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Cablegate: Northern Kazakhstan Promotes Inter-Religious Tolerance For

VZCZCXRO5425
OO RUEHIK
DE RUEHTA #0024/01 0120504
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 120504Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY ASTANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7169
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE 2325
RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1687
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2393
RHMFISS/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFAAA/DIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 1882
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 1732
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000024

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON SOCI KIRF RS KZ
SUBJECT: NORTHERN KAZAKHSTAN PROMOTES INTER-RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE FOR
SOME

REFS: A. ASTANA 0010
B. ASTANA 0013
C. ASTANA 0023

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1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified. Not for public Internet.

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: During recent visits to Kazakhstan's Kostanai and
North Kazakhstan Oblasts (refs A-C), officials, civil society
representatives, and leaders of the Russian Orthodox and Islamic
communities emphasized the regions' religious tolerance and
inter-confessional harmony. However, they expressed concern about
non-traditional religions. END SUMMARY.

OVER 90 RELIGIOUS HOUSES OF WORSHIP IN KOSTANAI

3. (SBU) Noting the representation of over 90 houses of worship in
Kostanai, Tatyana Zueva, a representative of the region's Internal
Policy Department, praised its record of inter-religious harmony.
With a large ethnic Russian and Slavic population (ref C), the
sizeable Russian Orthodox community has two churches within Kostanai
city, she underlined. During a weekday morning visit to the new
cathedral, which replaced a smaller church next door, PolOff
observed approximately 30 worshippers, men and women, young and old,
praying. A Catholic cathedral, two mosques (one built with private
money and one government-funded), and one synagogue -- opened during
Israeli President Shimon Peres' July visit -- also populate
Kostanai.

NO NON-TRADITIONAL MISSIONARIES

4. (SBU) In response to PolOff's inquiry about missionary activity,
Zueva said that Oblast authorities welcome all religious
confessions. She added, "Fortunately, however, we do not have any
non-traditional missionaries here now, as we did in the 1990's."
Zueva claimed that non-traditional missionaries "bother people" by
going door-to-door, selling books. "It is people's choice to open
their door and admit such people, and, in Kostanai, we have such
freedom, but I think we are better off without such religious
activities." (NOTE: While Kazakhstan is proud of its record on
religious tolerance, some Kazakhstanis are uneasy about a perceived
threat from "non-traditional" religions, such as Jehovah's
Witnesses, Scientologists, and Hare Krishnas. END NOTE.)

ORTHODOX PRIEST PRAISES PROMOTION OF RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE

5. (SBU) North Kazakhstan Oblast officials also praised
inter-religious tolerance in their region, noting the presence of 34
confessions and 39 missionary groups. Accompanied by Faina
Seryogina, Chief Specialist of Internal Policy Department of the
North-Kazakhstan Oblast Akimat (regional government), PolOff met
with Protopriest Sergiy, who reports directly to the Patriarch of
Moscow and All the Rus. Responsible for the spiritual well-being of
one-third of Kazakhstan's Russian Orthodox community, Protopriest
Sergiy described excellent relations with the government and all
other traditional religions in Kazakhstan. Sergiy praised
Nazarbayev for his initiatives to promote inter-ethnic and
inter-confessional harmony, in particular the July 2009 Congress of
Leaders of Traditional and World Religions, held in Astana, which
Protopriest Sergiy attended. He highlighted excellent relations
with local imams and rabbis, and called the former imam a very close
friend. According to Protopriest Sergiy, approximately 500 Jews
live in North Kazakhstan Oblast. Protopriest Sergiy proudly showed
PolOff Petrapavlovsk's most famous landmark, the Cathedral of Saint
Peter and Paul, as well as a newer Orthodox church in another part
of town. Both Russian Orthodox religious sites support large
congregations and many charitable activities, he said. Protopriest
Sergiy, however, expressed reservations about the growth of
"missionary activity by non-traditional religions" in North
Kazakhstan.

IMAM PRAISES TOLERANCE, BUT SAYS ISLAM IS UNDER-REPRESENTED

6. (SBU) Kasymkhan Isayev, North Kazakhstan Oblast's representative
of the Spiritual Administration of the Muslims of Kazakhstan and

ASTANA 00000024 002.2 OF 002


Chief Imam of the Kyzylzhar Center, recently moved to Petrapavlovsk
from Zhambyl Oblast in southern Kazakhstan. He is responsible for
the city's four mosques, which attract approximately 585 believers
for weekly prayers. To accommodate growing numbers of worshippers,
he said the Muslim community is now planning a fifth mosque. The
city's largest mosque has a large cafeteria to provide food to the
needy and cater to the halal dietary restrictions of worshippers, as
well as several classrooms, which can accommodate up to 30 students.
Like Protopriest Sergiy, Isayev praised President Nazarbayev for
encouraging tolerance and highlighted his excellent relations with
other religious organizations in North Kazakhstan. Even though half
the region's residents are Muslim, he argued that Islam remains
under-represented because many "Muslims" in the region do not
practice their ancestral faith. Isayev described his efforts to
meet the needs of the Islamic community and increase understanding
of Islam. Isayev, who appeared to be in his mid-forties, studied
Arabic in Shymkent, and fluently speaks both Kazakh and Russian.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: In frank conversations with representatives of
religious organizations and Akimats in Kostanai and North Kazakhstan
Oblasts, PolOff's interlocutors unanimously praised the tolerant
atmosphere of residents towards various religions, and government
support for inter-confessional harmony. In both regions, new
mosques, churches, and synagogues continue to be built, and
irrespective of their religion, interlocutors said "Kazakhstani
citizens feel free to practice religion." At the same time, the
concern of religious representatives and local officials alike about
the growth of "non-traditional" confessions reflects the national
mood, which prompted the government to propose the restrictive 2009
draft religion law. END COMMENT.

HOAGLAND

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