Freedom, Religion, Independence in Kazakhstan

What do I know as a westerner living in Kazakhstan about freedom, religion and independence that most all Americans hold so dear? Especially in Kazakhstan where these key concepts are on everyone’s minds as we look south to Kyrgyzstan. The crucial referendum vote the Kyrgyz people will make this Sunday throughout that fragile Central Asian nation will have some outcome, good or bad.  My heart quakes for what other shoe will drop as the political events continue to churn since April 7th in Bishkek and Talas and more recently last week in Osh, southern Kyrgyzstan.

I just got my invitation by the American embassy from the warden to show up on July 4th for our own little celebration on Sunday.  Not sure how many Americans are left in Astana, Kazakhstan during this hot season.  There has been a mass exodus of most of the teachers I know to places cooler or with family elsewhere.

As Americans, independence and freedom are seemingly set in our DNA, but I think it is true of the Kazakhs and Kazakhstanis as well.  A century ago they freely roamed the steppes as nomads and saw the wide open spaces as a good thing.  Their livestock needed the room to move for grazing, from what I have read there were strict and set boundaries that the Central Asian nomads knew and understood.  How religious were they, in other words, how Muslim were they?  I don’t think as devout as others from Saudi Arabia or the Middle East.  The Muslim veneer is there but for the Kazakh they have something deeper and internal in them, I don’t know what yet.  I hope to find out more…

As a Christian it is good for my eyes to see the freedom of religion in Astana where registered churches exist side by side.  There is a Jewish synagogue down the street from a big Catholic church.  Russian Orthodox and Baptist churches are in the mix as well.  Of course not as many as you would see in a typical American city but worshippers are encouraged to attend.  The photo of a church above was taken by me inside Independence hall.  I believe the current president of this great nation wants to promote freedom of religion in Kazakhstan.

Since I have been watching the events south of us in Kyrgyzstan, (and blogs seem to be the best source of information) one blog popped up that I think is on YouTube titled “This is Astana.”  Of course it is a promo piece for Astana and placed strategically at a time when things were really bad in Osh, but they proudly showed the different religions that freely worship in the capital city.  Note the statues for independence at Independence Hall in Astana.  As first time visitors, all should go visit this place to find out more about Kazakhstan.  Of course, you WILL come in the summer time because the winter time is too cold.  No freedom or independence when the cold blasts of adversity (wind howling down the steppes) come to assault you.  In order to survive the steppes, the Kazakhs of old had to have some kind of religion to prevail.  I want to learn more about how they survived, this Kazakh culture is a fascinating one.

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