3,088 organizations representing 17 religious affiliations registered
October 25 marked the deadline for the completion of the registration of religous organizations under The Law on Religious Activities and Religious Associations that came into effect on October 25, 2011.
A total of 3,088 religious organizations representing 17 religious affiliations have successfully registered.
The purpose of the law is to protect society from the abuse of religious freedoms and attempts by extremists to radicalize society and create division. In Central Asia, such activities are unfortunately a serious danger and Kazakhstan is all too aware of the tragic consequences of efforts by some forces, both in Kazakhstan and neighbouring countries, to promote extremism under the guise of religion.
In an interview published in Kazakhstanskaya Pravda on October 25, the Chairman of Kazakhstan’s Religious Affairs Agency, Kairat Lama Sharif, said: “The processes underway in the religious sphere are today assuming strategic significance from the point of view of public security and, in general, national security. The state could not stand aside from these processes.”
While drafting the new law, the Kazakhstan authorities consulted widely, including with relevant bodies of the United Nations and the OSCE. In doing so, Kazakhstan was able to learn from the experience of the many countries around the world which have faced similar challenges.
The registration process ran smoothly and will be extended for a further 12 months for those organizations that failed on purely technical grounds (for example, fewer than the minimum required number of 50 adherents: in several cases, smaller groups have merged with others in order to register). Organizations refused registration for non-technical reasons have the right of appeal.
Located at a crossroads of cultures, religions and civilizations, Kazakhstan has historically accommodated a diverse range of traditions and beliefs. Today, Kazakhstan is home to over 130 ethnic groups and is an example of a country where Islam and Christianity meet and co-exist peacefully. Islam is the most commonly practiced religion and about 70% of the population is Sunni Muslim. The second largest religious affiliation is to Christianity, professed by 25% of the population, of whom the majority belong to the Russian Orthodox Church, while Roman Catholics comprise 2% of the population.
Since independence from the former Soviet Union was declared in 1991, diversity and tolerance have been at the heart of Kazakhstan’s national identity. The State is firmly committed to upholding these fundamental values and the new law on registration of religious organizations lies at the heart of these efforts. The introductory text of the Law, the Constitution of Kazakhstan and the country’s commitment to many international treaties all guarantee the right to freedom of conscience and religious belief.