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Christians across the mostly Muslim states of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan report a familiar pattern in the decade since Central Asia escaped Soviet control. First there was freedom, then growth, then repression.

Now, with neighboring Afghanistan promising a freer government, the 55.9 million people in these five central Asian states don’t know what’s coming next.

“We need a lot of prayer right now,” says one church planter in the region who asked for anonymity. “It seems that our 10 good years of democratzia are coming to an end.”

Kazakhstan could be the key to the region. With a total population of 16.2 million, this vast oil- and mineral-rich land has a credible reputation for being liberal politically, economically, and religiously. Although a majority of Kazakhstan’s people are Muslim, there are 1.2 million Russian Orthodox in the nation. Some ethnic Russians are leaving Kazakhstan because authorities launched a drive to promote Kazakh language and culture.

Many Protestant groups have grown during the past 10 years. Roman Dudnik, 37, executive director of the Association of Religious Organizations of Kazakhstan (arok), counts 50,000 members among Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Adventists, Presbyterians, and others. In addition, Operation World now estimates there are 6,000 ethnic Kazakh believers, most of whom were previously from the country’s Muslim majority. In 1990, there were none.

“Kazakhstan has been so open that almost anything works,” the unnamed missionary told CT. “I can only conclude that it has been God’s time for Kazakhstan.”

To promote prayer and unity, about 20,000 evangelicals from the region and around the world gathered for the Silk Road 2000 festival in the former ...

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March 11, 2002

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