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New laws with tougher restrictions on religious freedom are currently awaiting approval in Kazakhstan. The laws, which are currently being reviewed with the parliament's Senate, would usher in harsh new punishments that are raising concerns among human rights defenders and religious communities.

Restrictions include up to 60 days of imprisonment for leading religious meetings without state permission, or up to 45 days in jail for attending such an event. At present, these offenses are punishable with only fines. It would also become illegal to build places of worship in prisons.

In a statement written by 119 local human rights groups and other concerned individuals, it was noted: "In complete contradiction with the Constitution and the norms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Kazakhstan's laws unequivocally make the profession by an individual of a religion dependent on having several dozen, hundreds or even thousands of fellow believers. The draft Criminal Code harshens punishment for violating this undemocratic provision."

The reported deadline for adopting the new laws is June 15th, with the laws scheduled to come into force as of January 1st, 2015.

Pray that the authorities in Kazakhstan will seek to uphold and respect religious freedom for all, and that these proposed harsh restrictions will be overturned. Ask God to grant wisdom to the church leaders at this time as they navigate these possible changes. May the country's Christians be equipped with courage and boldness to continue following their Lord, regardless of the humanly devised decrees. Let us also pray that He will use these apparent hindrances to further His greater purposes for the church as a whole in Kazakhstan.

To learn more about the restrictions believers face in this country, check out our Kazakhstan Country Report.