Securing their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the Central Asian republics of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, with a total population of almost 59 million, cover an area of 1.5 million square miles. Kazakhstan is the largest in area and second largest in population. The region is rather diverse ethnically in spite of the similarity in language and religion. Most people identify with the religion of Islam, while a minority identify with the deeply rooted and historic Russian Orthodox Church
The names of these countries are derived from the region’s five largest ethnic groups. With the exception of the Tajiks, whose source is Persian, these groups are ethnically and linguistically Turkic in origin. Other groups in smaller numbers, such as Russians, Ukrainians, Jews, Germans and Koreans, have migrated to the region. Historically this region has also been influenced by Russia from the north, China from the east, Afghanistan and Iran from the west and south.
The PC(USA) is endeavoring to discern how to serve in this area in a post-Soviet era. It relates to the emerging churches and a few development agencies in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as they struggle to forge new national identities.
Dating back to the early 1990s, the PC(USA)’s engagement in Central Asia is the enactment of its commitment to Christian witness. It remains concerned with the societal and economic vulnerability resulting from the disbanding of the U.S.S.R., the harmful aspects of globalization, the geopolitical instability and the lack of ethnic and religious tolerance. Therefore the PC(USA)’s strategic commitment with its partners in the region is to empower mutually transformative ministries with an emphasis on holistic ministries communicated through community development and a dynamic interfaith dialogue.
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