The family has been left without a roof over its head, and believers have been forbidden from meeting in that house for services.”
Kazakhstan’s authorities have long been trying to close down unregistered religious communities, including Georgievka’s Baptist church. At a Feb. 22 hearing against S. Nizhegorodtsev and his wife, L. Nizhegorodtseva, in the village, the Zharma district court ruled that the church’s activity should be halted, fining each of them 823 tenge (almost 6 U.S. dollars or 4 British pounds), about one-10th of the average monthly wage in Kazakhstan.
The Nizhegorodtsevs’ church refuses to accept registration, believing it would lead to unacceptable interference by the secular authorities, Keston News Service noted. Neither Kazakhstan’s constitution nor its current religion law require religious groups to register, but Article 375 of the country’s administrative code allows the authorities to prosecute believers who refuse to register religious communities.
“Various people are constantly telephoning and writing to us about the Nizhegorodtsevs,” an official of the department for social affairs for Zharma district, Nurzhamal Djanayev, told Keston by telephone June 11. “They were not registered at the sealed house, and moreover they lived in the village without registration. Registered Christian churches function peacefully here in Georgievka and no one bothers them. You should not report on this story and issue distorted information. Anyway, we don’t discuss such issues on the telephone — how should I know that you are a journalist? Send us an official inquiry, and then we will give you an answer.”
Keston had a similar conversation with the chairman of the Zharma district court, Rakhikul Turabayev. Reached by telephone June 11, Turabayev also initially refused to give Keston any information about the Nizhegorodtsevs. “How should I know that you are a journalist? Send me an official inquiry or come here yourselves,” he told Keston. Turabayev agreed to make a short comment only after Keston told him it would otherwise have to report that the court official refused to discuss the case. “I have not looked into this case myself and do not know its details. I can only tell you one thing: the Baptists have appealed against the district court’s decision at the regional court. However, the regional court has ruled that the district court’s decision was correct,” he declared.
Reprinted from Keston News Service, at www.keston.org.