For many years, Kyrgyzstan bore the traces of its Soviet past. Widespread corruption led to the Tulip Revolution in 1995, which overthrew President Askar Akayev, who had been in power since the fall of the Soviet Union. The next president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, failed to bring about the changes the Kyrgyz people desired, so he was also overthrown in 2010. There are also many ethnic, religious, and geographical divisions in this nation. In 2010, these divisions led to clashes between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan, which left 2,000 people dead and displaced at least another 100,000.
The majority of people in Kyrgyzstan practice Islam, and society is becoming increasingly Islamized. In 1991, there were 39 mosques in the nation; but today, there are about 2,300. The church did experience impressive growth immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, but this has slowed in recent years. A strict religion law passed in 2008 is even harsher than legislation passed in neighboring Kazakhstan. A new church in Kyrgyzstan must have 200 members to register, rather than the 50 required in Kazakhstan. Also, the government heavily restricts missionary activity and the distribution of religious literature.
Our School Without Walls students in Kyrgyzstan practiced peace-making and inter-ethnic reconciliation after the revolution and ethnic clashes in 2010. And now, as religious persecution is escalating, these young leaders are continuing to shine the light of Christ into the darkness around them.
- For the cycle of instability and violence during the last 10 years to be broken and replaced instead with peace, inter-ethnic accord, and political stability.
- For openness to preach the gospel, and that Kyrgyzstan will not enact more laws to limit evangelical Christians.
- That the caring witness of SWW students and other evangelical Christians will break down the barriers of history and enable the Kyrgyz people to view Christianity with favor.
- That the Kyrgyz church will find its identity in Christ and embrace all ethnicities, finding creative and culturally appropriate ways to share the gospel with neighbors of all ethnicities.
Talgat became a Christian in 1993 and went immediately into battle. He led two home groups, hosted a radio program about Christ, and shared the gospel. But, over time, he lost his initial passion and everything started to grow lukewarm. He was a worship leader in his church, but decided to leave that role. He never turned his back on Jesus or rejected Christianity, but they lost their excitement and meaning. Talgat continued to occasionally attend Christian seminars, hoping that something would click, but nothing changed.
At this point, Talgat heard about SWW. He decided to look into this program, thinking that it would be the same as the other seminars. But this time was different. “It turned out not to be a one-time seminar, but a whole educational program,” Talgat shared. “There were nine sessions, all on different topics. I didn’t intend to go through the whole program, but it really touched me. And so I stayed, even coming back for the second year. I experienced deep repentance for the years with Christ that I had wasted, and I became an assistant leader of a home group. My greatest testimony is this: our church has eight home groups, and I started leading worship for all of them. I thank SWW for restoring this joy in my life. I am an actor, and I hope to offer a performance on a spiritual theme, so that people will turn their eyes to Jesus Christ.”