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Citizenship and religiosity in Kyrgyzstan: search for facets and bilateral cooperation

On April 27, an online meeting was held on “Citizenship and Religiosity. The experience of Kyrgyzstan.” The experts discussed whether the principles of citizenship and religiosity contradict each other and whether sacred quests are related to dissatisfaction and disappointment in the public administration system.


The event was held by the Representative Office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Kyrgyzstan (IWPR) as part of the project “Stability in Central Asia through an Open Dialogue”. The broadcast was on the Belief.cabar.asia Facebook page, providing an opportunity to discuss the most pressing religious issues in the Central Asian region.

The expert meeting was held in a new format – the participants had the opportunity to share their own thoughts without the formal part of reports and presentations.

14.00. The meeting begins. Online connection is configured.

The meeting is held under the control of the moderator – coordinator of the IWPR project “Stability in Central Asia through an Open Dialogue” Ilkhom Umarakhunov.

By getting into the action, he asked the participants about their readiness. The approval followed immediately. Then, realizing the responsibility that falls on his shoulders, he asked a question that had been in the air for a long time: “What place is given to citizenship and religiosity in the society of Kyrgyzstan?”

IWPR held an expert meeting on the implementation results of the concept of the state policy of Kyrgyzstan in the religious sphere 2014-2020

The right of the first speech was reserved by the Director of the State Commission for Religious Affairs of Kyrgyzstan Zaiyrbek Ergeshov. However, he gallantly handed over the virtual microphone to Nurgul Esenamanova, the acting assistant professor of the Department of Philosophy and Social Sciences and Humanities of the Kyrgyz State Law Academy.

On that day, two meetings were planned in her diary – at 14.00 and 15.00. First, a discussion of citizenship and religiosity, and then a workshop of the teaching staff of the Law Academy. It was necessary to have time for both meetings. Moreover, the topic of the first meeting is closely related to her study “The influence of the religious factor on the socio-political situation in the Kyrgyz Republic”.

The leitmotif of her speech was the idea that the concepts of citizenship and religiosity cannot be opposite to each other:

“Religiosity can be a consequence of citizenship. History shows that these concepts coexist quite harmoniously. The conflict begins only in case of a violation of the law. Where the law is respected, there can be no disagreement between these terms. ”

Human rights activist Gulshayyr Abdirasulova spoke next. Work on a bill on conducting a religious expert examination in combination with its internal values ​​prompted a wide variety of thoughts. She shared some of them:

“Citizenship is identified as love towards motherland, which gives rise to responsibility for the situation in the country and for the future generation. However, this feeling does not arise from scratch, it must be mutual. Therefore, it is important how the state treats its citizens and whether they feel the support of their state. One of the reasons for the growth of religiosity is unjustified expectations from their country. ”

To avoid stigmatization, the expert noted the importance of using the term “citizenship” without drawing a parallel with nationality, race, gender, and religious affiliation.

Keneshbek Sainazarov, director of Central Asian programs of Search for Common Ground organization, continued this thought:

“Citizenship is a two-way process. Of course, we must wonder how anyone can be useful and helpful to society. However, at the same time, the state should play its unifying role through caring for its citizens and manifesting empathy in a pandemic.”

In order to create a sense of personal belonging to Kyrgyzstan effectively, the expert suggested promoting this idea from the schoolyard by introducing relevant topics into the educational program. According to him, the educational program should be formed based on the requirements of the student and the requirements of modern times.

The expert paid special attention to work with the population.

“In other countries, there is the concept of “practical citizenship”, in which the values ​​of citizenship must be used every day outside educational institutions through civic engagement and activity”, mentioned Saynazarov.

Director of the State Commission for Religious Affairs Zaiyrbek Ergeshov urged not to make mistakes that bring us back to the past:

“There is no need to look at the past. Now we need to build the future. Consider how we can resolve disagreements collectively and bring people together. We all – citizens, the state, and religious figures – must work on the formation of civic identity, so that in the future we can proudly say – we are Kyrgyzstanis (citizens of Kyrgyzstan)!”

The well-known theologian Kadir Malikov noted that the topic of discussion is the concept of national and the so-called universal religious values.

“Islam does not contradict citizenship – love for one’s people, homeland, nature. Everything fits together. However, if we are talking about a human, then everything should be built around them.”

Concluding the conversation, the participants emphasized that only support and cohesion, constant dialogue and the cooperation of different value systems determine the internal stability of society.

The formal meeting turned into a warm friendly conversation. In such an unusual new format – without shaking hands and friendly hugs – it left an indelible impression of the high role of unity.

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