Training Strategies in Central Asia

Resistance to the "new" Islam by Central Asian Muslims presents an opportunity for indigenous Christian missionaries.

For some time now the Middle East and Indonesia have been the hot spots of Islamic belief and way of life. Today Central Asia is about to emerge as the next hot spot, even though it has already had an Islamic heritage for hundreds of years.

People groups in this area of the world originally practiced some form of Shamanism, and its beliefs and practices are inherent in their culture even today. After being conquered by Muslims, there were many areas where a new form of Islam developed, converging Islam with the indigenous religions of that time. These indigenous people are known for taking pride in their unique traditions.

In 1991 when the former Soviet Union released these countries, they regained their identities, and religion was, to some extent, tolerated. Increasingly large numbers of Muslims from the southern "-stan" countries began migrating to Central Asia, attempting to regain their former control. But these new Islamists consider themselves to be superior to the indigenous Muslims. The new Muslims look upon these cultural differences as religious aberrations, and they are intent upon destroying this Central Asian cultural heritage. Naturally, the indigenous people are resentful of this criticism and interference.

Due to the religious contentions between the two Muslim sects, Christian indigenous missionaries are finding fertile ground for planting seeds. Native Christian missionaries do not try to change cultures or heritage – they only seek to change the hearts of the men and women and lead them out of darkness.

Even so, the work is difficult because the workers are few. While there is a predominance of Islamic schools, indigenous Christian missionary training is just beginning. Christian Aid has assisted one ministry that has taken it upon themselves to provide training courses in very strategic locations.

Once missionaries in Central Asia have been properly trained for evangelistic outreach, they will be able to travel freely across borders into difficult and dangerous areas with the gospel. When workers gain the trust of the people, there is hope that they will be able to plant churches in Afghanistan.