Borbieva, “Foreign faiths and national renewal: Christian conversion among Kyrgyz youth”

Borbieva, Noor O’Neill (2012). “Foreign faiths and national renewal: Christian conversion among Kyrgyz youth.” Culture and Religion 13(1):41-63.


Drawing on my research among foreign religious workers and young converts, I explore here the changing religious landscape in the Kyrgyz Republic. Although many people in Kyrgyzstan are aware of the material benefits enjoyed by people who convert to new faiths (money, food and professional opportunity), to understand the appeal of these faiths among young people it is important to look beyond material factors. I argue that Christianity’s success must be understood in the context of the current social and economic crisis and is a result of Christian leaders’ ability to link young people’s spiritual lives to projects of national renewal. The story of evangelical Christianity in Kyrgyzstan speaks to an ongoing debate in the social sciences about the usefulness of studying conversion as an individual experience of changed belief versus as a response to social and political realities. The emphasis, in Kyrgyz churches, on the importance of individual converts to national renewal reveals that the individual and social dimensions of conversion must be understood together.