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Kyrgyzstan swears in caretaker president as country is still reeling from terrible ethnic violence

People visiting the makeshift memorial in front of the White House, the presidential office building in Bishkek

Kyrgyzstan’s provisional leader Roza Otunbayeva has been sworn in as president Saturday (July 3,2010), ushering in what the turbulent Central Asian nation’s government hopes will be a new era of stability and democratic freedoms.

After her inauguration, Otunbayeva, 59, hailed what she described as a momentous new era for Kyrgyzstan, which has endured months of political and ethnic violence since former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was deposed in a bloody uprising in April amid widespread anger over falling living standards and rampant corruption.

Reports have said that as many as 2,000 people may have died in violent riots that swept the southern city of Osh recently and the United Nations had increased its official estimate of people displaced by the unrest from 75,000 to around 400,000. The UN humanitarian office spokeswoman, Elisabeth Byrs, said that an estimated 300,000 people have been displaced and remain inside Kyrgyzstan.

Around 100,000 others have escaped across the border into neighboring Uzbekistan, according to Byrs. Uzbekistan closed its border with Kyrgyzstan on Monday.

Also, voters in Kyrgyzstan have now decisively endorsed a new constitution.

ASSIST News Service has just received a report from Jed Courley, a Calvary Chapel pastor based in the capital city of Bishkek, in which he said, “Many thanks to those of you who have been praying for the situation in Kyrgyzstan over the past few weeks and months. On June 27th, a new constitution was ratified and President confirmed through national referendum. Thankfully, that day came and went peacefully.

“However, in southern Kyrgyzstan, even though international media reports tell of a seeming stability and a return of tens of thousands of Uzbek refugees, the truth of the situation is not so clear-cut. One local official, recently returning from a tour of the south, mentioned that there are still large, physical barriers separating the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks from each other; still large amount of weapons that are prevalent throughout the region; still widespread animosities that are deeply rooted and brewing just below the surface.

“Thousands of people are homeless as large parts of Osh, a city of half a million people, were purposefully set ablaze and destroyed.”

Christians from the various churches in Bishkek gathering together for a day of cleaning up the city

Courley went on to say, “The website for Amnesty International shows side by side before and after satellite photos of the atrocities. It is truly a time when there are huge humanitarian problems. Although large quantities of aid from many countries and organizations are being directed to this region now, the reports that we are hearing say that much of this aid is not getting into the hands of those who need it and instead is being sold to the highest bidders, the mafia, and the drug lords.

“Overall, much of the economy of Kyrgyzstan has stagnated. Many people in our church are without work or are not being paid for their work. The effects of this are now being felt in significant ways within the church. For example, although we had planned to have our third national conference at the end of August, we may have to cancel it since many are saying that they do not think they will be able to afford the $35 needed to attend the conference. Still others say that they are not able to come to as many Bible studies since they cannot even afford to pay the cost of transport.”

But it was not all bad news as Courley went on to say, “In spite of the political, humanitarian, and economic, crises in Kyrgyzstan, outreach continues! In fact, some people now have more time to assist with outreaches. We are excited about our upcoming vacation Bible schools that will take place in the following weeks, both here in Bishkek as well as at the lake. Our first VBS will be next week and is for those children who have been attending the church in Bishkek. The following weeks will be for children in our region who have never been to church and also for children at the lake.

“Besides these and other outreaches, we continue to pray about how the Lord would use us in this time of crisis. Recently we became aware of hundreds of traumatized children from the south who have been brought to Bishkek. The orphanages where they are staying are now asking for help in obtaining simply things like sheets, clothing, laundry detergent, and food for these children.

“Some people from our church have been asked to do special counseling with these children who have been eye witnesses to the bloody events of the previous weeks. This seems to be one of the open doors that the Lord is leading us through here in Bishkek. As we begin to serve in this area we still continue to pray about any other opportunities to minister to those who have been so devastated in Osh and the surrounding region.”

Courley concluded his message with the following prayer requests:

Please pray for:
– our upcoming Vacation Bible Schools
– resources and people to assist these “children of the conflict”
– wisdom as we make a decision about the national conference
– the new leaders of this country: for their salvation and that God would give them great understanding and the ability to lead this country out of its corrupt past
– true freedom of religion in Kyrgyzstan: some are now advocating for Islam to be given an even greater degree of influence than it already possesses
– revival, the planting of more churches, our health, and vision for the future

You can e-mail Jed Courley at CCMUkraine@aol.com and his Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/jedgourley

Note: Kyrgyzstan, officially the Kyrgyz Republic, is one of the six independent Turkic states. Located in Central Asia, landlocked and mountainous, it is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and People’s Republic of China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.

Dan Wooding, ANS

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