Religion Classes to be Compulsory in Kazakhstani Schools

    Religion will be a compulsory subject in Kazakhstani schools starting fr om this year, the Central Asian state's Science and Education Ministry said on Friday.
    School courses on religion are a thorny issue in the former Soviet Union where atheism was a state ideology and many people oppose what they see as the growing influence of the clergy.
    Neighboring Russia announced a pilot project last month wh ere students will be given a choice between classes in their own religion, a comparative course on religion or secular classes on ethics.
    "The religion course, previously voluntary, will become compulsory from this year on for all school students," a ministry spokeswoman quoted its senior official, Serik Irsaliyevas, saying.
    "We think that the basics of religious tolerance should be formed at a young age."
    The courses would be taught by specially trained teachers and will cover "all religions and their history", the spokeswoman said.
    "This is not aimed at raising (religious) fanatics," she said.
    Mostly Muslim Kazakhstan has a large Christian minority, mostly belonging to the Russian Orthodox church, according to Reuters.
    Minister of Education, Serik Irsaliev commented to the press that theological studies were formerly electives, according to Kazakhstan Today.