“A lot of places have a prevailing religion, but all religious groups also have a diaspora somewhere else,” he says. “If they protect the rights of the minorities in their country, their people’s rights to practice their faith in other countries are more likely to be protected.”
That is what brought him to Kazakhstan, a former Communist country composed mainly of Muslim, Catholics and Orthodox believers. The Kazakhstan constitution allows broad religious freedom, but amendments severely limit the activities of such non-traditional faiths as Hare Krishnas.
A few years ago, the Krishnas bought property and began building a small community of believers, which raised the ire of local residents. The courts supported the Krishnas, but officials bulldozed their homes anyway. Since then, Durham and other international observers have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to defend the Krishnas.
“We are not there to impose our American values,” he says. “We just want to protect the powerless.”
Where there is light there is hope…