«Reestablishing roots and learning to fly: Kazakh church planting between contextualization and globalization. by Dean Frederick Sieberhagen submitted ...»
themselves) without seeing their norms and traditions diminished; or do they need to be aware of another agenda, of a set of global processes seeking ultimately to suppress and subvert their claims to difference? (2001:150) Part of the clash for Kazakhs has to do with the ideas of loyalty and identity. In the West patriotism towards a national identity is held up as an ideal and in the USA for example, a person should proclaim “I am an American” firstly and then may go on to describe a European or South American heritage. The result is what is called the ‘melting pot’ where various cultures come together and blend into a new national culture. This synchronizes well with the ideals of globalization. For Kazakhstan, and many other Muslim countries however, the aspirations are for a tapestry rather than the melting pot. Primary allegiance and identity is to an ethnic group and the relationships and kinship ties within that group. Schatz (2004:63) sees the way in which kinship groups amongst Kazakhs created co-dependent ties as a distinct mark of Kazakh culture. The Laumulins (2009:34-35) and Joma Nazpary (2002:63) observe the rise of diplomacy and reciprocity networks that provide the Kazakhs with their moral community and as they work together there is a constant sense of indebtedness and obligation.
Saulesh Esenova (1998:443-462), an insider, is a dissenting voice and she believes that Kazakh tribalism is largely confined to the political sphere with the consequence that most Kazakhs are positively pre-disposed towards modernization and globalization, which in the Kazakh context promote a more universal identity which is able to free itself from tribal boundaries. Her writings and background place her well within the category of the Modern Kazakh. For the Traditional Kazakh, the picture is not as rosy as Esenova describes. As Mike Featherstone points out, ‘tradition’ is largely a negative word in globalization dialogue where it is “…seen as irrationally clinging to obsolete and negative values which stand in the way of the extension of human freedom and happiness” (2002:2). The Traditional Kazakh is left in the uneasy position of seeing globalization as having some promise and a lot of caution.
If this is true in Kazakhstan then it has serious implications for the way in which we do church planting. Nazpary (2002) is a secular anthropologist who lived amongst the general population in the largest city of Almaty. His observations and conclusions represent a scathing criticism of both the current political climate and the influence of globalization that he sees behind much of the issues.
His conclusion is summarized by his statement that “ In contrast to the celebratory and glorious images of globalization produced by some scholars, for the dispossessed in Almaty globalization is a story of wild capitalism, chaos, dispossession, loss, tears, horror, violence, and fear” (2002:176). What is clear from his writings is that he is anti-globalization in general and so is pre-disposed towards a negative analysis. His insights however are valid in representing the negative impact that globalization can have. He sees the political elite as dominating the rest of society backed by western capitalism.26 With the age of globalization being marked by rapid change, it would be interesting to see what Nazpary’s observations would be today, a decade or so later. He commented on a decline in wages and pensions, and even though there is still much room for improvement, in the last five years there have been some dramatic increases in both of these. There is a rising middle class and whereas up to the end of the nineties many households could not aspire to owning a car, now it seems as if everyone has one (Laumulins 2009:78).
The wild capitalism that Nazpary observed is certainly motivated by a profit motive, but it cannot be denied that the many western companies that have established themselves in Kazakhstan have led to increased employment and the availability of higher quality goods.
Larry Rasmussen (1999: 6-13) adds a critical voice to the ideas of globalization and sees it as rooted in colonialism which means that the church in its mission needs to be very cautious in adopting these ideas.
Certainly Kazakhstan is not on the road towards the development of a utopia, but it is a complex environment where western-driven globalization was thrust upon a society that was left reeling from the collapse of communism. This new nation of Kazakhstan does seem to have been birthed in a time of chaos and change and in many ways the growing stability in many aspects of life is remarkable.27 It is a misconception to hold that all of society in a country is able to move smoothly and consistently towards globalization. Kazakhstan like most countries is made up of a variety of cultures each of which embraces change in their own ways. A good comparison with Kazakhstan is the situation in Turkey. Turkey is often held up as the example that Kazakhstan would like to follow. As globalization has brought a modernizing influence in Turkey it has had to do so in the context of Muslim vs. secular, urban vs. rural, Turk vs. Kurd, and importantly, reason vs. faith.
2.8.2 The Example of Turkey Sibel Bozdogan and Resart Kasaba (1997:4) describe a number of ways in which globalization has had an external influence in Turkey. There is a lot of visual imagery as new buildings are built and multi-national companies such as MacDonalds appear. Most Turks have abandoned the use of the Fez as old fashioned. Turkey’s desire to be part of the European Union shows that its gaze is towards the West rather than its Muslim neighbors to the East. There is a common belief that with modernization comes a better life in terms of medicine, education, transportation, business, and communication. Almost all of this would be an accurate description of Kazakhstan.
Bozdogan and Kasaba go on to explain that in Turkey most Muslims are more folk that orthodox and so are more open to change but in a way that is different to the West (:6). Under The Laumulins (2009) point out the monumental task president Nazarbaev had in avoiding chaos and establishing prosperity and stability.
western style modernization, the society tends to embrace modernization in all aspects of life including religion. With a non-western approach there seems to be a desire to modernize in categories, so that in a country like Turkey there can be a continual modernizing of the economy but a distancing of modernization’s effects on religion. Inherent in modernization is the so-called virtue of relativism which clashes with any religion that insists on an unchanging absolute truth. Bozdogan and Kasaba point out that because globalization first entered Turkey as an elite-driven, all pervading influence, it was seen as more negative than positive (:39).
