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Religious Freedom in Kazakhstan

In accordance with 2009 US Department of State “Human Rights Report: Kazakhstan” the constitution and law provide for freedom of religion, and the various religious groups worshiped largely without government interference. The government continued to express publicly its support for religious tolerance and diversity. The generally amicable relationship among religions in society contributed to religious freedom. The country is multiethnic, with a long tradition of tolerance and secularism. In particular, Muslim, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Jewish leaders reported high levels of acceptance in society. The number of registered religious groups and places of worship increased during the year for virtually all religious groups, except for minority and nontraditional groups. The religion laws narrow the legal protections for religious freedom found in the constitution. In practice most religious communities chose to register with the government and were successful ultimately in obtaining registration.

There are more than 4000 religious unions representing more than 40 confessions in Kazakhstan, more than 300 foreign missioners preach, and about 2,500 cult buildings operate on the territory of Kazakhstan. The main principles of interaction between the state and religion and mutual relations between different confessions are defined in the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan according to which: The State and its bodies do not have the right to control the attitude of its citizens towards religion and to consider its citizens on this criterion; The State doesn’t interfere with the activities of religious organizations (unless laws are violated); The State provides no material or any other support, including financial aid, to religious organizations; Religious organizations don’t exercise any state functions; Religious organizations don’t interfere with the matters of the State.

The State undertakes the duty to guard lawful activities of religious unions, it doesn’t evade the legal regulation of their status and takes care of the legislative frames of their activities which provides a balance of relations between confessions and state power. The State considers religious people as equal citizens of Kazakhstan endowed with all rights and views religious unions as an integral part of the social structure of the country. The State supports and encourages religious unions and believing people in the fulfilment of a socially useful activity seeking to attract religious unions to the solution of social problems, creation of a favourable spiritual and moral climate in the society as well to discussion of draft laws concerning the questions of religion.

In early 90s, the independent Kazakhstan inherited the legacy of the militant soviet atheism — the discrimination of religious groups that were outside the legislative field being subject to the regulating activity of the official power. Not a single word could be said of the freedom of consciousness and religious self-definition. In post-soviet Kazakhstan the official approach to religious unions and faithful people has radically changed: for the first time not only their duties but also their rights were recognised and they became the subjects of social and legal interaction enjoying full rights. In 1992 the law of the RK “On the freedom of religion and religious unions” was adopted giving many opportunities to the people to satisfy their religious needs. This law was drafted according to international acts, principles and norms and established a liberal policy of the State in the field of religion.

The idea of spiritual accord and interconfessional cooperation was chosen as a basis of state policy in this sphere. The importance of the dialogue between the confessions is stressed on the background of religious extremism and religious conflicts emerging throughout the world. It’s notable that Kazakhstan is one of the first countries which managed to transform the idea of spiritual accord into reality. In spite of difficulties of the first years of independence it was our republic where in 1992 the First congress of spiritual accord was held. Since then the 18 October is celebrated as the Day of spiritual accord in Kazakhstan.