When a local Kyrgyz believer was dying of cancer, he was visited by three Moldo (Muslim leaders) from the local mosque. “If you do not leave your faith in Jesus,” they told him, “we will not allow your family to bury you in the local cemetery.” He responded emotionally, telling them to go away.
But just as he had been warned, after he passed away, his Christian brothers were forced to change his burial location three times. Each time they faced resentment from the local mosque, and a prohibition against burying him.
This situation, two years ago, has lingering bitterness and sorrow for his family, relatives and friends. “I never thought there would be no place in our homeland to bury my husband,” his widow said.
Kyrgyzstan government, over the past few years, has agreed to review cases of church persecution; the most common being pressure from society toward church members who seek to bury ethnic Kyrgyz relatives who have become Christians.
A blatant case was reviewed last year in a village located in the south. A corpse was exhumed after local Muslims found out that the buried person had become a Christian believer before his death. Representatives from the local mosque forced relatives of the deceased Christian to bury him outside the village cemetery.
Historically, in Kyrgyzstan, and other countries of the former Soviet Union, community facilities and institutions such as cemeteries are set up separately, based on ethnic principles. There is a cemetery for Kyrgyz people, usually called the Muslim cemetery; the cemetery for Russians is called the Christian graveyard. There is still another cemetery for Koreans, and so on.
A problem occurs when a Kyrgyz person becomes a believer in Christ, and then dies. Muslims will not allow his/her relatives to bury him/her in the cemetery reserved for Kyrgyz people, who are traditionally Muslim. But at the same time, because the person who died is an ethnic Kyrgyz, Russians do not allow the person to be buried in the Christian cemetery!
So the church’s question in Kyrgyzstan remains, “Where can we bury our Kyrgyz Christians?”
Father, we pray Your comfort and guidance to rest on Christians in Kyrgyzstan as they struggle to honor the bodies of ethnic Kyrgyz loved ones and friends. Grant them wisdom and insight as they seek a solution to the growing need for burial places. Thank You for having drawn these dear ones into faith in Christ, and for the sure knowledge that they have passed on to a glorious life in Your presence. Thank You for the desire of their loved ones to honor their bodies; knowing that in this life their bodies had become temples of Your Holy Spirit. We pray for Kyrgyz society to provide new cemeteries to fill this need, or to allow Kyrgyz Christians to be buried in existing cemeteries. In the name of Jesus, in whom we place our hope in life and in death, Amen.