Throughout Central Asia, Christians are facing worship bans, arrest and torture as Islamic nationalism gains ground. In late August, we reported on a group arrested in Tajikistan for distributing Christian literature (read the report). Similar incidents are happening regularly in other neighbouring Central Asian countries, according to a recent report from VOMC's partner ministry, Release International.
A recent survey revealed that 263 people had been punished in Kazakhstan during 2017 for hosting religious meetings, offering religious literature, or other "religious crimes." Most of those prosecuted were Protestant Christians. The clampdown continued into 2018 with almost 80 prosecutions within the first six months.
Churches in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan face regular harassment from authorities for meeting without a permit, while those same authorities refuse to issue the necessary permits. In Kazakhstan, Christians are perceived as a threat to the state. Homes and church buildings are regularly searched. Even praying together can be deemed illegal.
Throughout the region, Christians from Muslim backgrounds are facing the worst persecution. One church leader, Pastor Batyr, recounts: "If a Muslim decides to follow Christ, then he is considered to be a traitor -- a traitor to our people, our culture and our nation. All former Muslims who believe in Christ are secret and underground. They can never be officially recognized."
Release International has just released a 12-minute video report on the situation in Central Asia. To view this fascinating report, click here.
Remember the Christian workers throughout Central Asia who are spreading the Good News of the Gospel. Pray for deliverance on behalf of those imprisoned for their faith; that, in the meanwhile, God will mightily use their ministry to reach fellow prisoners and guards. May the Lord give His people throughout the region a new vision for how they can best reach out to those around them with His transforming love.