Wednesday, October 18, 2017

RLPB 428 Tajikistan: Christians Severely Persecuted

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 428 | Wed 18 Oct 2017

by Anneta Vyssotskaia

TAJIKISTAN: CHRISTIANS PERSECUTED SEVERELY

Tajikistan is a country in Central Asia bordering Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. Tajikistan was part of the Soviet Union and became an independent country after the dissolution of the USSR in 1992. Tajikistan suffered a five-year civil war which resulted in many deaths and had a devastating effect on the country's life and economy. It is officially the poorest country in Central Asia and one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Its population approaches nine million and is predominantly Muslim (about 98%).

The Christian churches are a tiny minority and face a lot of pressure from the government and Muslim society. The law prohibits children and young people under 18 participating in religious activities in both churches and mosques. The greatest pressure is on the Christians with Muslim background who experience persecution at all levels -- from their family members, the Muslim community and state officials. The pressure is especially strong in rural areas. The persecution can take different forms, from verbal to physical abuse, beatings, abduction, home detention, discrimination, losing jobs and in other ways. The number of Christian churches remains small and there are many secret believers. It is illegal to meet for worship without state registration, but it is also extremely difficult and practically impossible to get state registration. For that reason, many Tajik Christians meet secretly in house churches, facing the risk of police raids, detention, interrogation and fines.

President Emomali Rahmon was bestowed the official title, 'The Founder of Peace and National Unity, Leader of the Nation'. During his 25 years' rule, the religious freedom situation in Tajikistan has worsened significantly. Since 2016, human rights in general are also considerably worse, with many arrests and imprisonment of members of the opposition parties, including top officials.

Christian churches also have been experiencing increasing pressure in 2017. In the capital city, Dushanbe, two kindergartens were closed because of the Christians employed and a Christian book being found. In March, a registered church in Konibodom was raided, believers interrogated, threatened and beaten and the church was closed. In June, a non-registered Baptist church in Dushanbe was raided, books confiscated, believers videotaped, interrogated and their details taken. Demolition of the church building was threatened. Other non-registered churches were raided, books confiscated, church leaders threatened and fined.

In April, Bakhrom Kholmatov (42), the pastor of a registered Sunmin church in Khudzhand, was arrested, accused of inciting religious hatred and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. The accusations were based on Christian hymn books found in the church with songs like 'God's army is marching' and 'Our fight is not against flesh and blood', as well as the 'More Than a Carpenter' book by Josh McDowell. The judges considered they were all 'extremist material'.


PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL WORK FOR:

* all the Christians in Tajikistan, especially Muslim background Christians, to stand strong in their faith as they are interrogated and threatened.

* the restraint of the authorities, for human rights, the rule of law and cessation of attacks on and destruction of churches and their facilities.

* Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov, his family and his church to be comforted and strengthened by the Holy Spirit.

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International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church
Sunday 5 or 12 November, 2017

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CHRISTIANS PERSECUTED SEVERELY IN TAJIKISTAN

Tajikistan (formerly in the USSR) borders Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China.  The poorest country in Central Asia and internationally one of the most corrupt countries, its nine million people are 98% Muslim. The Christian churches are a tiny minority and suffer great intimidation from the government and Muslim society, especially Christians with a Muslim background. There are many secret believers, meeting in house churches. Worshipping without state registration is illegal, risking police raids. The pastor of a registered church, Bakhrom Kholmatov, was arrested for 'inciting religious hatred' and jailed for three years. During Tajikistan's President's 25 years' rule, religious persecution has worsened significantly, as well as human rights in Tajikistan now being considerably worse. Members of opposition parties are frequently arrested. Please pray for Tajikistan and its Christians.

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Anneta Vyssotskaia is a religious liberty expert on Russia and Central Asia. She is the guest contributor to the RLPB ministry with this and the next two bulletins while Elizabeth Kendal is on leave.