ASTANA, Kazakhstan – On March 30, 2018, the Center for the Study of Problems of Religion of the Religious Affairs Department of the West Kazakhstan Region has asked selected churches and religious communities to provide personal information regarding “all underage community members attending your religious association.”
The Religious Affairs Department is a division of the Religion and Civil Society Ministry of the Kazakhstan government.
The request raised concern because only Christian organizations were asked for the information. The state had demanded that the churches to submit full names, ages, place of study, and state-assigned personal ID numbers of teens and children under 18 years of age. A representative of the department verified that the request “was not sent to Muslims, for example, just to Christians, and selectively.”
On a civil liberties level, churches questioned the validity of providing personal information of minors without the written consent of their parents.
The department claimed that the information is necessary for “monitoring,” but it did not say what was being monitored. The only response from the head of the Center was that the information was needed for “a project being conducted.” Again, no information about the project was provided for either churches or the media.
Conflicting reports came from within the Religious Affairs Department about the responses received, all of which were due by April 10th. One department source said that “some” religious leaders has complied with the order. Yet, another inside source indicated that the department had received only five responses and that all of them declined to provide the information requested.
Kazakh Christians are concerned about potential amendments to the Religion Law currently being reviewed in the lower house of the Kazakh Parliament. The legislation introduced in August 2017 proposed requiring written permission from both parents before a child could attended religious services and ceremonies. A later draft revised the bill to require permission from only one parent but would have forbidden those under the age of 16 to attend religious events without being accompanied by “a close adult relative or guardian.” That proposal would also have forbidden attendance at worship services if one of the parents objected to the youth’s doing so.
The purpose of gathering the information about the youths remains unknown.
- Forum 18, KAZAKHSTAN: State demands young worshippers’ personal data
- SIGHT, Kazakhstan asks Christian organizations for info on youth members. Their answer: No.
- By Man77 [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons