Introduction / History Over the centuries the various Islamic groups in northwest China have attempted to establish their own homeland. Several brutal massacres have reinforced Chinese rule and the deep hatred the Kazakhs have for the Han. At least 100,000 Kazakhs migrated into China from Russia between 1916 and 1920, after the Tsarist government imposed conscription on them. In the early 1950s the Kazakhs in China were forced into a communal society and were forbidden to enjoy the nomadic lifestyle their ancestors had enjoyed for over a thousand years. In 1962, 60,000 Kazakhs decided to cross back into the Soviet Union. The massive migration represented more than one tenth of the entire Kazakh population in China at the time.
The Kazaks are one of China's official minority groups. The name Kazak means "the breakaways" or "secessionists". Chinese publications, however, not wanting to flame the Kazakhs desire for independence, claim their name means "white swan".
Since 1980 the Kazakhs in China have used a modified Arabic script. There are two main Kazakh dialects in China: Southwestern and Northeastern Kazakh. The Southwestern variety includes the tribes of Alban and Suwen. Kazakh is a "relatively uniform language, without any major dialectal differences, so that Kazakhs from different places have no difficulty in conversing with one another."
What are their lives like? Images of proud nomadic Kazakh horsemen have long stirred the imagination of the world. Being the rulers of vast open grasslands, they lived as they pleased and moved their livestock wherever and whenever they desired: the Kazakhs love their freedom. When a Kazakh girl goes to the altar on her wedding day, "she is carried off after the ceremony, slung over a horse and delivered to the family of her husband-to be."
What are their beliefs? Although the Kazakhs embraced Islam in the sixteenth century and consider themselves to be Muslims today, their practices and rituals are combined with elements of spiritism, black magic, animism, and shamanism.
Few of the Kazakhs in China—despite having the Scriptures, JESUS Film, gospel recordings, and gospel radio broadcasts available in their own language—believe in Christ. In the 1930s the Swedish Missionary Society planted one small Kazak church in Xinjiang, but persecution wiped it out. Presently there are only a handful of Kazakh Christians in China. In neighboring Kazakhstan, however, in recent years "approximately 3,500 Kazakhs have come to faith in Christ."
What are their needs? Without the guidance of Christ, these people will be lost in this life and the life to come. They need someone to go to them as Christ-bearers.
Prayer Points Pray for the spiritual blindness and bondage to the evil one to be removed so they can understand and respond to Christ.
Pray for the Lord to provide for their physical and spiritual needs as a testimony of his power and love.
Pray that the Kazakh people will have a spiritual hunger that will open their hearts to the King of kings.
Pray for an unstoppable movement to Christ among them.
Approximately 1.1 million Kazaks were counted in the 1990 Chinese census. They are centered primarily in the Ili Prefecture in northern Xinjiang. After dark the streets of Yining are full of drunk Kazaks and Uzbeks who often use knives and other weapons to settle quarrels. A smaller number of Kazaks live in the northwest part of Gansu Province. In addition, about nine million Kazaks are scattered throughout Central Asia, Russia, and as far away as Turkey and Germany. (Source: Operation China, 2000)