What does persecution look like in Turkmenistan?
There is no freedom of religion in Turkmenistan. The dictatorial government uses a huge network of police, secret services and local imams to closely monitor all religious activities. All religious groups are legally required to register with the authorities, but only those that have at least 50 members over the age of 18 are allowed to do so. All non-registered groups are effectively banned.
Churches are the target of police raids, which may result in those attending being arrested or fined. Fines can be issued for holding illegal gatherings, possessing religious literature and even for downloading Christian songs. Printing and importing Christian materials is restricted, so there is a dearth of resources to support local Christians. Even Russian Orthodox churches are monitored.
The population is predominantly Muslim and Christianity is treated with suspicion. Christians from a Muslim background come under pressure both from the state and from their family and community, who may subject them to house arrest, forced marriage and beatings to try to force them to return to Islam.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Christian converts from a Muslim background are most vulnerable to persecution, especially in rural areas. They are likely to experience pressure and occasionally physical violence from their families, friends and local community to force them to return to Islam. Some converts are locked up by their families for long periods, beaten and may eventually be expelled from their communities. Local imams preach against them, adding pressure. As a result, converts will do their best to hide their faith – they become secret believers.
What has changed this year?
There has been little change for Christians in the last year. Persecution remains high in all areas of life. Muslim families, friends and villagers exert pressure on converts in particular, while the government imposes many restrictions on church activities.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Turkmenistan?
Open Doors strengthens persecuted Christians in Central Asia by providing Bibles and Christian literature, biblical and vocational training, socio-economic development projects, and children's, youth and women's ministries.
How can you pray for Turkmenistan?
- Please pray for courage for church leaders under pressure from the authorities. Pray that they will stand firm in their faith and lead as a brave example to their congregations
- Pray for healing for women who have suffered domestic violence because of their faith.
- Pray that Bibles and Christian literature will find their way safely to Christians, without interception from the authorities
Dear Father, encourage Your children in Turkmenistan who follow You in secret. Let them know Your love and care for them. Comfort those who have been rejected or abused by their families. Heal their emotional and physical wounds and bring them into a community of supportive believers. Help church leaders to navigate the restrictions and surveillance on their churches. Infuse their worship with joy and power so that their meetings encourage the people who monitor and seek to shut them down. Amen.