Around 86% of Kyrgyzstan’s population is Muslim. The Christian presence dates from the seventh century, but Islam became dominant in the fifteenth century. There has been a revival of Islamic practices since the end of Soviet rule in 1991.
Persecution usually comes from the community more than the authorities, particularly in rural areas such as Issyk Kul, eastern Kyrgyzstan. In 2022 it was reported that anti-Christian hostility was growing, and increasingly directed towards those from Christian backgrounds as well as converts from Islam.
Christians face difficulties in arranging for burials in public cemeteries. In Kyrgyz culture there is great concern about what happens to the body after death; converts fear being given Islamic funerals. A decision by the State Commission on Religious Affairs that all public cemeteries must be divided into zones according to religion to allow burial space for all religious groups has not been implemented consistently.
Muslim-background believers suffer especially. Muslims often refuse to employ them, and, cut off from the support of their Muslim families, converts are likely to fall into desperate poverty.
Christians can be punished for sharing their beliefs in public and religious literature may be censored. The Religion Law (2009) prohibits “illegal missionary activity” – any missionary or evangelistic activity by a group not registered with the government.
Churches must have 200 members in order to apply for registration, and the process can last several years. Many churches, mostly small (10-20 members), are unregistered, therefore operating illegally.
In December 2021 a new Religion Law was drafted that, if adopted, would tighten restrictions – all 200 church members must live in one region, all attend one founding meeting, and all have personal details officially notarised at that meeting. However, as of early 2023, this had not been implemented.
Ask the Lord to sustain believers if anti-Christian persecution grows, especially converts who are most at risk. Pray that more churches in Kyrgyzstan will be able to register and no longer be forced to act unlawfully.