Dear Friends,

Thank you for joining us in prayer for Christian leaders from Central Asia, a region consisting of five former Soviet republics: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Islam is the dominant religion in Central Asia. Nearly 86% of Central Asians are Muslims (mostly Sunni), while 7% are Christians (primarily Russian Orthodox) and 6% practice no religion. ScholarLeaders supports two Central Asian Christian leaders through LeaderStudies and works with Union Theological Seminary in Kyrgyzstan through the Vital SustainAbility Initiative. Learn more about Central Asia here.

photography of mountain range during daytime
Almaty region in Kazakhstan (Dmitry Sumskoy on Unsplash)

This week, please intercede with us for Talant from Kazakhstan. Around 70% of Kazakhstan’s 18.7 million people are Muslims, over 4% are Christians, and another 4% are unaffiliated. By area, Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country. Due to its rich mineral and oil reserves, Kazakhstan also has the largest economy in Central Asia. In ancient times, Scythian and Turkic nomads inhabited Kazakhstan’s vast steppes. Translated from Turkish and Persian roots, the country’s name literally means “land of the wanderers.” Once part of the Mongol Empire, Russian Empire, and Soviet Union, Kazakhstan is officially a secular democratic republic today. However, it is internationally regarded as an authoritarian regime with a poor human rights record.

Talant is pursuing a PhD in World Religions (Islamic Studies) at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Kentucky, USA). His research investigates how religious and Kazakh ethnic identities intersect, in order to strengthen the Church’s witness and ministry in his context. Talant seeks to train Christian leaders and produce theological resources for Kazakh-speaking ethnic Kazakhs, among whom the need for Christian outreach and discipleship is especially great.

Although Kazakhstan has the largest Christian population in Central Asia, most Christians are ethnically Russian and part of the Russian Orthodox Church. Available Christian materials, already scarce, are usually in Russian. Upon graduation, Talant will be among only three people in Kazakhstan with a seminary doctorate, and the only person with a theological PhD who can speak and write fluently in Kazakh. 
Talant shares the following message:

I am from Kazakhstan, which is a predominantly Muslim country. The vast majority of my countrymen believe that being a Kazakh necessarily means being a Muslim, and they see Kazakhs who follow Jesus Christ as traitors who have betrayed their ancestral faith. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, reviving Islam as an ancestral faith became almost a national agenda in Kazakhstan. Therefore, we have to serve in an environment that is culturally and religiously hostile toward our faith. 

However, by God’s grace, Kazakh-speaking churches have emerged in the past thirty years. Since 2010, Kazakh people have had a full translation of the Bible in their mother tongue. I am honored to be a co-author and co-editor of the first Kazakh biblical-theological dictionary that we hope to publish this year (2021).

As a seminary PhD student, I am passionate about biblical and cultural studies in my country. Please pray for my studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I hope to graduate in May (or December) of 2022 with a PhD in World Religions. In my dissertation, I am focusing on Islam and the pre-Islamic beliefs of the Kazakhs, and how to preach the Bible faithfully in a context where religious and ethnic identities are equated.