ASIA/KAZAKHSTAN - Covid-19: the renewal of residence visas for Catholic missionaries is difficult

Saturday, 20 June 2020 missionaries   coronavirus   pastoral   religious minorities   religion   religious freedom   human promotion  

Almaty (Agenzia Fides) - Missionary priests in Kazakhstan, as well as all foreigners present in the national territory, may experience problems to stay in the Central Asian country due to the new provisions on entry and stay, related to the spread of Covid-19. This is what Fr. Guido Trezzani, a missionary in Kazakhstan in the "Ark Village" community in Talgar, near Almaty, reports to Fides. The missionary today Director of Caritas Kazakhstan says: "There is a big question mark about our future presence in Kazakhstan: it is a fluid situation that changes every day, at the moment we have no certainties. We only know that the moratorium that allows the return to the countries of origin without administrative sanctions for all foreigners to whom the visa expired during the first emergency phase, or for those who were here thanks to the so-called 30-day regime, will end on 10 July. This is a rule that allowed citizens of 57 countries to visit Kazakhstan without a visa, up to a maximum of one month, and which has been suspended from May to 1 November 2020. Anyone with a visa expiring should return to their country of origin and ask for their renewal but, at the moment it seems that no Kazakh embassy in the world is granting the document. My visa, for example, will expire in early September and I will probably have to return to Italy pending the changes".
The recent increase in the number of infected people (among them also former Prime Minister Nursultan Nazarbayev) contributes to worsening the already confused bureaucratic situation. In fact, a month after the end of the national emergency, a new peak of Covid-19 cases led the Kazakh authorities to block and close activities in major cities - Nur-Sultan, Almaty and Karaganda - and other smaller areas.
"The situation seems to have worsened in the past few days. Our numbers are much lower than in other areas of the world but, with the increase in infections, we are going back. Already for this weekend, parks and shopping centers have been closed, while those over 65 have been forbidden to leave the house", notes Don Trezzani.
The new containment measures could also slow down the inauguration of a day center dedicated to children with Down syndrome, built by Caritas Kazakhstan in the city of Almaty and financed by local authorities. In this regard, the missionary explains: "At the beginning of the year we met with representatives of a department of city administration who we asked to support our work with disabled children. A few weeks ago we received confirmation of their funding until December 31st. We had to prepare documents, contracts and sanitation procedures in a few days. The scheduled date was June 18th. We will be a few days late, unless the situation worsens to the point of bringing the country to total closure again", he concludes.
In Kazakhstan the Catholic Church has 4 dioceses, for a total of 70 parishes. There are 91 priests present in the nation, including 61 diocesan and 30 religious. According to official data provided by the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of the country's more than 17 million inhabitants, about 26% are Christians, and 1% of these are of Catholic faith. (LF-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 20/6/2020)




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