Published: 00:01 GMT Standard Time - Tuesday 09 March 2010
Praying for the Persecuted Church in Lent - Kyrgyzstan
Project(s): 26-774, 26-849, 80-664
Kyrgyzstan was one of the least restrictive of the Central Asian countries for Christians until a new religion law was unanimously approved by parliament on 12 January 2009. Amongst other repressive measures, the new law states that any religious organisation needs at least 200 members to register. This makes it virtually impossible for most churches to register and thus gain the protection of a legal status. Distribution of religious literature is prohibited in public places, and activities directed to the conversion of others are forbidden altogether. The law thus brings Kyrgyzstan in one leap to a situation of intolerance comparable with many of its neighbouring countries.
Despite the fact that many Kyrgyz do not have a strong Muslim identity, ethnic Kyrgyz who convert from Islam to Christianity often face severe pressure and threats from family and local communities. Leaving Islam is seen as betraying one’s Kyrgyz identity and family. In recent years, local Islamic and community leaders have opposed the burial of Christian converts in Islamic cemeteries, or insisted they be buried according to Islamic rituals. In May 2008 a village mob and the local imam prevented a Christian family from burying their 14- year-old son in the local cemetery. The police did nothing to help them; instead they forced their way into the family’s house, stole the body and buried it carelessly in an abandoned place 25 miles away from the village. They demanded that his father Isaakov return to Islam before they would let him bury his son, but Isaakov refused to deny Jesus. A spokeswoman for the Regional Administration commented: “As a Kyrgyz national I am against the Kyrgyz accepting other faiths. We need a stronger law putting a constraint on all kinds of religious sects. Only then would we not have such problems.”
- Pray for the churches in Kyrgyzstan as they seek to maintain their worship and witness in the face of the restrictive new religion law.
- Pray that the authorities will not enforce the new law rigorously.
- Pray too for a Bible College in Kyrgyzstan that has a student body 80% of whom are converts from Islam.
- Pray that the Lord will sustain and guide the students as they go out to serve Him in local fellowships and churches and in outreach.