Embracing Christ and tradition in Kyrgyzstan

By November 26, 2013

Kyrgyzstan (CAM/MNN) — Kyrgyzstan is the first country in Central Asia to have a democratically-elected head of state. Unlike the rest of Central Asia, persecution of believers comes mainly from family, friends, and community. In rural areas especially, Muslim-background believers face enormous pressure to recant their new faith.

To be a traditional Kyrgyz practically equates with being Muslim. Identifying oneself as a Christian brings all sorts of challenges for new believers who experience misunderstanding, ridicule, and in some cases even abandonment by families who feel they have scorned their very heritage.

(Photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission)

(Photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission)

Nearly 90% of Kyrgyzstan’s 5.5 million people consider themselves Muslim, according to Operation World. Most adhere to a form of traditional Islam that combines remnants of tribal folk practices with Sunni beliefs.

More militant forms of Islam, however, are perceived to be a threat to the country’s secular government. To combat increased pressures from radical groups, Kyrgyzstan passed a law against extremism in 2005. Additional religious laws approved in 2009 tightened controls on all faiths but had an especially adverse effect on Christianity.

Proselytism, the distribution of religious literature, and private religious education were among the practices banned under the regulations. Most challenging was the mandate that churches and other religious groups have at least 200 adult citizen members in order to qualify for legal registration. The former law required only 10 members for registration.

Critics expressed concern at the time that the laws violated Kyrgyzstan’s own constitution, which on paper upholds religious freedom. Fears persist that harsher laws will propel Kyrgyzstan down the same course as its Central Asia neighbors, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, where religious activities are highly restricted.

Despite cultural resistance and stiffening government regulations, GNM Mission has planted seeds of the Gospel in Kyrgyzstan for over 17 years. In 1995, GNM opened the first Bible school in Central Asia. Graduates have gone on to serve as full-time native missionaries or church leaders.

Gifts from Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, help support the Bible school and evangelistic events. Three outdoor services, complete with music and dramatic presentations, attracted the curious as well as the faithful. As a result, more than 150 people received Jesus Christ into their hearts and 30 people joined home churches.

More than any other Central Asian people, the Kyrgyz cling to their traditional way of life. That poses both difficulties and opportunities for missionaries, who sometimes travel far into the mountains to reach isolated communities with the gospel.

(Photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission)

(Photo courtesy Christian Aid Mission)

In July, GNM sent a team of five workers to an impoverished village in the southern part of the country. There are few jobs and not much hope for the future for the area’s young people. The missionaries sought to encourage residents with the good news of the Savior who will stand beside them in the midst of their suffering.

Pray that God would show believers how to be wise when sharing their faith with others. Ask God to comfort and lavish His love upon believers who face rejection, abuse, and isolation from their own families and friends.

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