May: Central Asian Peoples
Who They Are
The peoples of Central Asia are predominately Turkic speaking tribes which originate from the steppe regions of Northern Asia. The vast rolling grasslands of this region served as the perfect habitat for the traditional nomadic lifestyle of most Central Asian peoples. As a result of intentional efforts of the Soviets, much of this nomadism has been lost. The Turkic peoples are closely related to the Mongolians and the original tribes were likely indistinguishable from their Mongolian cousins. The languages and features of many Turkic peoples are still very similar to one another. Where these two branches of the Turko-Mongolian cluster diverged was principally in the area of religion. The Turkic tribes converted to Islam and the Mongolian tribes accepted Buddhism. In the tenth century the Mongol tribes invaded much of Asia and build the largest empire in history. In subsequent centuries, the Turkic peoples continued this legacy of conquest and placed their stamp of influence over much of the Middle East and Turkey in the form of the Ottoman empire. The further west their migration the more their Mongolian features diminished. In Turkey most of the local population adopted Islam and the Turkish language, yet genetically retained primarily European features. Thus the Turkic cluster has a wide diversity of expression in physical appearance. With the growth of the Russian empire in the 19th century and then the Soviet Union in the 20th century, much of Central Asia fell under communist rule. The Soviets decimated Islam and secularized much of the population over 70 years of their influence. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, there was an effort to re-introduce Islam among the Turkic peoples. Billions of dollars in investment came from the middle east to rebuild mosques and establish centers of Islamic learning. Some of the greatest persecution today of Christians in the Muslim world can be found in Central Asian countries. The apparatus of the KGB still remains in place decades after the Soviet collapse, and has been used to control commerce and politics in a mafia-like fashion. It has also been used to attack the church and intimidate believers, especially leaders. What God is Doing For a brief window, there was an opportunity for missionaries to enter Central Asia, and thousands were sent. They have almost all been ejected now. Even so, by God’s grace they left behind indigenous fellowships that are now multiplying and thriving in almost every Central Asian people group. Significant breakthroughs have occurred among the Kirghiz and Kazakhs with at least 10,000 believers between them. Among the Uzbeks, Uighurs, Tatars and Turkmen there has been less response, but still we see the beginnings of breakthrough emerging.
How to Pray
-Intercede for the dozens of pastors who have been imprisoned in Central Asia, especially Kazakhstan. Pray for their families, congregations and friends that they would stand firm in their faith and remain steadfast in what they have received from God.
-Pray for effective follow-up with new believers who come to Christ through social media and satellite television in Turkey. There are estimated to be hundreds of thousands.
-Pray for the Uighurs who are undergoing mass-incarceration in China, that God would draw them to himself during this time and lead them to true freedom in Christ.
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