Watching the Kyrgyz referendum

By June 25, 2010

Kyrgyzstan (MNN)– "The big thing they're facing is this: 'We
can't trust anybody.'" That's 'Jeff', a
worker who has partnered with Audio Scripture Ministries in Kyrgyzstan. 

He's describing the tensions between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in
light of deadly ethnic violence and Sunday's vote on a new constitution. Neighbor turned on neighbor in five days of
rioting. The tinder box exploded after two
months of simmering following a coup.

The referendum in question will decide whether or not the
nation will become Central Asia's first parliamentary democracy. Voters
will settle this question: do we approve a new constitution that devolves
power from the president to the prime minister?
It's a crucial piece in restoring order and critical in the move forward
to October's vote.

Under the new charter, the interim leader Roza Otunbayeva would remain
interim president until the end of 2011, before stepping aside. Parliamentary elections would be held every
five years, and the president would be limited to a single six-year term in office.

With so much at stake, it's important that everyone get a
chance to give their input.   

However, already,
violence is tainting the arena. Six
ethnic Uzbek women were held hostage briefly while preparing for the referendum. They were released on Wednesday unharmed. There
are other scattered media reports of situations that could be intimidating
people into staying home.

Although they're scared, 'Jeff' says the threat of violence
won't keep people from the polls. "In talking to our friends on the ground, I get the sense that
they're saying, 'This needs to happen. We're afraid, but this referendum needs
to go forward.'"

Uzbek refugees are coming home, but there are still a lot of
people who need help. Many aid groups
have supplies, but they're afraid to deliver them. Many of the displaced are still hiding in
basements and other risky shelters. This
is where the local church is stepping in as the hands and feet of Christ.

‘Jeff' says, "Believers are saying, 'Give us
the flour, give us the oil; we'll go deliver it.' Right now, we have a team of mixed Kyrgyz and
Uzbeks. People are dumbfounded. They're saying, 'What are you doing
together? This is an Uzbek man. How can
you trust him?' The Uzbek man is saying,
'We believe in a God who forgives and loves us. This is how we're commanded to live: in unity with one another.'"

Keep praying. Pray for stability. Pray for the safety of the teams who are
responding. Ask God for more
opportunities to share the hope of the Gospel with those they're helping.

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