Kazakhstan is the ninth-largest country in the world, nearly four times the size of Texas. It is located between Russia and China, and has only about 15.5 million people, giving it a very sparse population density indeed, far less than Utah, Nevada, or Arizona.
About 47% of Kazakhs are Muslim, and about 44% are Russian Orthodox, with Roman Catholics and Lutherans comprising small minorities. The nation’s total fertility rate is about 1.9 children per woman, well below the replacement rate of 2.1. The United Nations says that this will soon decline to a disastrously low 1.3 children per woman.
This is the lethal malady common to all of the former Soviet Socialist Republics. Once an antichild attitude has been drilled into the minds of the people for three generations, once abortion has become a convenience that people are accustomed to, once they cannot imagine living without it, their country will die unless three generations of intensive pro- natalist propaganda counter the ingrained anti-life mentality.
In September, Human Life International’s 18th Asia-Pacific Congress (ASPAC) took place in Astana, most of which has been built since it was designated the national capital in 1994. The symbol of the city is the fantastic Khan Shatyr, a 500 foot-high leaning tent- like structure which uses water circulation that consumes no energy to keep its interior at about 68-75 degrees, even though the typical range of weather in Astana is from 105 degrees in the summer to minus 40 degrees in the winter.
The Khan Shatyr encloses a complete high-end mall and a small railway that traverses its circumference 100 feet above the ground. It also features one of those vertical drop amusement park rides that make you think your body and soul have prematurely parted company. Eight percent of the entire GDP of Kazakhstan is devoted to building the city of Astana as quickly as possible. People who work for the government and the big corporations are required to live in the huge apartment buildings that are located within a block of where they are employed, a move designed to limit traffic congestion in the future. The city today is well designed and spread out over a large area. Obviously, the city managers had an eye on the future when they laid Astana out.
Astana is a beautiful city of the future, and its people are very well off. But the visiting pro-lifers from 16 different nations felt an almost subliminal undercurrent of uneasiness, brought on by something important that is missing — in this case, small children.
You would think, in an empty nation like Kazakhstan, there would be groups encouraging people to have more children, but exactly the opposite is the case. Family Health International and USAID distribute contraceptives by the ton, the Population Council writes long reports supporting the continued availability of abortion for any reason or no reason at all, and, of course, the lethal alphabet soup of the United Nations coordinates everything — UNAIDS, CEDAW, UNDESA, UNDP, UNIFEM, and the omnipresent UNFPA.
Nobody could explain why all of these population control groups are necessary in a nation that has an average of only 15 people per square mile.
The answer lies in the nation’s natural resources. Kazakhstan is rich in manganese, chromium, copper, cobalt, gold, uranium, coal, natural gas, and, of course, oil. The core principle of National Security Study Memorandum 200 of 1974 is certainly operative here: “The U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries. . . . Wherever a lessening of population pressures through reduced birthrates can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resource supplies and to the economic interests of the United States.”
In other words, a large population is a strong population, and the people of such a nation will want to use their own natural resources; so North America, Europe, Australia, and Japan do all they can to hold down the population of Kazakhstan so we can get our hands on its minerals and other treasures.
One of the worst features of population control in Kazakhstan is that the abortifacient intrauterine device (IUD) is by far the most popular form of birth control, with over two-thirds of contracepting women using it. The IUD causes a wide range of sometimes lethal health problems and is rarely used in the United States. Apparently the population controllers think is it fine for the women of poorer nations. This is another of the dozens of examples of the “contraceptive imperialism” that is being imposed on people all over the world.
Speaking And Networking
We began the congress with a beautiful Mass featuring 20 priests, including five bishops. We then moved from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to the Convention Center, where each of the 16 national delegations brought their flags up to the stage to the accompaniment of several young ladies in colorful Kazakh traditional dress.
Then, Archbishop Tomasz Peta, archbishop of Astana and chairman of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Kazakhstan, welcomed us warmly. In fact, he and three other bishops — Astana Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Bishop Jan Pawel Lenga from Karaganda, and Bishop José Luis Mumbiela Sierra of Holy Trinity of Almaty — attended every session over the threeday congress.
The Kazakh government officially recognized the ASPAC by sending two high-level officials from the ministries of family and interfaith relations to speak, welcoming the congress and its participants. We hope that this will lead to pro-life initiatives by the government in the near future.
Ligaya Acosta, HLI’s regional coordinator for Asia and the Pacific, also welcomed everyone, and Joseph Meaney, HLI’s director of international coordination, read a statement from Fr. Shenan Boquet, the new president of Human Life International. Finally, Archbishop Miguel Mauri Buendia, papal nuncio to Kazakhstan, read a letter from the Holy Father welcoming everyone and highly commending HLI’s work, sending his “vivid encouragement to all those who, personally or collectively, in Asia and Oceania undertake to serve human life with the light of faith and reason.”
During the three days of the congress, 11 speakers took the stage and spoke on such varied topics as demographics, the war on unborn baby girls, assisted reproductive technologies, and ecumenical pro-life activities.
Yuriy Timofeevich Novgorodov, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kazakhstan, covered this last topic, and his talk was fascinating because it laid out a roadmap for cooperation among the pro-life groups in the country. HLI has operated on these principles for decades, and it was refreshing to know that this bishop was so experienced in pro-life and pro-family organization and could speak on them so fluently, even with the necessity of an interpreter. He received enthusiastic applause at the conclusion of his presentation.
Archpriest Fr. Maksim Obukhov of the Russian Orthodox Church spoke on the current and potential activities of the pro-life movement in Eastern Europe, heralding a new Catholic/Orthodox cooperation that has not existed before in Kazakhstan.
Demographer Igor Ivanovich Beloborodov, director of the Institute for Demographic Research in Moscow, spoke of the massive and deadly effects of anti-natalist programs all around the world. I had a private conversation with Igor, and he described the motorized “March for Life” movement in Russia that has recently expanded to ten cities. We agreed that the potential for HLI’s pro-life mission work in dying Russia is enormous.
After the last talk, the Malaysian delegation and Ligaya Acosta invited everyone to the 19th Asia-Pacific Congress, to be held in Malaysia in 2013.
Archbishop Peta gave us a final blessing, and we all walked to the cathedral courtyard for dinner and a couple of hours of networking and just plain “fellowshipping,” as the Lutherans so appropriately call it. It was indeed edifying to see people from so many countries and so many faiths working and planning together for a pro-life Kazakhstan.
Wrapping It Up
The closing Mass in the cathedral was inspiring and most edifying. The nuncio read another statement commending the work of Kazakh pro-life workers. Not only were six bishops and 20 other priests in attendance, but also a real live cherub was also present. This star of the congregation was a baby girl dressed up as an angel, with white dress, white wings, and a headband with white rosettes.
Immediately following the ASPAC, Joseph Meaney conducted a full day of pro-life training for all of the priests and religious of the Archdiocese of Astana. Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider translated all of his talks, which covered the primary anti-life and anti-family threats to the people of Kazakhstan.
The day after the ASPAC ended, I arose at 1:30 a.m. for the 4:35 flight to Frankfurt out of Astana International Airport. The city was quiet and dark at this hour, except for the bridges over the river, which were colorfully lit, and a couple of prominent buildings equipped with tiny white lights so that they sparkled.
Even at night, Astana looks futuristic.
If Kazakhstan is to have a future of any kind, however, its people must reject the anti- life mentality that has gripped their nation for so long and must embrace a true Culture of Life.
Please pray for the people and the leadership of Kazakhstan.
This article originally appeared in the October 20, 2011 edition of The Wanderer.