The former Soviet nation of Kazakhstan has been striving to enter to modern, developed world. They've even spent a fortune placing large advertisements in scholarly and foreign policy magazines, to inform the world how prosperous they've become. Fancy new downtown buildings are depicted, and industrial opportunities are touted.
Unfortunately, they forgot one little thing: freedom.
The government of Kazakhstan has returned to its bad old Stalinist days, and passed a harsh new law regulating religious organizations. Kazakh officials have boldly announced they have "too many religions" in their country, and they have launched a draconian effort to drive out or smash any that don't enjoy official approval, by meeting some arbitrary standard of "social unity" and "lack of divisiveness." But it is not freedom if only "comfortable" or "approved" ideas are allowed. On July 2nd, 2008 the Kazakh secret police arrested a young Unification Church missionary named Elizaveta Drenicheva, and in January of 2009 sentenced her to a minimum of two years in prison. Kazakhstan's TV news reported on her conviction and arrest. Kazakhstan's own official Human Rights office, and even the moderate Muslims of that nation, have protested against this harsh action. Elizaveta's crime? Teaching a standard theological lecture to a small audience of interested guests. Mind you, the Unification Church was already a registered NGO in Kazakhstan, and it has operated for several years with no trouble. Mrs. Drenicheva herself advocated nothing drastic or harmful, only a familiar Biblical call for sinners to rise above the fallen world and gain salvation.
If Kazakhstan wishes to join the modern world, they must realize that a free 'marketplace of ideas' is crucial. The confidence to teach new concepts, and to launch unfamiliar new trends, helps modern nations to flourish.
Interested readers may wish to contact the US State Department, and the Kazakh Embassy, to protest the imprisonment of Elizaveta Drenicheva, not to mention the harsh new law that was used to convict her.