KINGDOM IMPACT: Phoenix Seminary Hosts Religious Delegation from Kazakhstan
(from left to right) Dr. Malcolm Hartnell; Dr. Yuriy Novgorodov; Dr. Bing Hunter, Andreykin Igor, Dr. Steve Johnson, Dr. Aiman Rustembekova; Joshua Anderson, and Khassan Amankulov.
On March 12, the seminary hosted a six-person delegation from Kazakhstan. Invited by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, arrangements for the group’s visit were coordinated by the Arizona Council for International Visitors. The delegation, which was accompanied by two translators, consisted of the Director of AREAL, an NGO which functions as a “Religious Issues Information Center;” a Muslim imam; an Evangelical Pastor who works with the Association of Religious Organizations of Kazakhstan; and a Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kazakhstan. Seminary faculty, staff and students interacted with the group and many insights were shared (in both directions) on theological education, intercultural issues and the nature of inter-religious dialogue. The group received material on the structure and content of theological education at Phoenix Seminary. Kazakhstan, a land-locked country with 160 different ethnicities, is the world’s 9th largest nation. It became independent just 20 years ago with the breakup of the Soviet Union. The government grants religious freedom, although groups must be a certain size to register with the government. The major religious communities are: Muslim (47%), Russian Orthodox (44%), Protestant Christian (2%) and Others (7%). Asked about the experience, David Massey, a PS staff member, said, “It was such a privilege to meet this group.” Others spoke about how their understanding of the circumstances of evangelical Christians in central Asia had been expanded.