Kyrgyzstan (the Republic of Kyrgyzstan) is located in the Central Asia, in the very heart of Eurasia, and is wholly located on the territory of Asia. Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous and landlocked country, between western and central parts of Tian Shan, and the north part of Pamir. It borders Kazakhstan in the north, Uzbekistan in the west, Tajikistan in the southwest and China in the southeast.
The Capital city of Kyrgyzstan is Bishkek. The population is 5.776.570. The state religion is Islam. Muslims make 88.7% of the population, and Christians make 5.3%.
The ethnical name of “Kyrgyz” means ‘forty tribes’. It refers to an epic hero Manas, who united forty tribes against Uyghurs. The forty rays on the national flag of Kyrgyzstan symbolize the forty tribes of Manas.
The current territory of Kyrgyzstan, as well as all the Central Asia, is one of the oldest centers of human civilization.
Kyrgyzs migrated to their current territory from Altay-Sayan region; during their history, they have kept their original name: ‘Kyrgyz’.
The first states on the territory of today’s Kyrgyzstan originated in the 2nd century B.C. Back in the 4th-3rd centuries B.C., ancestors of Kyrgyzs were one of the powerful nomadic tribes in Central Asia. In the 2nd-1stcenturies B.C., a part of Kyrgyz tribes reached the Yenisei River, where they formed the first state called Kyrgyz Khanate. The state has become the center of Kyrgyz people where their culture was formed.
Archeologic and historical facts testify about presence of Christianity in Kyrgyzstan from the period of the Middle Ages. There were testimonies of a nation called Soghdak, which professed the Masiakh (Jesus Christ); they spoke in two languages, Soghdian and Turkish. However, the history of contemporary Christianity in Kyrgyzstan started when the country joined Russia in the 19th century. The first Churches were Orthodox. In addition, German immigrants brought Catholicism and Lutheranism here.
Islam was adopted as a state religion in 1636. However, Islam has not had high authority in this country. It is noteworthy that even in 1762, Kyrgyzs and Kazakhs addressed a request to Ekaterina II, the Queen of Russia, to protect them from propagation of Islam and to convert them to Orthodoxy. Such requests were sent repeatedly during the next century as well. The subject of necessity and possibility of converting Kazakhs and Kyrgyzs were raised in different times by Ch. Ch. Valikhanov, N. A. Krasnovski, V. A. Lipski, T. Tikhonov, and others.
“Kyrgyzs and Kazakhs are talented nations, and Muslim indifference and stillness is strange to them; they are capable to embrace (European) culture…”, said V. A. Lipski, confirming and proving the necessity of Christianizing this nation. However, both the tsarist government and the Russian Orthodox Church took an unequivocal and clear stand that ‘Kazakhs and Kyrgyzs must remain Muslim’. The only exception were individual missionaries who worked alone and in fear, endangering their lives, with no support from the government or the Church.
From 1990-1991, the number of Kyrgyzs who inclined to Christianity started to grow. Never before Evangelical Churches had opportunity to influence the people. Currently they have this opportunity. Thus, a number of Kyrgyzs became members of Evangelical Churches during 1987-1988. This was a period of spiritual revival in Kyrgyzstan.
Even though the dominant religion in the Central Asia is Islam, it is gradually replaced by radical Islam. In general, the legislation of Kyrgyzstan guarantees freedom of religion; however, these laws are not always applied.
Islamic groups from different sects and of different practices enter the country from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other countries; some of them start terroristic acts, because of which the Government is very alarmed. Afraid of the extremists, the Government of Kyrgyzstan has passed several laws, which limit all the religions, including both radical Muslims and Christians.
In 2009, the changes in the Religious Freedom Law include bans on proselytism and distribution of religious literature. Believers are always threatened with damage of the possessions, terrorism and physical harm. The religious groups are required to reregister, and to obtain registration, a Church must have more than 200 adults.
In 2014, a Presidential decree was issued, according to which the Muslim board, which enjoys the Government’s support, has more control over legislative changes of the freedom of religion; in future, they can impose stricter limitations on freedom of religion.