IGE’s Center on Faith & International Affairs (CFIA) co-sponsored a conference entitled “New Views on Religion & Security in Central Asia: A Workshop for Practitioners” in Issykkul, Kyrgyzstan, from 20-21 May 2007. In addition to the conference, delegates also met with religious leaders and security officials in Bishkek. This event was one of a series of steps in the region designed to create an international network of scholars who understand the interrelation between religion and security.

Central Asia has seen a significant rise in religious extremism and violence over the past decade, with corresponding decreases in security, rule of law, and economic growth. Extremist groups such as the Hizb ut-Tahrir are gaining influence throughout the region, while last month’s violent protests for governmental reform in the conference’s host country of Kyrgyzstan serve as a reminder of the overall fragility of the Central Asian situation.

Panelists at the conference included regional security experts from China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and the United States. CFIA founder Chris Seiple addressed “New International Approaches and Mechanisms for Addressing Religion & Security Issues,” and CFIA Research Fellow Josh White spoke about “The Role of Religion in Exacerbating Conflict,” drawing on his experience in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province.

The conference was hosted by Kyrgyzstan’s Institute for Public Policy (IPP) and co-sponsored by CFIA, IPP, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Pu Shi Institute for Social Science Research.