(Voice of the Persecuted) You are invited to join us on Thursday September 16, 2021 in a prayer conference call for the persecuted church hosted by Persecution Watch.
Tajikistan: Population: 9.4 million, Christian 66,300 (0.7%)
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.
From time to time, police officers disrupt meetings and interrogate attendees. 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 proselytization. Persecution from the state includes searches, detention, interrogation, confiscation, fines, and imprisonment—all meant to pressure Christians and keep them in line.
The government of Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic, is primarily concerned with power and holding onto control, but the surrounding society is heavily Islamic. 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.
Russian Orthodox Christians and churches experience the fewest problems from the government because they do not usually attempt to contact, or evangelize, the Tajik population. “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 40-ton container. We pray for a new building for our church. We also ask you to participate in prayer and support us in this. The Lord said, ‘Call me and I will answer you … ’
Although Tajikistan fell two rankings from last year’s World Watch List, persecution and pressure rose slightly. Violence is still very low, but pressure from every sphere of life increased just a bit. Being a Christian in Tajikistan continues to be difficult and dangerous, particularly for churches trying to show the gospel and make disciples. Tajikistan’s Christians who have converted from Islam are most at risk. They are doubly targeted by both the government and their communities and families. Additionally, Christians living outside Tajikistan’s major cities are more prone to experiencing greater pressure than followers of Jesus in urban settings.
- Pray for pastors and church leaders in Tajikistan, especially those who are monitored and detained by the government. Pray they will be safe and not be unjustly targeted, and that God will sustain their faith and the faith of their families.
- Pray for converts to Christianity from Islam who live in areas of Tajikistan where conversion means severe pressure from family and communities. Pray they would sense they have a community that transcends location and situation, and that they would know they aren’t alone.
- Pray that Christians in Tajikistan will have wisdom to know how to share their faith safely, and boldness to continue sharing the gospel. Pray God will soften the hearts of those enforcing the restrictions on evangelism, and that He might draw them to Himself through the courageous witness of our brothers and sisters.
- Pray that churches and places where believers gather to worship and hear the word will be safe from confiscation and attacks by radicals.
- Pray for that the Lord will appear to the radicals in their dreams and convert them to honor the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Pray that God would be near to our brokenhearted brothers and sisters in Tajikistan. Ask God to make His presence felt to them.
- Ask God to pour out His Spirit of love, order and calm over Christian communities, especially in the remote areas.
- Pray for NGOs who provide immediate aid to believers when they are imprisoned, excluded from families and communities, and deprived of livelihood and employment because of their faith in Christ. They also strengthen the persecuted church primarily through literature distribution, prayer support, training for Christians, socio-economic aid, and persecution preparedness seminars.
- Pray that the internet will have messages that encourage believers and bring hope to the lost.
- Pray that Believers can love and forgive their persecutors.
- Pray that the Lord will build HIS church and mightily add to the number of believers.
Update: Prayer point for Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli of Nepal has been removed.
Again, we want to lift up persecuted witnesses to the Lord:
- Leah Sharibu, prisoner of Boko Haram since 2018. Pray for her release.
- Alice Loksha Ngaddah, kidnapped February 2019. She is a mother of two, working as a nurse for UNICEF. Pray for her release.
- Pray for Pastor Wang Yi to be released from prison.
- Pray for Anita, a Christian convert facing a long prison term who escaped from Iran and praying to go to a country where she can express her faith openly.
- For the release of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani from Iran, and his family as their Persecution continues. Pastor Nadarkhani is serving the second year of his six-year sentence.
Merlaine, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Moderator
Prayer Conference Call Details
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What is Persecution Watch?
Persecution Watch is a U.S. national prayer conference call ministry that prays specifically for the global Persecuted Church. For over a decade, Blaine Scogin led this national network of believers who faithfully pray for the persecuted and the global harvest for the Kingdom of God. The group meets via a free call-in service every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night at 9pm Eastern time in the United States (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted, and the missions became one. Brother Blaine passed into glory on December 26, 2019. It was truly a blessing for all of us to serve alongside this dear man of God and he will be greatly missed. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch remains an important part of our mission. Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with the dedicated Persecution Watch prayer warrior team.
Prior to the passing of Brother Blaine, he confirmed the passing of the torch as prayer conference call leader to Nadia Dybvik. Nadia has a burdened heart for the persecuted and is a prayer warrior standing in the gap for them. She joined the Persecution Watch prayer team in 2013 and has been part of the core ever since. Before becoming the prayer call leader, she served in the role of prayer moderator since 2015. Blaine chose Nadia for her faithfulness to pray for the persecuted and her strong commitment to the Persecution Watch mission. We are blessed not only with her gift of prayer, but her genuine love for every brother and sister in Christ that comes on the call to pray. May the Lord continue to bless Nadia and the prayer team in the mission and their personal lives.
“Pray for us” is the number one request that we hear from the persecuted. As the members of the first century Church were moved by the Holy Spirit to pray, we too must continue to serve those suffering persecution by lifting them up to the Lord through prayer.
On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the conference call to share the trials they are facing. The team serves to encourage them by washing their feet in Spirit led prayer. Time is often reserved for those on the call to ask questions. We believe this helps to gain a better understanding of the situation that persecuted Christians endure in their specific nations. Q&A also helps us to focus our prayers based on their current needs.
Persecution Watch also hosts callers who want to pray united from other nations. If your heart is perplexed by the sufferings of our persecuted brothers and sisters, you no longer need to pray alone.
We welcome all who desire to pray for the persecuted church and consider it a joy to pray together with you. If you are new to the call and cannot find your voice, listen in and pray silently or on mute. We are grateful and thank the Lord for bringing us all together to pray in agreement for our persecuted family in Christ. We can all be prayer warriors on this call!
God bless and protect you in your faithfulness to serve.
Lois Kanalos, Founder, Voice of the Persecuted, Nadia Dybvik, Persecution Watch Prayer Call Leader and the Persecution Watch Prayer Team
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Note to Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) readers: The Persecution Watch prayer team is also the prayer team of Voice of the Persecuted. SIGN UP today.
Photo: People in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. By Veni Markovski (CC BY 2.0) flickr.com/photos/veni/3482697139
Washington, D.C. (May 9, 2014) – Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) today introduced legislation to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which he helped establish in 1998 as the author of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). The commission was last reauthorized in September 2011.
USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government advisory body charged with monitoring the status of the freedom of religion or belief abroad and providing policy recommendations to the president, Secretary of State and Congress.
“Religious freedom is America’s first freedom, and a vitally important human right enshrined in international law,” Wolf said. “It should be a bedrock of U.S. foreign policy. Too often that is not the case.”
“The Commission plays an invaluable role in giving an unvarnished picture of religious freedom violations the world over,” Wolf continued. “It is well respected on both sides of the aisle for its thoughtful analysis and policy recommendations, and its commissioners are regularly called upon to provide expert testimony at congressional hearings and briefings. Simply put, the commission’s research informs the work of many in foreign policy-making circles.”
As recent as April 30, 2014, the USCIRF released its annual report which documented religious freedom violations in 33 countries and made a number of policy recommendations, including that 16 countries and recommended that the State Department add eight more nations to its list of “countries of particular concern,” defined under law as countries where particularly severe violations of religious freedom are tolerated or perpetrated: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam. USCIRF also recommended that the following eight countries be re-designated as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan. for particularly severe violation of religious freedom. The report also examines U.S. international religious freedom policy and recommends way to strengthen U.S. engagement and promotion of religious freedom.
Wolf said he looked forward to swift passage of this critical legislation.
Representative Wolf deeply cares and has worked diligently to protect the human right, Freedom of Worship for all people in the world.
He has long believed that the United States has an obligation to speak out for religious freedom, often referred to as the “first freedom.” Recognizing that religious freedom was often sidelined in our bilateral relations and diplomatic engagement with other countries, in 1998, he authored the International Religious Freedom Act, which created the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and established the International Religious Freedom Office at the State Department headed by an ambassador-at-large. This was a critical first step in integrating religious freedom into our broader foreign policy, but he says “Much remains to be done.”
“Sadly, religious freedom advocacy has never been more needed. A landmark report on religious freedom, released by the Pew Forum in 2009, found that “nearly 70 percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities. Pew has done subsequent studies on the issue and it’s 2014 report found that incidents of abuse targeting religious minorities were reported in 47% of countries in 2012, up from 38% in 2011 and 24% in the baseline year of the study.”
“If the international community fails to speak out and advocate for those whose basic human rights are being trampled, the prospects for religious pluralism and tolerance are bleak.”
In January 2013 I reintroduced bipartisan legislation to create a special envoy within the State Department to advocate on behalf of vulnerable religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.
In countries like Iraq and Egypt, ancient Christian communities are being driven from the lands they have inhabited for centuries. In Iran, Baha’is are imprisoned and in some cases executed simply because of their faith. In Pakistan, Ahmadi graves are desecrated. In Afghanistan, a country where America has sacrificed greatly in both blood and treasure, the most basic right to freedom of religion or belief is not recognized in the constitution. This is but a snap shot of the grave challenges facing these communities.
In January 2011 following a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing during which sobering testimony [was heard] about the challenges facing religious minorities in Iraq and Egypt, Wolf introduced the special envoy, bill – along with Democrat Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, who is of Armenian and Assyrian heritage. The hearing predated the so-called “Arab Spring.” But arguably, the dramatic changes in the region have only made these communities more vulnerable.
Over 20 special envoy posts exist to protect a range of groups and interests, but none is dedicated to the plight of Middle East religious minorities.
On September 18, 2013 the House again overwhelmingly passed the Special Envoy vote by a vote of 402-22, but it has languished in the Senate.
Wolf is actively working to press for swift Senate action. Each day that passes without a dedicated special envoy to advocate for these besieged religious communities, America’s first freedom, religious freedom, is under assault around the globe.
“I renewed my efforts in the 113th Congress to press for passage of this important legislation and to mobilize faith leaders in the West to advocate for these imperiled communities. In January I sent a letter to more than 300 Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox leaders in the West, calling for them to use their influence to speak out on behalf of the persecuted Church around the globe, specifically in the Middle East.”
On Wednesday, the Christian leaders joined forces to call for an end to the silence over persecuted Christian communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Rep. Wolf has regularly met with beleaguered Christians from this part of the world. He said, “Their stories are eerily similar: believers kidnapped for ransom; churches–some full of worshipers–attacked; clergy targeted for killing. In the face of this violence, Christians are leaving in droves.”
In countries where Christians must deal with harsh persecution, many are silenced by fear and abuse. The oppressors wish to hide the atrocities from the international community. Those standing up for religious rights and revealing the abuse are threatened to be silent or face severe persecution—death threats, pressured to convert to Islam, beaten, tortured, shot at and even lose their lives. It is not uncommon for them to be fired from their jobs when the employer is pressured to do so by the persecutors. And to further strike fear, their families likely experience all of the above.
The growing radicalism in these countries has forced many religious minorities to live in fear. In Pakistan, where false blasphemy charges have escalated and are abused, Christians asks us, “What has happened to humanity and what have we done to deserve such treatment?” (John 15:18, John 15:20) Simply being in disagreement with the prophet of Islam can wrongfully be proclaimed as blasphemy, denying their freedom of worship. As seen in recent cases, subjecting them to possible death sentences has also intensified. Too often and now more frequently, Pakistani citizens trying to make a difference by promoting peace and religious equality are forced to flee the country to spare their lives and that of their families. While Pakistan loses one more of the brave few willing to stand up and be a voice for Christian rights and that of other religious minorities.
In the Bible there is much written about the oppressed and persecuted. Jesus had more to say about the poor than any other group of people. He had great concern for this critical issue and taught us that we should too. As American Christians, if we are earnest about our faith, then we should be compelled to aid the oppressed in the world. Being blessed by God living in a nation of great freedom, should we not use this gift and ability to be a voice for those who don’t?
VOP and persecuted Christians appreciate the work of Rep. Wolf. May the Lord bless him in his efforts.
Engage and inform others on the topic of Christian persecution. And get them praying for our suffering brethren!
Tajikistan: Nadia, a recent Christian convert in Tajikistan, is experiencing severe persecution at the hands of her Muslim family members. Nadia converted from Islam to Christianity in 2011 and was then baptized. After her mother found out, she beat Nadia, burned her Bible, and tore her clothing. Nadia tried to run away, but her brothers found her. They shaved her head, gave her a public beating, and then locked her in the house. When she ran away a second time, they unfortunately caught her again.
Nadia called a Voice of the Martyrs contact on June 9th, sobbing, saying that her family had beaten her again, this time for hours, and forced her to say the Muslim statement of faith. The VOM contact has since been unable to reach Nadia by phone as her family most likely had it disconnected. (For other reports on persecution in Tajikistan, check the Tajikistan Country Report.)
Pray for the Lord’s protection upon Nadia, asking Him to direct her to a safe place of refuge and provision so she can receive necessary help and healing (2 Corinthians 1:10). May Nadia sense His loving presence with her wherever she goes, encouraging her to remain strong in the Christian faith. Please also intercede for her family members who clearly need to be delivered from spiritual darkness…and brought into the light of God’s truth and salvation.
After the Soviet collapse in 1991, civil war broke out with various regional warlords fighting for power until 1997. Secular national forces prevailed, and they continue to shape political and religious policy.
Freedom of religion exists in Tajikistan, but barely. Religious teaching, publishing and proselytism are very difficult if not illegal. Registering churches is also very difficult.
In April 2009, a restrictive new Religion Law was implemented. Among other items, the law imposes limitations on where and how many mosques can be opened, imposes state censorship of religious literature and enforces state restrictions and control on religious education. However, government officials say these limitations do not restrict religious activity.
The Christian population has been massively reduced by emigration. It was and remains largely Russian Orthodox. The civil war and its aftermath drove out the majority; most of the remainder are cultural/nominal Christians with little desire to share the gospel with indigenous peoples.
Although Islam is the religion of 94 percent of the population, only a small fraction practices “pure” Islam. Most are influenced by folk superstitions and Zoroastrian beliefs. Mosques sprouted up everywhere in the years following independence, but now the government places severe restrictions on mosque building, as independent non-state controlled Islam is a target for a government hostile to everything outside state control. Tajikistan’s proximity to Iran and Afghanistan makes it vulnerable to Islamism.