Spiritual Journalism

Кош Келиниздер! My name is Christopher Schwartz. I am a journalist, researcher, teacher, and aspiring writer and spiritual explorer (and I hope that sounds neither strange nor immodest). If you would like know more about me, please read below. You can also skip over to my LinkedIn and Academia.edu profiles. To read my blog, proceed to here. Because I have been blogging for several years now, you may need a bit of a guide to navigate the forest of rumination. However, be advised: I make it a habit to password-protect most of my posts to limit reading to friends, family, and close colleagues.

Journalism: I work primarily on Central Asia, on the one hand as the chief correspondent for Open Central Asia magazine, and on the other hand as Editor-in-Chief of NewEurasia Citizen Media and co-founder of CypherChaikhana. Among my published works includes the 2011 book, CyberChaikhana: Digital Conversations from Central Asia. I am a member of the advisory board of the Central Eurasian Scholars and Media Initiative. As a member of the Bahá’í Faith, I do bring a decidedly spiritual and philosophical understanding to my work as a journalist. I am also connected to various elements of “hacktivism”, which occasionally brings me into contact with thought-provoking avant garde technologies.

Research: I am doing my doctorate in ontology of journalism at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. My supervisor is Prof. Dr. Bart Pattyn, author of Media en Mentaliteit. Besides my in-progress PhD, I have three Master’s degrees, two from Leuven and one from La Salle University, specialized in the Islamic tradition of philosophy and history. As an undergraduate, I spent a semester at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and a summer internship at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies in Washington, DC. So far, the majority of my academic publications have concerned religious and media studies. For example, I co-wrote the article “Hack the Turkmenet!” about Internet censorship in Turkmenistan, and every year I contribute to IREX’s Media Sustainability Index on Turkmenistan. I recently published an encyclopedia entry on the religious landscape of Turkmenistan with Dr. Moojan Momen.

Teaching: I am a self-supporting scholar in Leuven, so in order to both pay my bills and build up my credentials, I do a lot of grant-based fieldwork in the Kyrgyz Republic, often bouncing back and forth between Bishkek and my headquarters in Belgium (and once or twice a year, I can even get back to my home in New York). As a result, I am often popping into educational institutions serving as a teacher, lecturer, or guest speaker. My usual haunts are the American University of Central Asia, the International University of Kyrgyzstan (known as “MUK” from its Russian acronym) and Silk Road International School. I have a soft spot for MUK in particular, as it has one of the country’s few philosophy faculties and it is located in a delightful relic of Khrushchev-era Soviet Islamesque in downtown Bishkek.

Writer: This is still something I am working on. Primarily through this blog, I have been honing my skills as an essayist, inspired by (although in no way measuring up to) one of my archetypes of Great Authors, Ralph Waldo Emerson. However, it has been a childhood ambition of mine to become a fiction writer. Кудай бурасы, I hope to slowly, slowly achieve this, perhaps the last of my great childhood ambitions yet to be accomplished.

Explorer: If I take a step back from myself and think over all of the above, the picture that emerges is one of a person who sees life as a great adventure, exploration, or investigation. Indeed, religion is deeply important to me. I was raised in a joint Baptist-Methodist church by a Christian mother and a Jewish father from the Presbyterian and Conservative traditions, respectively. After exploring Islam for ten years, I ultimately became a Bahá’í and haven’t looked back since.

Nonetheless, I feel that all the Great Faith traditions are at root one. Moreover, they all have ancient wisdoms to be re-discovered, ancient paths to be re-walked. In November 2014, I walked the Camino de Santiago, from Saint Jean Pied de Port to the Cape of Finisterre, and in March 2015, I performed my Bahá’í pilgrimage to our Holy Shrines in Haifa and Akka. I should also note, on the philosophical side, grandparents were under the sway of Averoës via Maimonides and Spinoza, so he is something of a patron spiritual saint as well — a thinker who looked to the future, and was not afraid to systematically explore reality as he encountered it.

This website is dedicated to my loved ones, in this life and the next.

I swear by the glow of sunset; by the night, and all that it brings together; by the moon, in her full perfection: that you shall all march onwards from state to state. — L’Être, Qur’an, 84:16