On February 28, in Bishkek, IWPR held an expert meeting entitled “Implementation Results of the State Policy Concept of Kyrgyzstan in the Religious Sphere for 2014-2020”.
The representative office of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Central Asia (IWPR CA) held an expert meeting ” Implementation Results of the State Policy Concept of Kyrgyzstan in the Religious Sphere for 2014-2020.”
The Concept of the state policy of the Kyrgyz Republic in the religious sphere for 2014-2020 (hereinafter referred to as the Concept) defines the main directions and principles of state regulation of the activities of religious organizations and associations. The Concept was developed based on the constitutional principle of a secular state. This document is an official vision by the state of goals, objectives and necessary measures to implement the priorities of the “Optimization of state-religious and inter-faith relations” section.
In the course of work on the document, the following points were developed and agreed: 1) key Concepts, principles and values on which the state policy in the religious sphere is based; 2) priority areas of state religious policy, areas of interaction between the state and religion; 3) the stages and mechanisms of the state policy implementation in the religious sphere.
According to the moderator of the expert meeting, Ilham Umarakhunov, during the implementation of the Concept for 2014-2020, there have been changes in the reinterpretation of religious processes in the Kyrgyz Republic. The Concept of state policy in the religious sphere is approaching the final third stage. “The purpose of the event is to evaluate the results of the achieved goals and objectives of the Concept, as well as to develop measures on improving public policy in the religious sphere,” mentioned the moderator.
An expert on religious issues, Nurgul Esenamanova, summed up the implementation results of the public policy Concept for 2014-2020. According to her, the basic principle of the Concept, observance of secularism and non-interference of religious organizations into the state affairs, remains in Kyrgyzstan until nowadays, apart from cases when politicians manipulate the religious feelings of believers during the election process. “The religious feelings of believers have always been manipulated by politicians, especially in countries where Muslims are the predominant population. Such factors as the lack of positive alternatives, failures in socio-economic reforms and corruption are the reason why certain groups of people see a solution in the Islamic alternative,” – Esenamanova emphasized.
Moreover, Esenamanova noted the key areas and principles of the Concept, which are worth paying attention to. According to her, issues related to the relationship of secular and religious values will always be relevant. “It is necessary to resolve issues in this direction in Kyrgyzstan however, their solution will depend on an integrated approach. Tension between secular and religious parts of society will remain in the near future,” the expert mentioned.
In addition, Esenamanova presented the main points that should be reflected in the new Concept of public policy in the religious sphere. As the expert noted, the new Concept should clearly define that the term ‘secularism’ is not atheism. “Secularism is ensuring the equality of all religions, and a neutral attitude towards them. Government bodies should educate the population on the secular nature of the state,” Esenamanova said.
The next speaker invited was the Director of Programs for Central Asia of the Public Fund Search for Common Interests (Поиск Общих Интересов), Keneshbek Saynazarov. He voiced his opinion on the interaction between stakeholders during the implementation of the Concept. As the speaker noted, the essential role of State bodies in the interaction of law enforcement agencies with the expert community and the population should be emphasized. “There has been a transformative approach of state bodies to the religious sphere over the last seven years. The state authorities changed the state control strategy to religious regulation in accordance with the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic, ”said Saynazarov.
Furthermore, the speaker turned to certain challenges, that the Kyrgyz society has faced. According to Saynazarov, today there are certain concerns regarding conflicts on religious grounds. “Nevertheless, the burst out of religious conflicts have become more frequent. It is important to train local government bodies without prejudice to such moments, resolve and prevent such conflicts on the ground,” the speaker notes.
In turn, an expert on religious freedom, Dmitry Kabak shared his view on the implementation results of the Concept. “The period in which the previous Concept is understood, there has been a strong challenge to secularism in the Kyrgyz Republic. There was a strong influence of various religious groups, lobbyism. Some religious groups have been diligently analyzing a package of legal acts or bills passed in parliament. They literally blocked those actions that should be (had to be) accepted in a secular state. Additionally, considering the shadow influence of various religious groups, some adequate initiatives that could resolve a certain range of issues, were blocked” mentioned Kabak.
Ilham Umarakhunov, the moderator of the meeting and the coordinator of the IWPR project, spoke about the impact of the implementation of the Concept on state-confessional and interfaith relations. The moderator of the meeting mentioned that building interfaith dialogue is one of the factors in preventing conflicts and solving problems in the religious sphere. “The State Commission for Religious Affairs (SCRA) has done some work towards building an interfaith dialogue. Since 2017, the commission has actively begun to hold interfaith meetings with representatives of various faiths. These events contributed to the creation of a platform for dialogue between representatives of faiths, as well as government agencies,” noted Umarakhunov.
Umarakhunov also noted that not only the dialogue has appeared, but also the interaction of representatives of various faiths in building a peaceful society. He also added that this fact is an achievement of the Concept implementation.
The meeting moderator also shared several recommendations that should be reflected in the new Concept. Similar to Nurgul Esenamanova, Ilham Umarakhunov also emphasized the need to create alternative narratives with the participation of representatives of various faiths, promoting the values of human rights, without using religious rhetoric and further dissemination in the World Wide Web.
The remaining participants in the meeting actively supported the subsequent discussion, asked questions and actively shared their opinions. In summarizing the results of the expert meeting, issues such as the positive impact during the implementation of the Concept, the main omissions of the Concept and the shortcomings in the implementation of the impact on the religious sphere, as well as the main trends in the religious sphere – recommendations for the future.Participants of the expert meeting “Implementation results of the state policy Concept of Kyrgyzstan in the religious sphere for 2014-2020.” Photo: CABAR.asia