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Tonight on Persecution Watch: Praying for Believers in Turkmenistan

9/10/2020 (Voice of the Persecuted) Turkmenistan Population: 5.9 million Christians: 70,500

Turkmenistan is wholly ruled by its president, who seeks to tightly control every aspect of daily life, including religious worship. Nearly 95 percent of the population of Turkmenistan practices Islam, about 3 percent belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church, and only 0.1 percent is evangelical Christian. While most citizens are Muslim, their affiliation is largely cultural rather than devoutly religious—the government mostly seeks to build a cult of personality around its president. Christian gatherings are monitored, printing Christian materials is illegal, and unregistered churches risk constant raids and jail time for congregants and church leaders.

Ever since a new law on religion was introduced in April 2016, Christians have experienced tighter controls on church life . Police, secret services and local authorities monitor religious activities and regularly attend church services. Even Sunday services of Russian Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic churches may be monitored.

Religion is so strictly regulated in this nation that it is currently ranked number 19 on the World Watch List of countries with severe persecution of Christians. The government requires censorship of all religious literature, and religious organizations are required to register with the authorities and report on any foreign support they receive. Registered religious groups must have at least five but fewer than 50 members, and religious organizations must have at least 50 members.

Almost all of the Christian activity in Turkmenistan takes place underground, and Christian leaders are frequently imprisoned for their live under the reality that their home could be raided at any time by the authorities searching for Christian literature. Some families worship together in secret. If the government hears of a Turkmen coming to Christ, the new believer faces immediate pressure. It’s also difficult for believers to travel out of the country for Christian training or encouragement. NGOs have helped families of imprisoned pastors in the past.

Prayer Points

· Please pray that God would be at work in the hearts of Turkmenistan’s government leaders so that they would be motivated to put an end to corruption and religious persecution.

 

· Pray for protection of the house churches in Turkmenistan. Secret house churches are increasingly the targets of police and authorities. In most areas, public worship is out of the question. Pray believers find ways to gather together and encourage each other.

 

· Evangelizing is a punishable offense in the country. Pray for both boldness and discernment to share the gospel despite the legal consequences.

 

· Pray for believers that have converted from Islam and now experience fierce pressure to return to Islam. Pray for protection and endurance.

 

· Please pray for safety and courage for Christians, particularly, church leaders, who face harsh religious persecution every day.

 

· Please pray that NGOs will continue to expand so that even more young leaders can be prepared for effective ministry in their own nation.

 

· Please pray that God would grow the Church throughout Turkmenistan so that He may be glorified, even in the midst of persecution.

 

· Pray that Turkmen Bibles, which were recently published, and are difficult to obtain will become easily available.

 

· Pray for protection of NGO’s who convert support to believers

 

· Pray that the strong Christian messages on the internet that will encourage believers and let Muslims see and understand the Good News.

 

· Pray to the Lord that He will build His house, the church who belongs to Him. That the prince of darkness will be powerless to prevent the church from expanding extraordinarily.

Again, we want to lift up persecuted witnesses for the Lord and pray for

• Leah Sharibu and Alice, prisoners of Boko Haram, pray that they will be set free.

• Pray pastor Wang Yi to be released from Prison

• Pray for the release for Anita, a Christian convert recently sentenced to 6 years in prison for sharing the Gospel in Iran.

You are invited to join us on Thursday, September 10th in a prayer call for the persecuted church.

Andy, Persecution Watch Prayer 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 (please check your time zone). Blaine also served as Prayer Director for Voice of the Persecuted and our missions became one. The prayer mission of Persecution Watch is an important part of our own.

With the passing of Blaine into glory on December 26, 2019, Voice of the Persecuted is committed to continue the prayer conference call for the persecuted along with our dedicated prayer warrior team.

On occasion, persecuted brothers and sisters have been invited on the call to share the trials they’re 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’re new to the call and can’t 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!

NOTE: Persecution Watch has a new email address for the prayer team and those who would like to receive urgent prayer requests, weekly call prayer points and notification of special prayer events and special guest speakers.

Please fill out the form below to be included in our new distribution list to receive this important information. We are grateful for your prayers and to the Lord for guiding us as we continue the Persecution Watch prayer call mission.

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.

TURKMENISTAN: Raids, searches, fines, threats, beatings

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

(Forum 18) Protestant women celebrating Christmas are the latest victims of police raids on worship meetings. Officers searched the home, seized telephones, forced the women to write statements and took photos and fingerprints.
Officials often summon and threaten people known to be religious (including men who attend mosque, women who wear headscarves, and Jehovah’s
Witnesses).

