www.barnabasfund.org A new constitution that was overwhelmingly approved by the people of Kyrgyzstan offers hope for greater religious freedom following the passing of a repressive Religion Law last year.
The document gained the backing of more than 90% of the vote in a referendum held on 27 June, when the turnout was nearly 70%. It was held just two weeks after violent ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan that left hundreds dead. (See Prayer Focus Update July 2010.) Kyrgyz Christians became targets in the conflict as they sought to help their Uzbek brothers and sisters flee the violence. The referendum went ahead even though many of the 400,000 people, mainly ethnic Uzbeks, who had been forced to leave had not returned.
The Constitution paves the way for greater freedom of religion in Kyrgyzstan under interim president Roza Otunbayeva. She established a provisional government after an uprising in April that led to the overthrow of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Though it remains to be seen if the government will uphold these rights in practice, the new constitution offers hope for Kyrgyz Christians after the previous parliament unanimously approved a restrictive Religion Law in January 2009. Until this date, Kyrgyzstan had been for Christians the least restrictive of all the Central Asian republics. There have been encouraging signals from the interim government that the Religion Law will be reformed. On 15 April this year government spokesman Kanybek Imanaliyev said, “We want to establish freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We will reform the Constitution, the laws as necessary and the Religion Law.”
- Pray that the Lord will sustain and guide all those who serve Him in Kyrgyzstan, and pray that this new constitution will bring about greater religious freedom, and that the Religion Law will be reformed to become more liberal.