ACTNews ÖLGII, BISHKEK – When hearing the names Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, what appears in your mind? To many Indonesians, these names are probably not as familiar as the Netherlands, Japan, or the United States. Many of us are probably not familiar with Central Asian countries and their rich history and culture.
Last year, Global Qurban had a chance to visit Central Asia, reaching Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. In this journey to deliver qurbani packages, we were able to know more about these three countries, their cultures, history, and social condition. We also had a chance to witness the happiness of those who receive pieces of qurbani meat.
Before the establishment of modern nation-states, the people of these three countries were nomads. They wander around the region with their livestock, across mountains and steppes, living in tents called yurt. When rulers came to conquer and subdue them, these nomadic people finally assimilated into the rulers’ cultures. This, however, did not erase their status as nomadic civilizations.
The majority of the Mongolians are Buddhists, embracing Tibetan Buddhism as their religion. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are Muslim-majority countries. However, because they were once members of the Soviet Union, their cultures have been Russianized.
When the Soviet Union was abolished, these countries were divided based on the largest ethnicity, making Kazakhstan the land of the Kazakh and Kyrgyzstan the land of the Kyrgyz. Russianized Muslim names like Abdulayev and Karimov are very common in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Being Muslims in the heart of Asia is not as easy as being Muslims in the Indonesian archipelago. In Mongolia, it is not easy to find places of worship for Muslims. Meanwhile, in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the economic development is quite slow after separating from the Soviet Union prematurely.
During holidays that we celebrate merrily every year, Mongolian, Kazakhstani, and Kyrgyzstani Muslims celebrate them humbly. While we in Indonesia are fasting on the qurbani meat on the days of Eid-ul-Adha, in these three countries, performing Eid prayer and offering animal sacrifice is a luxury.
In Ölgii city in Bayan-Ölgii, the only Muslim majority province in Mongolia, the land is filled with thick grass and grazing livestock. Unfortunately, unemployment issue also haunts this city.
Around 70% of the total population work as graziers that rely heavily on the weather. During winter, their livestock won’t be able to graze and their productivity drops. They have to stop working during the freezing winter. In the summer, the flood from the melting ice on the mountains threaten their lives and their livestock.
In July 2016 the threat finally became real. The flood hit the city of Ölgii, afflicting 350 families. To this day, their lives haven’t been fully restored.
“Many people here, strangely, suffer from gallstones. Here in this province, we have no doctors that can perform laparoscopy surgery, so the people suffering from gallstones have to travel for 1,700 kilometers to the capital city. Many of them who don’t have that much money have no other options but to stay home and wait for their death,” said Yertai Oral, Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT) partner in Mongolia.
Due to this condition, the citizen of Ölgii couldn’t hope much when Eid-ul-Adha 2017 finally arrived. By Allah’s Grace, qurbani meat packages came as a surprise to bring joy to their Eid.
Last year, Global Qurban visited the humble houses of the Ölgii citizens to give qurbani meat for them to savor. No less than five cows were slaughtered and the meat was distributed to 20 neediest families.
One of the recipients was Mukhtar Oralkhan (45), a father of six children. Due to the kidney disease, he is no longer able to work, so are his other family members.
“At times we can’t even buy flour and meat, so we are happy to receive meat from our Indonesian brethren. Thank you very much. May you all be rewarded with the best rewards,” said Oralkhan.
Apart from Mongolia, qurbani meat distribution was also done in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, bulls and rams were sacrificed to be distributed to 78 needy families. The mountainous country is still developing after declaring its independence.
“The progress of the development is quite slow. In 2011, it is estimated that a third of the total population of Kyrgyzstan live below the poverty line,” said Bayzak Mamataliev, an ACT partner in Bishkek.
Meanwhile, in Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan, two cows were sacrificed to be given to 30 families. At that time, each family received 10 kilograms of beef.
“Thank you, I received so much meat,” said Mukhamedzhanova Gulbanu, a woman in Talap, Almaty.
The people from these countries probably never heard about Indonesia before. Now they know something about our country, that our country is filled with generous souls that are willing to donate to those who live far away from them. 2017 won’t be the last year to prove Indonesia’s generosity. This year, Global Qurban will return on behalf of Indonesia to distribute qurbani meat packages to the heart of Asia, insha Allah. 
Picture sources: ACT, National Geographic, Framepool