What if religions in the majority worked with governments to build healthy relationships with religious minorities? Wade Kusack, Founder and CEO of Love Your Neighbor Community (LYNC), is working with faith communities and government leaders in Kazakhstan to advance religious freedom.
After Kusack saw a troubling article about religious persecution online, he was moved to form LYNC and work for greater religious freedom in Central Asia.
LYNC’s mission is to promote freedom through partnerships with people of faith, governments and civil societies in strategic community, building and extending the love of God in a practical and tangible way.
Kusack’s organization takes a relational approach to progress and works to create relationships with the government, civil society, and religious community. We see the path forward as providing structure and strategy to the budding relationships and dialogue. Local partners often include a government department or local university. LYNC works to first build trust and then building the opportunity to come in.
For millennia, Central Asia has been a safe place and shelter for Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and many other religious groups. After the 20th century famine, repressions, and nearly complete eradication of religion throughout the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan –– like other post-Soviet countries in the region –– is undergoing a period of reformation and searching for a new identity. The religious landscape of Kazakhstan for the next hundred years is being laid out today with its governmental and religious leaders asking key forward-thinking questions.
Kusack found this calling through a news story. He explains, “I saw a headline on the Internet: a church in Central Asia was raided by government forces. Equipment and funds were confiscated. A few religious leaders were arrested and received fifteen days of administrative arrest for just doing the usual routine, praying for people and preaching to them.” Kusack continues, “Usually people, including me, forget about such news. But a strange thing happened to me next day. When I woke up, the first thought in my mind was that headline. And the next day that headline was my first thought, too. The same thing happened on the third day. And I realized, it’s not just coincidence; God wants me to do something.”
Kusack first explored helping the particular church and the particular pastors who were arrested. But, as he began to learn more about Central Asia and religious persecution in these five countries, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, he became more and more engaged. From there, Kusack was driven to open LYNC.
Freedom of religion is the bedrock of any free and prosperous society. And that’s why LYNC has a mission of promoting that freedom through partnership with people of faith, governments, and civil societies in strategic community building while extending the love of God in a practical and tangible way.
LYNC takes a relational approach to progress and works to create relationships with the government, civil society, and religious community. We see the path forward as providing structure and strategy to the budding relationships and dialogue.
Local partners often include a government department or local university. LYNC works to first build trust and then building the opportunity to come in. To articulate that, we do not give answers: we offer possible solutions. We offer experiences of how we’ve seen it work in other countries, and the progress that those countries have made. Kusack says, “It’s not a product of just one event or one conference. It takes time.”
LYNC is working to host two events in Kazakhstan. The first will be a meeting between Muslim and Evangelical Christian leaders. An Imam from the Multi-Faith Neighbors Network, Imam Magid, will lead a conversation with over a hundred Imams from the region from Shymkent. An Evangelical pastor from the same organization, Pastor Roberts, will lead local pastors in conversation in a separate location. LYNC will then bring them together for lunch in a mosque, which will be unprecedented and the first time in Shymkent history these two groups will interact with each other, let alone dine together.
The second event will bring together more than hundred people who represent all existing religious communities within Kazakhstan, another first for the country. LYNC is working to facilitate a meeting between Muslims of all denominations, Christians (including Catholics, Orthodox, and a variety of Protestants), Baháʼí, Scientologists, and Krishna Society. This will be another first for the country.
If religious leaders merely tolerate one another, shoulder-to-shoulder, what is accomplished? But if the leaders are able to engage and converse in unity, despite deep differences, mutual respect will result, and eventually lead to mutual resilience. This level of unity and resilience is can only build communities.