Rep. Frank Wolf Introduces Bill To Reauthorize U.S. Commision On International Religious Freedom

freedom-of-religion

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!

USCIRF’s 2013 Annual Report on the State of International Religious Freedom Identifies World’s Worst Violators

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 30, 2013| By USCIRF

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent federal advisory body created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) to monitor religious freedom abuses abroad, today released its 2013 Annual Report.  The Report highlights the status of religious freedom globally and identifies those governments that are the most egregious violators.

“The state of international religious freedom is increasingly dire due to the presence of forces that fuel instability.  These forces include the rise of violent religious extremism coupled with the actions and inactions of governments.   Extremists target religious minorities and dissenters from majority religious communities for violence, including physical assaults and even murder.  Authoritarian governments also repress religious freedom through intricate webs of discriminatory rules, arbitrary requirements and draconian edicts,” said Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, USCIRF’s Chair.

The 2013 Annual Report recommends that the Secretary of State re-designate the following eight nations as “countries of particular concern” or CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.  USCIRF finds that seven other countries meet the CPC threshold and should be so designated:  Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

“The Annual Report ultimately is about people and how their governments treat them. Violations affect members of diverse religious communities around the world, be they Rohinghya Muslims in Burma, Coptic Christians in Egypt, Buddhists, Uighur Muslims and Falun Gong in China, Baha’is in Iran, Ahmadis and Christians in Pakistan, or Muslims in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan and in non-Muslim nations like Russia.  We recommend that the White House adopt a whole-of-government strategy to guide U.S. religious freedom promotion and that Secretary of State Kerry promptly designate CPCs, before currently designated actions expire later this year,” said Lantos Swett.

In Burma, ongoing political reforms have yet to significantly improve the situation for freedom of religion and belief.  Sectarian violence and severe abuses of religious freedom and human dignity targeting ethnic minority Christians and Muslims continue to occur with impunity.

In Egypt, despite some progress during a turbulent political transition, the government has failed or been slow to protect from violence religious minorities, particularly Coptic Christians. The government continues to prosecute, convict, and imprison individuals for “contempt” or “defamation” of religion, and the new constitution includes several problematic provisions relevant to religious freedom.

In both Pakistan and Nigeria, religious extremism and impunity have factored into unprecedented levels of violence that threaten the long-term viability of both nations.  Targeted violence against Shi’i Muslims in Pakistan is pervasive, while repeated Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria exacerbate sectarian tensions.

“Many of these countries top the U.S. foreign policy agenda, and religion is a core component in their makeup.  Successful U.S. foreign policy recognizes the critical role religious freedom plays in each of these nations and prioritizes accordingly. Religious freedom is both a pivotal human right under international law and a key factor that helps determine whether a nation experiences stability or chaos,” said Lantos Swett.

USCIRF also announced the placement of eight nations on its Tier 2 List for 2013.  The Tier 2 category replaces the Watch List designation USCIRF previously used.  These nations are: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos and Russia. USCIRF found the violations these governments engage in or tolerate are particularly severe, and meet at least one criterion, but not all, of IRFA’s three-fold “systematic, ongoing, egregious” CPC standard.

In Russia, religious freedom conditions suffered major setbacks in the context of growing human rights abuses. In Indonesia, the country’s rich tradition of religious tolerance and pluralism is seriously threatened by arrests of individuals the government considers religiously deviant and violence perpetrated by extremist groups. Federal and provincial officials, police, courts, and religious leaders often tolerate and abet the conduct of religious freedom abusers.

The USCIRF report also highlights the status of religious freedom in countries/regions that do not meet the Tier 1 (CPC) or Tier 2 threshold. These include: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Ethiopia, Turkey, Venezuela and Western Europe. The Annual Report also addresses in-depth thematic issues:  Constitutional Changes; Severe Religious Freedom Violations by Non-State Actors; Laws against Blasphemy and Defamation of Religions; Imprisonment of Conscientious Objectors; Legal Retreat from Religious Freedom in Post-Communist Countries; Kidnapping and Forced Religious De-Conversion in Japan; and Religious Freedom Issues in International Organizations.

ABOUT USCIRF

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government advisory body with its commissioners appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in Congress.  The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) requires that the United States annually designate as CPCs countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief.  IRFA also tasks USCIRF with assessing conditions in these and other countries and making recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress.

In accordance with IRFA, USCIRF uses international standards, as found in UN conventions and declarations, for assessing religious freedom conditions.

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