Serving Persecuted Christians Worldwide - Turkmenistan - Open Doors UK & Ireland

Turkmenistan

World Watch ranking: 25
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Leader
President Serdar Berdimuhamedov

How many Christians?
67,300 (1.1%)

Main threat
  • Dictatorial paranoia

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How many Christians are there in Turkmenistan?

There are only around 67,300 Christians in Turkmenistan. The total population is just over 6.1 million, the majority of whom are Muslim.

How are Christians persecuted in Turkmenistan?

In Turkmenistan, persecution against Christians comes from most parts of society. The government heavily restricts religious freedom: while unregistered churches are most heavily targeted, even Russian Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic churches are heavily monitored by the authorities.

In addition to official pressure, Christians who have converted from Islam are pressured by their families and communities, including harassment and interrogation, beatings, disinheritance and house arrest. Women and girls remain vulnerable to sexual harassment and rape, although they rarely report such instances due to the stigma and shame attached and the impunity regularly granted to perpetrators. Abusing women is used as an instrument to intimidate and cause distress for their husbands and family members, thereby pressuring the wider Christian community.

What’s life like for Christians in Turkmenistan?

Church leaders are particularly vulnerable as targets for persecution – whether through unwarranted fines, physical attacks or – as with Pastor Ilmurad – arrest and imprisonment on false charges. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment, falsely accused of fraud. While he was in prison, he was told that he would be released if he denied his Christian faith, but he refused. He had to do hard labour during his imprisonment and sleep on a concrete floor.  

He was eventually released, and Open Doors local partners recently had contact with Ilmurad again. It has taken time for him to heal after his hard experiences in prison, but he has largely recovered. He is still a pastor and helps people in his town. Ilmurad is thankful for all the support and prayers he received from his fellow brothers and sisters around the world.

Umid* is another believer who spent three years in prison on trumped-up charges. He has been released now, but his friend Yousef* spoke about how that time is still causing Umid pain: “Life is still difficult for Umid. He’s not healed yet after his prison period. He still has nightmares and is feeling fearful. It also doesn’t help that the government is still watching him when he travels in his region, but also in the country. Umid is afraid that the government will arrest him again if he makes any mistakes.”

Please keep praying for believers in Turkmenistan like Umid and Pastor Ilmurad.

*Name changed for security reasons

How can I help Christians in Central Asia?

Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Turkmenistan. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.

Open Doors strengthens persecuted Christians in Central Asia by providing Bibles and Christian literature, training, socio-economic development projects, practical aid, and women, children and youth ministries. 

please pray

Father God, thank You for the way in which You are working in and through the church in Turkmenistan. Continue and increase this work. Protect Your people, help them stand strong, and grant them wisdom and discernment to navigate restrictions and surveillance. Heal all our brothers and sisters who carry wounds from difficult experiences. Speak to those in power; open their eyes to the grace and wonder of Jesus. Build Your church in Turkmenistan. Amen.

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