Central Asia

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PRAYER FOCUS IN FEBRUARY - CENTRAL ASIA Central Asia is a large area over 1.5 Million square miles spanning from Caspian Sea in the west to China in the East, from Russia in the north and Afghanistan in the South where over 60 million people live in the nations of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan. For the purpose of Missions focus, due to the cultural, historical and religious affinities of people in this Region, we have included Afghanistan and Pakistan to this bloc of nations to understand the geopolitical and religious influence for effective prayer. The 7 ‘Stan’s. For this reason we will call this bloc the 7 ‘Stan’s, and over 95 percent of all the people in this region are Moslem and there is much work to be done in this Region. Majority of the Christians in the Central Asia are Orthodox, and Evangelicals are a small number. The Pentecostals/Charismatics are even smaller in number, but the churches are growing and spreading in this Region. The majority of the Christians in Afghanistan are expatriates and only a small number of Afghan believers. This nation will play a significant role in the political stability of the Region and in the other parts of the World. Pakistan has the largest number of Christians which has a long history but faces hostilities and persecution. Pakistan is the world’s second-largest concentration of unengaged, un-evangelized peoples and the world’s second largest Muslim population. Few countries, if any, present a greater challenge for missions. The Nuclear weapons in Pakistan is a major reason for concern for many nations, especially the danger of being used by fundamentalists groups. Let us pray for more laborers, strong churches, and greater openness and for Spiritual breakthroughs in these nations. “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord”. 2 Corinthians 4: 3-5. Importance of Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the 5 ‘Stan’s in the Central Asian region needs greater missionary work, the role of Afghanistan and Pakistan affects the world scene, especially the Western world due to the strong network of Islamists terrorist groups that are operating freely and connected globally to destabilize the world. Prayer for these 2 nations are critical due to the above reasons and we wish to mobilize prayer and intercession this month. People of Central Asia. The five largest ethnic groups in Central Asia are, in descending order of size, the Uzbek, Kazak, Tajik, Turkmen, and Kyrgyz. All these groups speak languages related to Turkish except for the Tajik, who speak a language related to Persian. Islām is the dominant religion, with most adherents belonging to the Sunnite branch. As a result of the region’s historical incorporation into Russia and then the Soviet Union, large numbers of Russians and Ukrainians give it a distinctive multiethnic character. Population growth in Central Asia has been quite rapid in the 20th century owing to high birth rates and Soviet health measures that brought down mortality rates. Christians in Central Asia: a) Indigenous evangelical Christians have multiplied to number tens of thousands in Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and even Turkey, but in all of these places they face pressures from many sides – the government, Islamist groups, the Orthodox hierarchy and family members/society at large. The perception of evangelicalism as being foreign is one reason for such trouble; the hard line taken by many governments against religious extremism has unintended consequences for Christian groups. Pray for the rooting of the Christian faith in Central Asian cultural forms, for continued growth, for the positive witness of believers and for the further development of mature indigenous leadership. Pray also for Russian, Ukrainian, German, Korean and other expatriate believers who still comprise a majority of evangelicals in these lands. b) Pressures on Christians are more severe in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and especially Turkmenistan. Foreign workers have been expelled from these countries, congregations scattered and church leaders imprisoned. Pray that the remnant might stand strong and even grow amid these tribulations. In Afghanistan, despite the defeat of the Taliban as a military force, indigenous believers face great risks and must be very cautious in meeting together. c) Multi-national partnerships of expatriate believers exist for each of these nations. They have raised up intercession, mobilized mission, fostered cooperation and encouraged local believers. Pray that their continued carrying of these burdens might bring forth greater harvest in these needy regions. (Source: Operation World) Map: Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries.

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