Religious Freedom in Kazakhstan
In Kazakhstan, the right to freedom of conscience is secured by the Constitution, international instruments ratified by the country, and the Law “On Religious Activity and Religious Associations”.
At the same time, the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Article 14) provides for a prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of attitude towards any religion or belief under the threat of criminal responsibility (Article 141 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan).
In addition, the actions to obstruct lawful activity of religious organizations or performance of religious rites also entail criminal responsibility (Article 149 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan).
According to the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan no one should discriminate on the grounds of attitude towards any religion or belief. Everyone has the right to define and indicate or not indicate his/her religious affiliation; everyone has the right to freedom of conscience.
In accordance with Article 3 of the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On Religious Activity and Religious Associations” it is prohibited to obstruct lawful religious activity, violate civil rights of individuals on the grounds of attitude towards any religion or insult their religious feelings, desecrate objects, buildings or places revered by followers of any religion.
In accordance with the law of the Republic of Kazakhstan everyone has the right to adhere to religious or other beliefs, disseminate them, participate in the activities of religious associations and engage in missionary work.
These laws allow the faithful, regardless of their religious affiliation, to freely practice any religion both individually and jointly with others, perform rituals and ceremonies, engage in missionary activity and spiritual education, use religious literature and sacred objects, establish international links, and unite into religious associations or small religious groups.
Accordingly, the government agencies in cooperation with the faithful, religious associations and groups are guided primarily by the principles of equality and the rule of law, as well as respect for the rights of the faithful regardless of their religious affiliation, which eliminates discrimination on religious grounds.
The holding of three congresses of world and traditional religions in Astana has been a perfect example of the lack of discriminatory attitudes to the faithful and the presence of interfaith accord in Kazakhstan. The regular event, initiated and supported by the President, was attended by the leaders of various denominations and the faithful from many countries of near and far abroad.
Kazakhstan proposed to organize these forums under the auspices of the United Nations (from the report of the President of Kazakhstan at the 66th session of the UN General Assembly, New York, September 21, 2011).
On 30-31 May 2012, Astana hosted the IV Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions which had the slogan “Peace and Accord as the Choice of Mankind”. The Congress brought together 87 delegations from 40 countries represented by all world and traditional religions, as well as distinguished religious and international organizations.
The Council of Religious Leaders, composed of representatives of 14 world religions, was established at the initiative of N.Nazarbayev, which had been announced at the III Congress.
Another proposal of the President of Kazakhstan at the plenary session of the IV Congress was to create an internet resource about the issues of formation and strengthening of global tolerance and trust, which could be integrated into the internet portal G-Global. This important initiative provides for interactive meetings of the Council of Religious Leaders and the Secretariat of the Congress.
On 12 October 2012 in Almaty the Agency for Religious Affairs of Kazakhstan jointly with the OSCE Centre and the Regional Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Central Asia held a roundtable conference on the implementation of the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On Religious Activity and Religious Associations”. The meeting presented a package of comments to this Law.
On 15 November 2012, the Second Forum of Religious Scholars took place in Kazakhstan. The forum was attended by over 400 representatives of the scientific and educational community, religious organizations, state agencies and the media.
The participants of the forum adopted a resolution and a collection of scientific papers and speeches of the participants of the Second Forum of Religious Scholars of Kazakhstan.
In October-November 2012, as part of the state social order, the “Republican Association of Debaters” of Kazakhstan organized regional conferences and seminars entitled “Interfaith stability and methods to increase the level of religious literacy in the country”. They also organized round tables in Aktobe (covering the western region), Karaganda (covering the northern and central regions), Almaty (covering the southern region) and Ust-Kamenogorsk (covering the eastern region).
During the implementation of the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On Religious Activity and Religious Associations” the process of re-registration of religious associations was completed. As part of these activities, the Agency for Religious Affairs and its territorial bodies held more than 30 meetings with the representatives of religious associations. In addition, an awareness raising work was carried out through the media.
In 2011, Kazakhstan took a responsible role as a Chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
In accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan the exercise of the right to freedom of conscience should not attach conditions and limit universal human and civil rights and obligations to the country.
Today the state of interfaith relations in Kazakhstan is stable and tolerant.
For additional perspective on religion in Kazakhstan please watch the video below: