There are approximately 66,300 Christians in Tajikistan, from a population of 9.5 million people – that’s less than one per cent.
In Tajikistan, the government puts heavy pressure on all ‘deviating’ religious groups by tightening and strictly enforcing existing laws.
All religious activities must be approved by the government, and it is common for churches – particularly Protestant – to be raided by authorities. Church leaders and Christians can be detained if they are found to have any Christian materials that aren’t government-approved. The country also has a law specifically targeting religious work among young people, leaving Christians unsure of what they are legally allowed to say to young Christians.
Police officers sometimes disrupt meetings and interrogate church members. Local authorities often impose fines on Christians because of their faith and for legal reasons, such as gathering without a permit, possessing and printing religious material without a permit, or perceived proselytisation. Persecution from the state includes searches, detention, interrogation, confiscation, fines and imprisonment – all meant to pressure Christians and keep them in line.
The Tajik ethnic identity is directly tied to Islam. That is why Christians who have converted from Islam bear the brunt of persecution at the hands of both the state and from family, friends and community.
“Early last year, my church was attacked by wicked people and the church building was confiscated by the court. Our church is now gathering inside a shipping container.” Pastor Bahrom
In April 2017, Pastor Holmatov Bahrom was arrested and imprisoned for three years on false accusations of 'singing extremist songs in church and so inciting religious hatred'. Thankfully, after much prayer, Pastor Bahrom was released on 18 December 2019! But his case shows that Tajik Christians are unlikely to receive favour or justice from the authorities. Please pray that this will no longer be the case, and for Pastor Bahrom and his family to recover from their trauma.
His church building was confiscated when he was arrested, supposedly to be used as a kindergarten but it’s still empty. Pastor Bahrom’s church now meets in a shipping container – extremely cold in winter and extremely hot in summer. The number of members who’ve been harassed, tortured or fired from their jobs is such that the church’s congregation has diminished massively – from about 500 people to around 100.
Although Tajikistan fell two rankings from last year’s World Watch List, persecution and pressure actually rose slightly. Violence is still very low, but pressure in every sphere of life increased marginally. Being a Christian in Tajikistan continues to be difficult and dangerous, particularly for churches trying to share the gospel and make disciples.
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Tajikistan. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors works through local partners to strengthen Christians in Bangladesh by providing Bibles, training for Christians and church leaders, socio-economic aid and legal support.
God our Father, we pray for Your people in Tajikistan. We ask You to give courage and hope to pastors and church leaders, and to every believer who follows You. We pray for those Christians who have been detained for their faith; we ask that, in Your power, they would be released and reunited with their families and communities. We also lift up Your followers who have risked the wrath of their families and communities to follow You. Amen.
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