Area 198,500 sq.km. Central Asian state in Tien Shan mountain range bordering on China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Capital Bishkek 950,000. Other major city: Osh 600,000. Urbanites 35%.
Over 80 ethnic groups from all over the fSU.
Turkic/Altaic 78.4%. Kyrgyz 3.6 mill.; Uzbek 676,000; Tatar 60,000; Uighur 55,000; Kazakh 42,000.
Slav 16%. Decrease from 24.3% in 1989 through emigration. Russian 660,000; Ukrainian 80,000.
Other 2.6%. Tajik 45,000; German 40,000; Kurd 15,000.
Other 3%. Dungan (Chinese Muslim) 40,000; Korean 20,000; Jews 6,000.
Literacy 97%. Official languages Kyrgyz, Russian. All languages 3. Languages with Scriptures 1Bi 1NT.
Poorest and smallest of the Central Asian Republics of the fSU. Great potential for mining of minerals, hydro-electricity, dairy products, vegetables, and for tourism. The collapse of the fSU transportation and marketing structures has hindered development, as has criminal control of trade and businesses. The economy contracted by 50% between 1990 and 1995, but there has since been marginal improvement. HDI 0.702; 97th/174. Public debt 33% of GNP. Income/person $480 (1.5% of USA).
Independent of Russia in 1991. President Askar Akaev instituted free market reforms and a measure of democracy. Economic hardships, criminal control of the economy and attempted invasions by Islamic militants from Tajikistan into the Fergana Valley in the south has led to some limitations of democratic freedoms in 1999.
A secular state with a high degree of religious freedom despite Muslim and Orthodox pressures to restrict this. Islamism is perceived by the government to be a threat. Persecution index 83rd in the world.
a) History. For centuries foreigners have ruled the Kyrgyz and imposed their religions Turkic armies in the 17th Century brought Islam, and the Russians in the 19th brought Orthodoxy, then in the 20th imposed Communism.
b) Restored Islam. The Kyrgyz are culturally Muslim, but practice and understanding of Islam is low. The Kyrgyz of the north are more influenced by Russian culture, but those in the south are more traditional. The 33 mosques in the country under Communism have multiplied to 120 buildings and 2,000+ prayer houses. Pakistani, Turkish and Saudi Arabian missionaries seek to strengthen Islamic institutions and commitment. A Kyrgyz becoming a Christian is seen as betrayal of ethnic identity and family cohesion.
c) Spiritism the actual religion of the Kyrgyz. The ubiquitous shrines are more visible than mosques. Fear of the 'evil eye', use of amulets, the occult, shaman priests and demonization are widespread.
2 The government needs the courage, the resources and even miracles to transform the economy and develop trade links for Kyrgyzstan's potential to be realized. Pray for this and for the political stability, economic, social and religious freedoms the people need.
3 Christianity was almost entirely the religion of many of the non-indigenous Orthodox Russians and Ukrainians, Catholic Ukrainians and Protestant Germans before 1990. Most of the Germans and many of the others have emigrated. There is much nominalism among the Orthodox and, to a lesser extent, among the Catholics and Lutherans. The Baptists, Pentecostals, Adventists and newer post-1990 denominations have grown, with an increasing Kyrgyz component. The most spectacular growth has been in the charismatic, multi-cultural Church of Jesus Christ and in one district in the south where over 100 believers were baptized in 1999-2000. Pray for:
a) Unity among Christians. The Kyrgyz Partnership has begun to function well, bridging the earlier differences between Baptists, Pentecostals and Charismatics and between Protestant groups of different ethnic origins (Korean, Western, etc.). Pray that the levels of fellowship and cooperation may continue to deepen. The wide gulf between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox continues to be a problem.
c) The maturing and growth of Kyrgyz-speaking congregations over 55 in 2000. The growth rate of believers increased in 1994 to 40% a year reaching 55% a year by 2000. Effective Kyrgyz Christian leaders have come to the fore. There is a growing missionary concern both for the Kyrgyz and beyond.
e) Wisdom in outreach. Culturally relevant and appropriate means need to be found and used. Muslims and Orthodox react strongly against high-profile outreach. Many Kyrgyz are held back from faith through fear of alienation from families and negative propaganda.
4 The economic situation affects, and depresses, everyone. The elderly and handicapped suffer the most. Health services are grim, but being improved by training programmes provided by expatriates. Corruption and the underground economy is everywhere. Pray that Christians might find honest employment and use legal ways of making money. Many are being helped to start micro-enterprises of their own. Major social evils to be tackled by Christians a high rate of alcoholism, massive international drug trafficking, and a growing under-class of slum dwellers in Bishkek. Pray that churches might become viable and gain permission to register officially with the appropriate government agencies, thereby improving their legitimacy in Kyrgyz society.
b) The Fergana Valley in the south is shared with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Tajik and large Uzbek minorities (over 600,000) are mostly unreached. It is the scene of seasonal Islamist terrorist activity with periodic armed incursions from surrounding lands. There are some Christian outreaches to them, but as yet no church in the Batken region.
6 Expatriate Christians number several hundred from Asia, the Americas and Europe. Most are tentmakers and need to keep a tactful profile. Pray for their safety and spiritual effectiveness in an area where the enemy of souls has not been challenged for 1,400 years. Pray for wisdom for those workers as they partner in ministry with nationals.
a) Bible translation, publishing and distribution. The New Testament was published in 1992 and 1997 (IBT), the same time as a Kyrgyz version of the Qur'an. Many have compared the two and are favourably impressed with the Bible message. IBT, UBS and Linguaserve are working together to produce the first full Bible by 2006.
b) Christian literature is a great challenge. There are two main Christian publishers Beam of Hope and Linguaserve. CLC has a key bookstore in Bishkek. There is still little available in Kyrgyz and evangelistic, apologetic and teaching materials are needed. Pray for economic self-sufficiency; more indigenous authors and greater variety of titles for this ministry.
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