Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Dance of Tolerance in Kyrgyzstan

The former Soviet Republic of Kyrgyzstan continues to balance tolerance, order and freedom as it deals with religious pluralism. This is a nation of two main “traditional” faith traditions, Islam and Orthodox Christianity. It has tolerated Catholicism, Protestantism and has a tiny Jewish population. In fact there are over 300 different Protestant groups represented in the country.

Still, the vast majority of the citizens are Muslim or Orthodox. These two groups have learned to live side by side and do not attempt to convert one another. So why the problems now? In short, it is a reaction to missionaries from the West.

Evangelical Christians are converting citizens of Kyrgyzstan. Their attempts at converting members of the Islamic community or the Russian Orthodox community are seen as insensitive at best and offensive at worst. So now the politicians are involved. The State Agency for Religious Affairs is supporting a change in the law governing religious classification. If the law goes into effect a religious organization would not be recognized unless it had at least 200 members. This would offer far less protection to smaller denominations.

The effect may be far reaching. It may affect what religious colleges can teach, where religious material may be distributed and when and how public worship would be scheduled.

The government would state the need to maintain order and especially peace between religious and ethnic communities is of primary importance. Other Central Asian Republics are resorting to lynch laws, switching from one faith to another can cost a person their life. Uzbekistan has officially banned missionary work. Human rights must be supported while working to reduce tensions whenever possible. Perhaps it is time for Western religious groups to work with the existing Christian groups in Kyrgyzstan instead of trying to replace them.

1 comment:

Dimas said...

Thank you , i didn`t know that republic, is very interestingball that you are saying.

Best regards