Winrow (1992:102) explains how Turkey has a special interest in Kazakhstan as a significant number of its people trace their roots to the Central Asian region. Like Turkey, Kazakhstan seems to be forging a different Islamic identity to that of the Middle East and as mentioned before, Kazakhs speak of two roads in Islam. There is the road of violence typified by the struggles in the Middle East and then the road of peace typified by a country such as Turkey. This road of peace offers a more positive interaction with the West and is also more accommodating to the spread of globalization. Upon closer inspection though, it appears that Kazakhstan is not prioritizing a relationship with Turkey over its relationships with others.
Rather than just trying to imitate another’s example, Kazakhstan is learning from the experiences of countries such as Turkey and South Korea, and then charting its own course based on the lessons learned and adapted (Nazarbaev 2010:17-18).
Globalization also presented formal Islam in Turkey as opposing reform, progress, and civilization and this appears to be the case in Kazakhstan as well. Haldun Gulalp (1997:46) in looking at Islam and modernization in Turkey makes an important distinction between political Islam and that as faith. He would propose that most Turks and Kazakhs seek a way to pursue the benefits of globalization whilst staying true to what they believe is a relevant local expression of the Muslim faith.28 2.8.4 Glocalization An attempt to synthesize the benefits of globalization with the local cultural way of doing things has led to the concept of glocalization. Ivan Satyavrata describes glocalization as follows “when ideas get to their new destination, they are not imbibed as they are – they are adapted to fit the local situation….. the effective assimilation of globalization forces within the framework of local traditions, aspirations and interests” (2004:211). He goes on to explain that this glocalization becomes the means of survival for an indigenous community in the face of globalization. Jonathan Ingleby (2006:50) argues that this synchronizing of the global with the local has resulted in the formation of new identities that are no longer as tied to the traditional way of doing things. So, we could speak of a ‘new’, or as described previously, a ‘modern’ Kazakh. Ingleby suggest that we need to make this a major focus of
our church planting for four main reasons:
This group of ‘moderns’ is on the increase and will be the majority of the mission
Moderns have a number of needs and are open to being helped by outsiders.
The church itself is a hybrid of various peoples forming a new identity together as
Marcus Noland and Howard Pack (2004) describe a Western view of Islam and globalization that sees Islam as being less productive in a global world and Kazakhs have the challenge of showing how as Muslims they can be very productive in a global world.
Ingleby goes on to point out that this does present a challenge to the current trends in missions that are focused on people-group thinking. If modern Kazakhs are increasingly the majority in Kazakhstan, then what are the implications for a ‘Kazakh only’ church? Does a Biblical church model need to be more hybrid in nature than it has been thus far?
Roland Robertson (1992:185) explains how globalization is giving rise to ‘world spaces’. By this he refers to cities that are heterogeneous in ethnicity. They show the greatest development of modernization, are progressive in nature and are held up by the media as the ideal to strive for. Within these cities arise international educational institutions whose programs and curricula espouse the values of globalization. A good example of this in Kazakhstan is KIMEP University located in the city of Almaty (see www.kimep.kz). It is seen as one of, if not the premier university in the country. It has strong support from the government and its graduates are sought after around the country. Upon further investigation it is evident that most classes are taught in English and many of the courses are focused on trade and commerce, both local and international.
2.8.5 The 2030 Plan As representatives themselves, the Laumulins explain how the privileged and intellectual elite from amongst the Kazakhs encounter the world culture as they travel for business or education to world cities such as London or New York (2009:30). Once they return, and over time, they will become powerful change agents in Kazakh society bringing the influence of the world culture with them. This influence was already evident in the late nineties as the government began the widespread promotion of the 2030 plan. President Nazarbaev (1997:2) in his speech regarding the 2030 plan described a population in the year 2030 AD that would be actively employed in a market economy comparable to any other first world country, and at the same time preserve their unique heritage and identity. As they participate in the global interaction between countries he declared that they would have equal command of the Kazakh, Russian, and English languages. He proposed that Kazakhstan would be in a position to play a leading role in connecting the interests of Russia, China, and the Muslim world.
Alisher Tastenov (2007:1-4) went on to explain that through the 2030 vision Kazakhstan would move from being a country on the periphery to one that takes its place as a significant player on the global stage.
2.8.6 Globalization’s Challenge to Kazakh Culture and Religion As explained before, the post-soviet period opened the Kazakhs to a number of new ideas and influences. Douglas Tiessen describes three effects of globalization on missions to the former
Soviet Union (2005:116):
A great increase in the number of foreign missionaries. In 1989 he counts 311 missionaries with that number growing to 5606 in 1997.
Most of these missionaries came with a cultural ignorance which meant they were not prepared for the specific context in which they entered.
A ready-made, Western Christianity was presented to each culture rather than providing them with the tools to develop their own Christianity.
All of this put the Kazakh culture and religion on the defensive as it tried to deal with a whole new environment. Additionally, there are the universal effects of globalization that have specific implications for the Kazakh context. Effects such as a global morality and individualism. Abd Al Kader Cheref describes the tension Kazakhs face with globalization in asking …how to protect a unique heritage in the face of global pressure while upholding Islamic traditions; to preserve “linguistic purity;” to defend social institutions; and, ultimately, to maintain a viable identity in the midst of a rapidly changing global environment. (2005:1) The challenges of globalization for the Kazakh way of life begin with the concept of a global morality.