By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
KAZAKHSTAN (ANS) -- Shortly before the Oct. 25 re-registration deadline for all of Kazakhstan's religious communities, officials pressured nearly a quarter of the signatories on the re-registration application of Grace Protestant Church in Karaturyk to remove their names.
Kazakhstan is a country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
In a story for Forum 18 News Service by Mushfig Bayram, Church Pastor Zhursyn Koshkinov said, "It seems the authorities especially chose to target those founders who are of Kazakh and Uygur ethnicity."
One of the officials told Forum 18, "We only did what we were asked by the District Internal Policy Department."
That department in turn told Forum 18 the instruction came from the government's Agency of Religious Affairs. ARA official Zhumagali Alimbekov refused to tell Forum 18 how the authorities can demand that the Grace Church signatories reveal whether or not they are active in the Church, or write statements to reveal their beliefs, when this is not required by the Religion Law.
Forum 18 said Jehovah's Witness communities have also been raided to ensure they are registered, while a Protestant church's worship was interrupted by the head of a state-backed "anti-sect" center.