Kyrgyzstan is one of the Central Asian republics, sharing a frontier with China to the southeast. In 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan gained its independence. Much of the country is mountainous and the long winters bring bitterly cold temperatures down to minus 4° Celsius, along with blizzards, snowstorms and avalanches in many areas.
Kyrgyzstan‘s territory of around 78,000 square miles (200,000 km²) is home to a population of just 6.3 million or so, belonging to a variety of different ethnic and religious groups. Over 75% of the population profess Islam, and although most Kyrgyz Muslims are generally tolerant, there have been signs of growing radicalisation among younger Muslims in recent times. Roughly 20% of the population are Russian Orthodox, while the remaining 5% belong to other religions, including Catholics, or have no religion at all.
The few hundred Catholics in the country live widely scattered, a tiny minority and a somewhat heterogeneous group. Most have Ukrainian, Polish or German roots, but there are also Korean and Russian Catholics to add to the mix.
There are three established parishes and are 20 smaller communities where the Catholic faithful gather. But often it may be a case of just a single Catholic family in a village, separated by miles from other Catholics. The priests work very hard to minister even to these isolated and remote clusters of believers. At present all the priests and religious sisters are from abroad and as yet there have been no local vocations. Matters have been further complicated by the pandemic, since some of these foreign missionaries have been unable to return to Kyrgyzstan and now find themselves stuck in their own home countries. The four priests who are currently living in Kyrgyzstan are desperately dependent on outside help.
ACN is determined to help these four priests in Kyrgyzstan and is proposing to send them Mass stipends for a total value of 4000 Euros for the year ahead.