ASIA/KAZAKHSTAN - A new Center to help victims of religious extremism

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Astana (Agenzia Fides) - A center in Astana for the victims of religious extremism has opened. It is called the "Kokbozat Centre", which will provide psychological, social and legal assistance to all those who have suffered threats, violence, oppression, human rights violations because of religious extremism. As local sources told Fides, the Centre has actually been operating in the area for about 10 days and was born thanks to the collaboration of the city government in Astana and the Non-Governmental Organization "Kokbozat" (which is the name of a star).The people who work there are lawyers, psychologists, social workers, theologians of different religious communities which operate primarily through a counseling center that collects experiences, needs and complaints, and then provide direct assistance to the victims of movements and radical groups. Victims are guaranteed anonymity in order to facilitate the work of institutions and ensure security.
According to figures released by the local NGOs, in 2010 the victims of religious extremism in Kazakhstan were 940, an increase of 15% compared to 2009. There are already 14 centers in the country like the "Kokbozat Centre, engaged at various levels for the protection of human rights and religious freedom as well as for the protection of victims of violence. These centers are highly considered by the central government, which according to the International Center on Religion ", the Ministry of Justice could also start to support them with financial resources.
As a local source told Fides, "people often cannot distinguish between sound experience of a religious group and fundamentalist or extremist tendencies which are registered in the Islamic religion but also in the others."
Out of a population of more than 14 million inhabitants, 42.7% of Kazaks is a Muslim, Christians are about 16%, and Catholics are about 200 000. In general Kazak Islam is moderate, but there are fundamentalist infiltration from neighboring countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 05/07/2011)