church leader leader could face prison, news reports say.
Stefan J. Bos, Eastern Europe Correspondent, ASSIST News Service with Keston News Service
ATYRAU / BUDAPEST (ANS) -- Baptist Christians in Kazakstan are pressured to no longer express their faith in Christ publicly while their leader is facing possible jail time for refusing to stop bible study meetings in his home, reports said Monday, November 11.
The small Baptist community in Atyrau, a municipality near the Caspian Sea in north-western Kazakstan, have been threatened by police forces and authorities to end their activities, reported the Keston News Service (KNS).
Baptist church leader Kormangazy Abdumuratov said the pressure increased September 8 "when police and officers of the National Security Committee", the former KGB-secret service, "raided" his apartment where eight Baptists were studying the Bible.
"They searched every room, asking who owned the religious books and Bibles they found. Then they began to write out an official report on them for holding a church meeting "unlawfully," KNS said, quoting Abdumuratov.
Two of the officers reportedly went back to their cars and returned with a camera and video recorder. "They filmed each person separately, and took video footage of all the books and Bibles they could find and of each room of the apartment."
The raid resembled the Communist era when Kazakstan was still part of the Soviet Union. KNS said that the Baptists were forced into cars and taken to the police headquarters for interrogation. After up to two hours everyone was released except Abdumuratov.
The police allegedly told him to write a statement declaring that he would stop holding religious meetings in his home or otherwise face prison, KNS said.
"When Abdumuratov refused, the police threatened him with imprisonment because he had been caught three times taking part in unregistered religious meetings. One policeman even hit him. However, after six hours he was released."
Orinbasar Kushkenbayev, a captain from the internal affairs administration defended the police's action saying Abdumuratov's was responsible for "unlawful religious meetings" that "were regularly being held there."
Meanwhile hostile television footage warning the public was shown on the Baptists after Abdumuratov was expelled from the Institute where he studied for his religious believes.
"The television commentator reported that the Baptists were a "dangerous cult" that deceived people and took children away from their parents. He also claimed that its leaders demanded large sums of money from people once they had become members," KNS reported.
Atyrau Television also warned the public not to accept religious books from anyone other than the official mosque and to be on their guard against religious "cults" of this kind in the mainly Islam nation of about 17 million people.
The tv-program seemed to undermine Abdumuratov's chances to be re-admitted as a student at the Atyrau Oil and Gas institute.
"We don't need a student like you," he quoted the institute's faculty head as saying during a meeting where several other officials gathered. "Your influence will ruin our other students. You won't be studying at our institute any longer. Leave Atyrau and go back...to where you cane from."
Authorities have reportedly also pressured him to end his work as pastor in another Baptist church in the region. The pressure on Baptists in Kazakstan comes amid growing pressure on Christians in the former Soviet Union.
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Award winning Journalist Stefan J. Bos was born on the 19th of September 1967 in a small home in downtown Amsterdam, in the Netherlands not far from the typewriter of his father, who was (and still is) a Reporter and ghostwriter. Already at a very young age Bos decided to become journalist and finally arrived in Hungary, the same country where his parents had smuggled Bibles during Communism.
Bos has traveled extensively to cover wars and revolutions throughout the region and received the Annual Press Award of Merit from the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for his coverage about foreign policy affairs including Hungary's relationship with NATO and the European Union. Stefan J. Bos can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.