Freedom of religion in Kazakhstan

The Constitution of Kazakhstan provides for freedom of religion, and the various religious communities worship largely without government interference. Local officials attempt on occasion to limit the practice of religion by some nontraditional groups; however, higher-level officials or courts occasionally intervene to correct such attempts.

The government's enforcement of previously amended laws led to increased problems for some unregistered groups. As of 2007, the law on religion continues to impose mandatory registration requirements on missionaries and religious organizations. Most religious groups, including those of minority and nontraditional denominations, reported that the religion laws did not materially affect religious activities. Unregistered religious groups experienced an increase in the level of fines imposed for nonregistration in addition to stronger efforts to collect such fines. Most registered groups experienced no problems, but the Hare Krishna movement, a registered group, suffered the demolition of 25 homes as part of the Karasai local government's campaign to seize title to its land based on alleged violations of property laws.[1]

The population maintained its long tradition of secularism and tolerance. In particular, Muslim, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Jewish leaders reported high levels of acceptance in society. During the reporting period, the dominant Islamic and Russian Orthodox leaders publicly criticized a number of nontraditional religious groups. The number of registered religious groups and places of worship increased during 2007 for virtually all religious groups, including minority and nontraditional groups.

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom issues with the Kazakhstan government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. The ambassador and other U.S. officials supported the country's efforts to increase links and mutual understanding among religious groups. U.S. officials engaged in private and public dialogue at all levels to urge that proposed amendments to the religion laws are consistent with the country's constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and with the country's tradition of religious tolerance. U.S. government officials visited religious facilities, met with religious leaders, and worked with government officials to address specific cases of concern. During 2007, the Embassy sponsored exchange programs for leaders of various religious groups to meet with a diverse range of counterparts in the United States. Embassy officials maintained an ongoing dialogue with a broad range of groups within the religious community.

Religious tolerance

Kazakhstan supports international efforts for promoting inter-religious dialogue and tolerance. Every four years, Astana (the capital of Kazakhstan) hosts the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions is housed in the iconic Pyramid of Peace and Accord. The congress assembles religious leaders from all corners of the world to discuss, debate, and exchange views on theology, society and politics. Launched in 2003, the fourth Congress was held May 30–31, 2012 to discuss the role of religion and inter-religious dialogue in promoting global security and human development.[2] Kazakhstan's hosting of the Congress, in the words of analyst Roman Muzalevsky, "places obligations on the government to ensure a tolerant co-existence of ethnic groups and a favorable environment for religious associations."[2] The 2006 Congress gathered 45 delegations,[3] while the 2012 Congress assembled a record 350 delegates from forty countries.[4] President Nazarbayev has expressed his desire to continue this tradition.