Kazakhstan’s commercial capital, Almaty, has closed down two prayer rooms used by Muslim and Russian Orthodox residents. Photo: Petunyia/Shutterstock
Following the adoption of laws seriously restricting the ability of people to exercise their freedom of religion or belief, Kazakhstan has started closing Muslim and Russian Orthodox prayer rooms in social care institutions.
"We’re all in shock," Fr. Vladimir Zavadich of the Orthodox Church told Forum 18 News Service (www. forum18.org). "We didn’t expect this from our government. Now we fear this will happen everywhere."
The leadership of a care home for people with physical disabilities or mental health problems in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital, Almaty, has closed down two prayer rooms used by Muslim and Russian Orthodox residents. The prayer rooms were closed in April when the home underwent refurbishment. But after the new religion law and an amending law were adopted in October, the home told Muslims and Orthodox that the rooms’ closure was permanent, according to a member of the home’s staff.
The Muslim Board has also protested. Spokesperson Ongar Omirbek said, that "those who initiated and adopted such laws will answer before Allah."
Orthodox Bishop Gennady of Kaskelen stated that this took away "the last consolation from those people who, for health reasons, find themselves in a desperate, helpless situation". He described calls to bar priests from such homes, hospices and old people’s homes as "inhumane." One Almaty care-home staff member told Forum 18 that "faith is often a help for people in difficult times. There was no harm in what the imam and the Orthodox priest did."
Elsewhere in the country, two more prosecutions have been brought against Baptists for meeting for worship without state permission.