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Introduction / History
Over the past 600 years the Karachai people have experienced life much like a grape placed in a wine press. Formerly part of the once mighty Alan Empire (nominally Christian), the Karachai were defeated in the 14th Century and forcibly converted to Islam by the Turko-Mongol invader Timur. Conquered again in the 19th Century by Russian czarist imperialism, the Karachai people are all too familiar with distress brought about by defeat at the hands of invading nations.
What Are Their Lives Like?
During World War II they were swallowed up by the German advance through the Caucasus, only to be re-conquered by Stalin's Soviets shortly thereafter. Due to their forced "acceptance" of German rule, Stalin then deported the Karachai from their Caucasus homeland to remote parts of Central Asia 1943-1957.
Despite 35 percent of their population dying during the forced relocation, many Karachai have returned to their homeland and have begun repopulating their home area in the Russian province of Karachai-Cherkessia. Smaller populations live in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey.
The Karachai of the Russian North Caucasus have preserved much of their heritage due to their Islamic cultural identity and their clan-organized communities, called Tukhum. Fiercely loyal within their Tukhum, Karachai have maintained strong family and cultural traditions best observed in weddings, funerals and over-the-top hospitality toward guests.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Nevertheless, realizing population growth and retaining cultural identifiers have not changed the Karachai's position on the global stage, or the state of well-being within their society. Karachai culture, on the one hand, is devoted to 'duty '—but, on the other hand, is plagued by cycles of vengeance, corruption, and male drunkenness. Karachai Islamic traditions are a largely 'graceless' dynamic, with no clear understanding of forgiving grace and no indwelling Holy Spirit to revitalize.
At present there are less than 50 known Karachai followers of Jesus and only one evangelical church. The New Testament and Psalms in the Karachai language was completed in the 1990s. It will be difficult for them to receive God's word. It is even more difficult for them to respond to God's offer of love and grace given the lack of workers.
What Are Their Needs?
Pray that the Karachai New Testament and Psalms will spread throughout their communities and find open hearts.
Pray that the love of God will continue to "disturb" the Karachai people, inviting them away from sin and judgment and toward the marvelous grace of Jesus and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.
Pray that in their distress the Karachai will turn to the Lord Jesus, not for political power, but for spiritual deliverance from the bondages of Islam and from the devastations of sin and past suffering.
Pray that Jesus followers will multiply as joyful lives are modeled by believers, and that numerous churches will be firmly established as the body of Christ grows amongst the Karachai. Pray for men and women of peace (Lk 10:6) in each Karachai town/village, to be keys to welcoming the love of God, the grace of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit into each community in the years ahead.
Pray that the beauty of Karachai culture will bloom as the Fruit of the Spirit enlivens the historical richness of the Karachai people.
Scripture Prayers for the Karachay in Kyrgyzstan.