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Kazakhstan: How Religion Helps to Live?

97 per cent of the people of Kazakhstan deem themselves religious. According to the national census of 2009, the majority qualifies themselves as Muslims – 70%, about 25% as Christians. We decided to learn how religion helps in everyday life and in overcoming crises.

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28-year-old Aidar adopted Islam six years ago. He thinks that religion helped him to overcome drug addiction and cope with depression.

My parents were neither Jews, nor Christians, nor fire-worshippers, but they were ethnic Muslims that appear in the demographic statistics of our country. They are Muslims by inertia.

Just like all ethnic Muslims, they recalled religion only during some celebrations, funeral feasts, occasional “Bismillah”, and of course you became a true Muslim only after circumcision.

Schools with theories of the descent of man, social media criticising religion, dissolute life, surroundings, atheistic past of parents, etc. contributed to this non-religious environment. I didn’t think about Islam in this environment.

When I was 20, I first tried drugs. As often happens, at first I used drugs for fun. But then suddenly the changed sense of reality coexisted with the everyday reality and even replaced it.

After the drug stopped acting, our world seemed gloomy and dull, dirty and flawed, angry and unfair. Every evening, sitting on the 18th floor, I opened my pocket “wardrobe” and returned back to my favourite country. There I started the life full of colours, tastes, emotions, and sometimes even flying buildings. It’s there that I started to wonder about the creation issues. Where are we from? Did a human really come from monkey? Or can we be aliens? Or do we live in a matrix?

This unsolved questions lead Aidar to prolonged depression. He started to find answers to the questions about the meaning of life. All his life was limited to rare meetings with friends and work. He was thinking about suicide, but a twist of fate brought him to a clairvoyant who advised him to visit a mosque and to start reading the Koran. Since then, he started studying the sacred writings, visiting the mosque and talking to imams.

I think I am still changing myself. I read the Koran, study the Sunnah, and get inspired by them. Islam has answered all my questions. I didn’t feel I belonged here before. Now nothing disturbs me. The Koran made me understand what a man should be.

I owe my life to Islam because if I lived like that, I would have come to no good sooner or later. I think Allah first let me down with depression and then lifted me up. Islam regulates all life spheres of a man: from simple domestic to complex economic, personal relations.

A Christian Denis Zlobin has also suffered many hardships on his way from drug addiction and alcoholism to a churched Christian. Now he is a consultant working with the addicted and helps them and their relatives.

I have been drinking alcohol for 20 years of my life, including 11 years of using hard drugs. When I was 15, I realised I became another man when I drank alcohol.  I was the one I wanted to.

Photo courtesy of Denis Zlobin

When I was 21, I tried hard drugs. I changed my places of living, changed jobs, visited monasteries. I thought I would get married, move to another town and start a new life – it was all a self-deceit.

I didn’t see any point in drinking alcohol in the last five years, but I kept on drinking and using drugs. Very often I wanted to quit, but I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to live without it. I was stealing things from my parents, made excuses for myself and hated myself for it.

I was churched 7 years before I got to the rehabilitation centre. I was receiving sacraments, visited church as much as I could, but it didn’t help me. Moreover, it became a part of my disease. I started to hide behind religion instead of solving the problem.

I was deluding myself that I would do something and thus would influence my spirit world to make my dreams come true. I wasn’t interested in God’s will but worked my will upon him. Drug addiction and alcoholism are the diseases that always hide behind some masks and roles.

His relatives found a rehabilitation centre with a 12 step programme. He could mend his way due to the therapy and support. According to him, alcoholism and drug addiction are the same diseases as diarrhoea or diabetes, they can never be cured by an act of will.

Our therapy was conducted by an addiction specialist, we studied some literature, participated in groups, helped each other, performed writing assignments and many other things. We had to figure out what was actually happening.

I had to rethink all my life, including by belief, or rather what I meant by belief. The truth of life is that we don’t know what is good or bad for us, and get angry when something goes not as we planned it. But we don’t know what would be good for us. We demand something but we don’t know what it would lead to.

Now I am an addiction consultant and I help those who are willing to combat this disease. I work with people regardless of their religion. I think we should discover biological, psychological and social background and causes of the disease and cope with them. The ceremonial part of religion itself doesn’t solve the problems. Despite being religious, many addicted people keep on using drugs.

I got married 3.5 years ago, and this is also a difficult and important path. Sometimes I become nervous and angry; I didn’t stop to be an egoist. But I can ask for help any time, which I didn’t do before. This is a miracle that happened to me and can happen to many people if they want to and are willing to give up in order to win.

This publication was produced under IWPR project «Forging links and raising voices to combat radicalization in Central Asia»

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