Religion in Kazakhstan
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Islam is the largest religion in Kazakhstan, followed by Russian Orthodox Christianity. By tradition the Kazaks are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school, and the Russians are Russian Orthodox. According to Kazakh officials, 62% of the population are Muslim and 35% Russian Orthodox. Some Jews, Catholics, and Pentecostals also live in Kazakstan; a Roman Catholic diocese was established in 1991. As elsewhere in the newly independent Central Asian states, the subject of Islam's role in everyday life, and especially in politics, is a delicate one in Kazakstan.
The country has historically hosted a wide variety of ethnic groups with varying religions. Tolerance to other societies has become a part of the Kazakh culture. The foundation of an independent republic, following the disintegration of the USSR, has launched a great deal of changes in every aspect of people’s lives. Religiosity of the population, as an essential part of any cultural identity, has undergone dynamic transformations as well.
After decades of suppressed culture, the people were feeling a great need for exhibiting their ethnic identity – in part through religion. Quantitative research shows that for the first years after the establishment of the new laws, waiving any restrictions on religious beliefs and proclaiming full freedom of confessions, the country experienced a huge spike in religious activity of its citizens. Hundreds of mosques, synagogues, churches, and other religious structures were built in a matter of years. All represented religions benefited from increased number of members and facilities. Many confessions that were absent before independence made their way into the country, appealing to hundreds of people. The government supported this activity, and has done its best to provide equality among all religious organizations and their followers. In late 1990’s, however, a slight decline in religiosity occurred.The draft religion law being considered in June 2008 has raised international concern over whether there is an intention to meet general standards of freedom of religion and human rights.
Islam in Kazakhstan the most commonly practiced religion. Islam came to the region during the 9th century by the Arabs. Ethnic Kazakhs are Sunni Muslims who mainly follow the Hanafi school. Kazakhs including other ethnic groups of Muslim background make up over 90 per cent of the total population.
Christianity in Kazakhstan is the second most practiced religion after Islam. Most Christian citizens are Russians, and to a lesser extent Ukrainians and Belarusians, who belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. About one-third of the population of Kazakhstan identifies as Christian. 1.5 percent of the population is German, most of whom follow Roman Catholicism or Lutheranism. There are also many Presbyterians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and Pentecostals. Methodists, Mennonites, and Mormons have also registered churches with the government.
The Bahá'í Faith in Kazakhstan began during the policy of oppression of religion in the former Soviet Union. Before that time, Kazakhstan, as part of the Russian Empire, would have had indirect contact with the Bahá'í Faith as far back as 1847. Following the entrance of pioneers the community grew to be the largest religious community after Islam and Christianity, though only a few percent of the nation. By 1994 the National Spiritual Assembly of Kazakhstan was elected and the community has begun to multiply its efforts across various interests. The Association of Religion Data Archives (relying on World Christian Encyclopedia) estimated some 6,000 Bahá'ís in 2005.
Hindus in Kazakhstan are mainly of the ISKCON sect and by Diaspora Hindus from India. The Indian community in Central Asia, which comprises Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, numbers only 2732 out of a total population of 55.5 million. It consists mainly of NRIs.
Freedom of religion and religious tolerance
Kazakhstan has a very diverse and stable religious background. However, some reported occurrences of persecution against Hare Krishnas and Jehovah's Witnesses for proselytizing has raised concern in the international community.
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