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IWPR conducted public outreach on religious freedom, interfaith dialogue and building a peaceful community

Experts in cooperation with local authorities, religious figures and the population had a discussion on topical issues in the field of religion for building peaceful communities, which took place in the regional centers of Bazar-Korgon, Suzak, Nooken and the city of Jalal-Abad.

After a small conflict between local residents of the village of Sovet (Bazar-Korgon district) with representatives of the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” religious organization, the IWPR Representative Office in Kyrgyzstan together with the State Commission for Religious Affairs (SCRA) and the State Agency for Local Self-Government and Interethnic Relations under the Government (SALSIR) conducted Dialogue meetings with the population.

These meetings are aimed at promoting liberal attitude towards religion, tolerance, secularism and effective interaction. Also, to improve the cooperation of stakeholders in the prevention of conflicts and warnings about the violent extremism.

The meetings were attended by 284 people – social workers, representatives of local self-government, local community leaders, students and representatives of religious organizations. 

The speakers of the events were Gulnaz Isaeva, Head of the Analytical Department of the SCRA, Nazar Irsaliev, Head of the Interethnic Relations Department of SALSIR, and Jamal Frontbek Kyzy, Head of the “Mutakalim” Progressive Women’s Association.

Since 2010, many international donor organizations have paid great attention to the Suzak and Bazar-Korgon districts in the field of interethnic harmony and the prevention of radicalization and violent extremism. Despite the great work done by the actors, small outbreaks of intolerance in the region are noticed.

In order to determine the sentiment of residents, as well as support dialogue for a more effective understanding of the principles of secularism, the importance of interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance, detailed presentations on religious policy were included into the meeting program. In addition, at the Q&A session, local residents had the opportunity to openly voice their concerns.

The meetings began with a report by Nazar Irsaliev, who spoke about the work of SALSIR, dwelt in detail on the values ​​of diversity and mechanisms for promoting ethnic tolerance.

The events were continued by the presentation of Gulnaz Isaeva (SCRA), who spoke in detail about the legislation of Kyrgyzstan regulating religious activities. The values ​​of religious freedom were making an important component of the presentation. Participants were informed about the ban on door-to-door approach and that receiving religious education is only possible in religious institutions. She also emphasized that every citizen has the right to choose his religion and the importance of promoting the values ​​of religious tolerance as an instrument in the fight against violent extremism.

Based on the results of these presentations, residents had a lot of questions for the speakers. Some were interested in the problem of wearing religious clothes in schools, while others asked about the legality of the missionary work of religious organizations. The older generation noted an increase in the religiosity of the population and the emergence of a big gap between the generations. The speakers emphasized the inclusiveness of society, the inadmissibility of dividing into “we” and “you”. They noted that everyone should be united around citizenship and any contradictions should be resolved in the legal field.

Zhamal Frontbek Kyzy, moderator of the meetings, spoke about the approach of civic activism in solving problems. Having extensive experience in promoting women’s rights, she paid great attention to ensuring access to education for girls.

Another sharp question raised by the speaker was the return of Kyrgyz citizens from Syria and Iraq. It is worth noting that this is a new process for the population, and many people have not yet determined their position. The speakers emphasized that the state has adopted a humane approach and it is necessary to return children and women.

Through dialogue meetings, IWPR came across different opinions and different levels of knowledge among the population. Of course, it is possible to accurately determine the level of knowledge of the population only after a survey or in-depth interviews, but this approach of meetings gives answers to the question about what topics are most interesting for the residents. It is also worth noting that it is necessary to hold meetings between stakeholders to strengthen actions on solving problems related to the communities.