Photo: World Watch Monitor
On February 17th, a retired pastor accused of harming the health of a church member was handed a four-year suspended prison sentence. Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev was also ordered to pay his alleged victim "moral damages" of two million tenge (approximately $12,000 CAD).
The case against Pastor Bakhytzhan dragged on for months after his arrest in May of 2013, when he was charged with the psychological manipulation of Lyazzat Almenova, 34, through the use of a "red-coloured hallucinogenic drink." In reality, the drink was a harmless, non-alcoholic beverage used as part of the church's Holy Communion to represent red wine. Although she insists her pastor is "totally innocent," Pastor Bakhytzhan was arrested after Lyazzat's mother claimed that her daughter's mental health had been damaged due to attending the church. (For more information on his arrest, please visit this page.)
"In my experience as a lawyer, this is one of the strangest cases I have seen in terms of legality," said the pastor's lawyer after the verdict was handed down. "It was not just strange but, from the standpoint of the law, all types of violations occurred when the case was opened, when it was being investigated, and during the trial." Pastor Bakhytzhan will reportedly appeal the verdict.
As Pastor Bakhytzhan and his lawyers work towards appealing this latest verdict, pray that God will grant them wisdom and endurance. May the charges against him soon be dropped! Ask God to strengthen this pastor's faith, encouraging him to stand strong as he weathers this storm. Pray, too, for Lyazzat and her family. May her understanding and acceptance of the Gospel increase each day, and may her family members come to a saving faith in our Saviour. Finally, bring the country of Kazakhstan to God in prayer, asking that He will enable His church to grow in faithfulness and in number.
For more information on the challenges Christians face in Kazakhstan, go to the Kazakhstan Country Report.