The people of Kyrgyzstan continue to have the chance to hear of the Lord Jesus Christ. Pray that the harvest may continue and increase. Pray down the barriers to a people movement.
a) History. For centuries, foreigners have ruled the Kyrgyz and imposed their foreign religions – since the 8th Century foreign armies of various nations brought Islam; Russians in the 19th Century brought Orthodoxy and then imposed Communism in the 20th. Christianity is sadly associated with the occupiers who slaughtered many of the Kyrgyz people’s ancestors and also with the West (and its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq).
b) A resurgent Islam. The vast majority of Kyrgyz are culturally Muslim, but practice and understanding of Islam are low. Northern Kyrgyz are more Russian-influenced, but southerners are more traditional and Islamic. Muslim missionaries (200 registered, many more unregistered) from several nations seek to strengthen and purify Islam. Around 2,000 mosques and prayer rooms were built between 2000 and 2005, mostly funded by foreign money. The close association of Kyrgyz cultural identity and Islam makes becoming a Christian a difficult decision; the same holds true for other Central Asian peoples.
c) Shamanism and ancestor worship are significant forces beneath the façade of Islam. Fear of the “evil eye”, use of amulets, the occult and demonization are widespread. Shamans still wield great influence.
d) Kyrgyz nationalism has grown as Russian influence declined, although the Russian language serves as the vehicle of social intercourse among the 80 people groups of the country in all spheres of life. Most minorities do not speak Kyrgyz. The conflict between Kyrgyz and Uzbek in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 demonstrated that all is not well in this post-Soviet multicultural society. It desperately needs healthy new ideas to fill the vacuum left by communism.
Christianity was exclusively limited to the non-indigenous communities before 1990, primarily Orthodox (mainly Slavs) and Protestant Germans. Large-scale emigration since the late 1980s has reduced Orthodoxy to a fraction of its previous population. Baptists, Pentecostals and Adventists face the struggle against decline through emigration. Newer post-1990 denominations have grown, with an increasing Kyrgyz component. The most notable growth is in charismatic churches, particularly the multicultural Church of Jesus Christ. The heady growth of the decade after independence, however, has all but halted and, in some cases, has reversed. Pray for:
a) Further growth and multiplication of churches. There were only 45 Protestant congregations in 1990; 20 years later that number is closing in on 300 and does not include illegal house churches. Pray that the fire and passion of the initial years will not give way to lukewarmness or false doctrines.
b) The maturing and growth of Kyrgyz-speaking congregations. From being a tiny minority in the Church, Kyrgyz believers are now a significant proportion of the nation’s Christians. Effective Kyrgyz Christian leaders have come to the fore, and more services are being held in Kyrgyz. There is a growing missionary concern for their own people, for other Central Asian peoples and beyond. An inter-church mission society has been formed, and several churches have sent out workers to surrounding countries
c) Preparing leaders is vital as the Church multiplies, matures and becomes more indigenous. While some Bible schools continue to operate, some have closed. TEE courses and training, locally run, are highly valuable. Discipleship-training courses are also being offered.
d) Wisdom in outreach. Culturally relevant and appropriate means need to be found and used. Muslims and Orthodox will often react strongly against perceived proselytism. Many Kyrgyz are held back from faith by fear of alienation from families, fear of not being given a proper burial and by negative propaganda.
e) Unity among Christians. Cooperation/collaboration of denominations and ethnicities is vital for the sake of both effectiveness and a good testimony to all in this nation where racism is evident. The wide gulf between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox continues to be a problem.