Articles

Open door in Central Asia

… to The Turkic peoples

Their history

Central Asia mapThe Turkic peoples of Central Asia have been ruled over the centuries by Arabs, Persians, and by Mongol hordes led by Ghengis Khan. Abai, Manas, Tamerlane and Beruni are famous heroes of the past who are held in high esteem. Islam came to Central Asia by the sword more than a thousand years ago, and its influence is still felt. In the twentieth century Soviet communism brought modernization: paved roads, electricity, and high literacy rates.

In 1991 the republics of Central Asia enthusiastically announced their independence, and the Soviet Union was no more. Today national identity is strong and the individual governments are working hard to promote economic growth and revive their distinct languages and cultures. In China there is more economic security, but the Turkic peoples are struggling to gain the political freedoms enjoyed in nearby republics.

Their cultures & religion

Central Asian society is close knit; people are interdependent and there is not the emphasis on individualism that one finds in the West. Relationships are vital; success depends on who you know rather than what you know. Family relationships are the strongest of all, and one cannot survive without the help and support of the family network. Showing hospitality is very important, and every effort is made to ensure that guests are very well-treated. Sadly, there is a lot of drinking at social occasions, where toasting with vodka is obligatory. Alcoholism is rampant throughout the region.

For the 70 years that atheism was taught in the Soviet Union, the Turkic peoples kept their Muslim identity. It is even said that, "to be Uzbek, Turkmen, Uyghur … is to be Muslim." But there is generally more interest in material things and in living a happy and healthy life, than in following formal religion. Ancient shamanistic practices such as sacrificing live animals to bring God’s blessing, or jumping over fire or wearing special bracelets to ward off evil, are still common in some places. Recently more people have begun observing the teachings of Islam – praying five times a day and fasting in the month of Ramadan – although few do so rigidly.

their languages

The languages of the Turkic peoples of Central Asia are related to Turkish. They have a similar grammatical structure and share many of the same root words.

Russian is still the trade language in some cities, but Turkic languages are used in the villages. In China the Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz prefer to speak their own mother tongue, but must know Chinese to get a good job.

Most of the Central Asian languages are written in Cyrillic script (like Russian) in the former Soviet Union. Azerbaijani, Turkmen and Uzbek can also be written in Latin script (like English). In China, Iran and Afghanistan the Turkic languages use Arabic script.

The open door

Doors to work and minister among the Turkic peoples are wide open. From all over the globe Christians are coming to share their faith. Many are learning the local languages and culture in order to witness and plant Christ's church. Some local Russian and Chinese churches are also learning how to effectively reach out to their Turkic neighbours.

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