Choosing a Path : The Narrow Path - Part 4
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                       27 Jan 2009


The citizens of Kazakhstan have much to sing about as they experience the benefits that freedom brings.  In the 17 years since achieving independence, major changes have been made which have forever altered the culture of this country.  The people, … for the first time in their lives, … have been given unprecedented freedom; … freedom from the domination of the former Soviet Union.  The government, social life, housing, transportation, the money they use, education and their primary spoken language have all changed over the past few years. They now have many paths to choose from. 

Beginning with Lenin in 1917, his brand of Soviet atheism was the only allowed form of worship.  Stalin  

Overlay:  Beloved Stalin - Fortunate People! 

and other Soviet leaders reinforced this.  During the 70 years of Soviet rule, churches were destroyed as well as most religious traditions.  In the past, likenesses of these men were prominent in cities and towns, but today few can be found.   

On the other hand, the past 17 years has been a time for dramatic increase in the size and number of houses of worship.  The huge mosque in Astana, … with its tall gold-domed minarets, … is just one example. 

Islam is now the dominant belief system in Kazakhstan.  Conversion of the Kazakh people began some 1300 years ago as Islam spread across the Middle East, Europe and Asia.  The Kazakhs gradually incorporated this new religion into their animistic beliefs and by the 19th century nearly all the Kazakhs claimed to be Sunni Muslim, the non-militant branch of Islam.  The distinctive garments identifying an individual as Muslim are seldom observed except near mosques. 

It is estimated that 50% of the population of Kazakhstan claim to be Muslim … essentially all of these are ethnic Kazakhs. 

Overlay:  50% Sunni Hanafi Muslim 

The Orthodox Christian belief was brought to Kazakhstan by the large influx of Russian immigrants during the past 200 years.  Like that of the mosques, there are several new Orthodox Churches in the larger cities but very few can be found in the rural areas. 

The Holy Ascension Cathedral in Almaty was a museum during Soviet times. However, restoration back to a church was completed in 1997 reflecting the grandeur of Imperial Russia. Worship practices continue to follow the traditional Orthodox rituals begun some 16 centuries ago.  Among these practices is the baptism of a child by the priest. This is a special time for the parents, grandparents and other family members of the young child. 

Approximately 40% of the population of Kazakhstan claim to be Orthodox … essentially all ethnic Russians but with a few Ukrainians and Belarussians. 

Overlay:  40% Russian Orthodox 

The Catholic Church has deep roots in Kazakhstan going back as far as 200 A.D.  Catholic churches are now located in most of the larger cities … many are new.  About 2% of the Kazakhstan population claim to be Catholic … most of whom are of German or Polish descent.   

Overlay:  2% Roman Catholic 

Jewish history in Kazakhstan began some 70 years ago when Stalin forcibly moved thousands of Jews from other parts of the Soviet Union to Kazakhstan.  Also, during the holocaust, thousands of Jews fled from Europe to Kazakhstan.  The Jewish community is small and concentrated primarily in Almaty but with growing numbers in Astana and other cities. 

It is estimated that less than 0.1% of the Kazakhstan population is Jewish. 

Overlay:  0.1% Jewish followers 

Evangelical Christianity in Kazakhstan, … like Judaism, … had its beginnings with exiles during the time of Lenin and Stalin.  Evangelical Christian churches began as an underground movement in the 1950’s and were allowed some degree of freedom after Stalin’s death in 1953.  There are several strong Baptist congregations as well as other evangelical denominations in the country.  Some meet in large recently constructed buildings while others in homes as house churches.  For the most part, the congregations are ethnic Russians, Germans or Ukrainians but with a growing number of Kazakh followers. 

Overlay:  Pray Believers remain strong when persecuted  

Evangelism among the ethnic Kazakh is a recent development.  In 1993, there were only a handful of Kazakh believers but 15 years later, there were over 15,000! 

Evangelical Christianity is the fastest growing religion in Kazakhstan; however, the total numbers are small and difficult to quantify because of the large number of small congregations.  It is estimated that about 1% of the Kazakhstan population are Evangelical Christians. 

Overlay:  1% Evangelical Christians 

The growth of evangelical believers appears as a threat to the culturally dominant Muslim and Orthodox beliefs.  Government opposition is on the increase with new laws that restrict opportunities for minority religious expression.   

Overlay: Pray for Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev 

In a like manner many believers face opposition from their families because of the appearance of betraying their culture.  These believers need your prayers as they show their families why they have .

Overlay:  The Lord is near


Let your gentleness be evident to all.

The Lord is near.

Philippians 4:5 

chosen to “enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”. 

Overlay:  Matthew 7:13-14 

Closing:  Song from FBC – Astana

Ending:  Wall hanging – Pray for Kazakhstan


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