|Republic of Kazakhstan|
Area 2,717,300 sq.km. Dominating Central Asia and trade routes between east and west. Much of the country is semi-desert.
Capital Astana 300,000. Other major city: Almaty 1,200,000. Urbanites 56 %.
At least 65 groups, 43 with populations over 1,000. The Kazakh diaspora is more than 4 million. Since 1999 there has been a massive emigration of Europeans and an influx of Kazakhs.
Turkic/Altaic 60.4%. Kazakh 8,667,000; Uzbek 403,000; Tatar(2) 271,000; Uighur 228,000; Turkish(3) 88,000; Azeri 85,000.
Indo-European 38.4%. Many emigrating.
Slav 34.7%. Russian 4,861,000; Ukrainian 593,000; Belarusian 122,000; Polish 51,000.
Other 3.7%. German 383,000; Kurdish 36,000; Chechen 35,000; Tajik 28,000.
All others 1.2%. Korean 109,000; Dungan 41,000.
Literacy 97.5%. Official language Kazakh. All languages 6. Languages with Scriptures 2Bi 2NT 2por 1w.i.p.
Enormous oil and mineral reserves, large grain producer. The move to a market economy has been hesitant. The socio-economic network has unravelled, forcing wage delays, service cutbacks and rising unemployment. Ecological disasters, such as the salt and toxic waste in the shrinking Aral Sea and radioactive fallout from USSR nuclear testing, have resulted in economic strain. HDI 0.740; 76th/174. Public debt 132% of GNP. Income/person $1,350 (4.3 % of USA).
Declared independence after collapse of the USSR in 1991. The short-term failure of democratic capitalism led to an authoritarian backlash at which time the president strengthened his position. The current regime pursues a policy of market liberalization and moderate secularism and aims to strengthen Kazakh influence at all levels of government.
Under Communism all religion was suppressed. Even now, in an era of greater tolerance with religious freedom constitutionally guaranteed, religions not considered 'traditional' suffer some opposition and restrictions. Proposed changes to deny legal standing to newer groups were withdrawn after local and international protest. Some Muslim groups are pushing for greater Islamization, which is unlikely to happen under current conditions. Many religious statistics are estimates. Persecution index 75th in the world.
1 The Kazakh Church is young, but alive and growing strong. Where there were virtually no Kazakh believers in 1990, in 2000 there were more than 6,000! They meet in over 40 Kazakh-speaking congregations. The Church is especially growing among young people. Pray that this numerical growth may continue, but also that the Church may mature quickly.
2 The Silk Road 2000 event in Almaty was a major breakthrough for the Christian community. Inspired by the prayer journey of Korean believers, the stadium event hosted 20,000 people from Central Asia, and was supplemented by various workshops and seminars encouraging indigenous Christianity. Repentance and reconciliation between the diverse Christian groups was a central feature to the event. Pray that there might be much long-term fruit for the Kingdom in Kazakhstan and Central Asia.
1 The revival of Kazakh identity. The government's deliberate promotion of Kazakh language and culture has created some social strain, and has had only limited success. About 40% of Kazakhs cannot speak their own language, and less than half the schools teach in Kazakh. Nevertheless, there is a good measure of social harmony considering the ethnic diversity of the nation. Pray that government leaders may wisely develop their nation's cultural identity, and that political and religious extremism and oppression might be avoided. Pray that the peace and tolerance which enables ministry might continue.
2 Kazakhs have been nominally Sunni Muslims since 1043, but theirs is a folk Islam strongly influenced by animistic practices. An Islamist movement is being fuelled by Muslim missionaries and money from Iran, Turkey and Arab countries. There were 60 mosques in 1991; nine years later there were 5,000. Christianity is still viewed as the religion of the Russian oppressors. Pray that long-held prejudices and spiritual bondages might be broken and religious tyranny avoided.
3 Russians and Ukrainians most claim to be Orthodox. Many are emigrating back to their homelands. The Orthodox Church has increasingly aligned itself with the Muslims in seeking to remove the measure of religious freedom gained at independence. Pray that these attempts may be foiled and that small renewal movements in the Orthodox Church may grow.
4 Unreached minorities. Kazakhstan's cultural and religious diversity may make this land the most open and strategic for evangelizing Central Asian non-Christian peoples. Some Uzbeks and Uighurs in Kazakhstan are turning to Christ pray for the Church to take root among them. Pray for all the peoples listed in the statistics section. Christianity is still largely an urban phenomenon, but the Baptists are deliberately recruiting for rural ministry. Pray that the gospel might be shared in the listeners' language in the many towns and villages of this vast land.
5 While the Christian population decreased during the 1990s, there has been a significant growth of interest from non-Eurasians as well as indigenous peoples. Korean churches have grown exponentially, as have most charismatic, Pentecostal and some Baptist groups. The challenges:
b) A desperate need for young, trained leadership. There are now many local Bible Colleges and discipleship training programmes (SGA and others). Pray that they may raise up a generation of leaders who can meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
c) Preaching of sound doctrine, holy living, and missions vision. The significant Slavic Christian population needs to develop a concern for the evangelization of the numerous Muslim ethnic groups. There is a great need for disciplers and Bible teachers in all churches and among every ethnicity.
d) Flexibility to adapt from the days of persecution and German-Russian cultural Christianity, the latter inappropriate for today's young people and Kazakhstan's culture. Some Baptist and Pentecostal congregations are traditional and legalistic.
6 The expatriate Christian community has been transformed from a patchwork of mostly short-term Anglo- and Russophones to a diverse but unified partnership, many of whom speak Kazakh and are committed long-term. Pray that the ministry of the Kazakh Partnership may deepen the level of cooperation between all those ministering here. There are many humanitarian and holistic mission opportunities in this troubled land; almost all efforts to assist are very well received. The needs are many: evangelism, discipling, Bible training, Christian publishing, TESOL, business, career training and basic humanitarian aid. The serious social and psychological impact of widespread substance abuse and abortions requires effective pastoral and rehabilitation ministries. Pray for many to be called to serve in this country with so many needs. Pray also that Western ministries might have humility in how they serve the indigenous church.
a) Literature. The Central Asian Baptist Mission and Light in the East focus on producing evangelistic, apologetic and teaching literature in Central Asian languages. Hundreds of thousands of copies of a children's storybook Bible have been distributed, and even approved of for education in some regions. Still, there is a need for help in all areas of literature.
b) Bible. There is a great demand for Bibles, both among the Kazakhs and the Russian Orthodox. Thousands of Bibles and portions have been distributed, but only a fraction of them in Kazakh. The NT in Kazakh is now complete (and also available on cassette); the Kazakh OT is being translated. Also in preparation is a Russian language Bible which is culturally sensitive to Central Asian Muslims. Pray for the wide and wise distribution of all biblical materials, and for ongoing translation projects.
d) Radio. Kazakh broadcasts are still few. FEBC-Saipan and TWR-Monaco transmit, respectively, four and five 15-minute programmes weekly. There are also Christian broadcasts in other languages, although Russian predominates. Pray for new, quality programmes in Kazakh.
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