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Christians In Kazakhstan Condemn 'Insulting' Article, Cartoon

QARAGHANDY, Kazakhstan -- Protestant church leaders in central Kazakhstan have issued a joint protest against an article and accompanying cartoon critical of Christianity printed in a newspaper last month, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Igor Pak, the pastor of the Kamo Gryadeshi (Quo Vadis) Protestant church in Qaraghandy, told RFE/RL an article published in the newspaper “Vzglyad na sobytiya” (A Glance at Events) in December was "a lie" written by a reporter who visited his church.

Pastors from evangelical churches in Qaraghandy Oblast issued a statement on the CNL-NEWS website that condemned the article and the cartoon.

The article implied that the church was involved in brainwashing people to become Christians.

'Logical Thinking? We Do Not Give A Damn'

A cartoon accompanying the article showed a man in a doctor's robe opening up another's man's skull and putting what appears to be a Bible in his head. The man in the doctor's robe says: "Some words of the Lord Almighty, a bit of spicy tricks with delirium about personal growth; as for logical thinking ... we do not give a damn about that."

"Vzglyad na sobytiya" chief editor Andrei Menshchikov denied the cartoon had religious overtones. He told RFE/RL that the cross on the book in the cartoon looks to him like a medical cross, not a Christian cross. He also said there is no pastor in the picture, but a man in a doctor's hat and robe.

Menshchikov added that if someone sees any kind of blasphemy in the picture it is the reader's personal problem.

He said that "the last time I checked, freedom of speech is still legal in our democratic country called Kazakhstan."

The Qaraghandy Oblast Interior Ministry told RFE/RL that Protestant Christians had contacted the ministry requesting that the newspaper's editors publicly apologize for the article and the cartoon.

Zhanatai Simbekov, chief of the Qaraghandy Oblast's State Language Directorate, told RFE/RL that an expert group is working to define the contents and possible implications of the article and the cartoon. He said after the experts come to a conclusion, the directorate will determine whether to take further action.

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