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An historical Russian cathedral in Almaty.
Photo: Flickr / Martin Lopatka (cc)

On March 25th, as New Life Pentecostal Church in Kazakhstan's commercial capital of Almaty was commemorating Good Friday, police launched simultaneous raids on five church-owned buildings and the homes of six pastors and church workers. Although a court approved the searches in January, it remains unclear why the authorities waited for two months before conducting the raids. The raids came eight months after prosecutors opened a criminal case against the church on alleged charges of large-scale fraud, charges the church vigorously rejects.

"We're not fraudsters," a church member from Almaty explains following the raids. "On the contrary, we help people. We've been working here in Kazakhstan for 26 years." The church has expressed concern about the widespread hostile reporting of the criminal case and raids by the local and foreign Russian-language press. "You can understand the impact this is having on children of the church members (especially of the leaders) in school."

A member of another church elsewhere in Kazakhstan expressed concern over the wider impact of media coverage announcing allegations made against Almaty's New Life Church. "This has an impact on all Christians across Kazakhstan," the church member told sources on March 30th. "People will be afraid to come to any church or to have anything to do with churches."

This is not the first time police in Kazakhstan have launched a series of searches and made strongly disputed allegations that were repeated by local media with no right of reply given. Churches in this area have had to deal with compulsory registrations, interrogations and threats, persistent raids of church property, and many unjustified criminal cases opened against them. Other reports of religious persecution in this country, as well as informative video clips, are available at the Kazakhstan Country Report.

Let us join together in prayer for the churches in Kazakhstan that are having to contend with these various challenges due to the extremity of governmental restrictions and oppression. Ask the Lord to provide these Christians needed encouragement, wisdom as they deal with the authorities, justice in the court system, and the strength to persevere in the midst of trial. Pray that He will abundantly bless them for their faithfulness. May they also be reminded that these temporary earthly struggles are nothing in comparison to the glory and great rewards awaiting them in eternity for honourably upholding His name. In the meantime, may they continue shining His light and love to all around them -- blessing even those who curse them.