RLP 479 | Tajikistan: Reviewing Religious Laws

Prayer May 21, 2008

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 479 | Wed 21 May 2008

(By Anneta Vyssotskaia)

In the Central Asian country of Tajikistan, suffering and hardship
long ago became a normal part of daily life. Problems and disasters
come like water in waves, each new wave bringing more suffering and
stealing hope.

Last winter was the coldest in 30 years with the temperature at
night dropping to -26C. The freezing weather accompanied an energy
crisis. Even in the capital city, Dushanbe, electricity was on only
10 hours daily and for just one or two hours in other areas. Water
was short too, as well as water pipes freezing in many areas.
Because of heavy frosts and lack of water, over 300 newborn babies
died in the maternity hospitals in Tajikistan from January to March
2008. Though the frosts are now past and the land is recovering
after the cold winter, there are still many problems.

This disastrous situation happened in a country where most of the
population live in tremendous poverty. Men face a heart-breaking
choice of either staying unemployed or going far away from their
families to work in other countries, while women have to struggle
on their own to exist and help their children to survive. Many
children from the countryside come to live on the streets of the
cities, begging or stealing. There is still a shortage of
medicines, food and water in Tajikistan. The help provided by
international aid organisations is just a drop in the ocean of
need. However, the spiritual needs of the country are even greater.

Some 95 percent of the people in Tajikistan believe in and worship
Allah. Less than 3000 Christians are a tiny minority in a
population of over 6.5 million. The difficult task for this small
army of Christians is to show God's love and to share the gospel of
Jesus Christ with their Muslim neighbours. The Christians in
Tajikistan are expecting further restrictions in religious
legislation as the Centre of Strategic Studies is developing new
religious policies.

Meanwhile, in May this year the Ministry of Culture of Tajikistan
did not allow the Baptist churches to import 100,000 Bibles.
Although the legislation at this stage does not prohibit bringing
religious literature into the country, the head of the religious
department said that number of books exceeded the Baptists' real
need for Bibles. The head of the Catholic mission in Tajikistan
supported the Baptists by protesting against this behaviour of the
Ministry officials.

Christian sources in Tajikistan request prayer that Christian
workers may be able to stay in the country and continue to do God's
work instead of going to employment in other countries to support
their families. A big need is transport for Christian workers to
visit and minister in the villages. The widow of a Christian pastor
who was killed by Islamists in Isfara, Tajikistan, wrote recently
to the author of this article: 'Here in Tajikistan the religious
laws are becoming more strict. Meanwhile, we want so much to use
this time and work more effectively.'


PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT -

* God will show his mercy in granting physical and spiritual
recovery for Tajikistan, that this long-suffering country may
find new hope in Jesus Christ and many hearts will turn to him.

* the Christian Church in Tajikistan will be strong and courageous
in these times of hardship, that Christians will be filled with
the Holy Spirit and be God's witnesses; thank God for this Church
and all the Christian workers serving the Lord despite the
difficulties.

* God will provide all the necessary resources for his Church to
be able to work most effectively: Bibles, transport, finances.

* unity will grow amongst the churches of different denominations.

* if the religious legislation needs to be changed, may the only
changes be positive and allow Christian work to continue in
Tajikistan.

* the officials who supervise the work of religious organisations
will help the churches do their work instead of creating more
restrictions; may God put his people in those positions.

'We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us; and we
ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the
world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart
against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little
children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and
truth.' (1 John 3:16-18 NASB)

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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TAJIKISTAN REVIEWING RELIGIOUS LAWS

Last winter was enormously cold in Tajikistan. Accompanied by an
energy crisis and lack of water it brought more disease, death and
suffering. While the country is recovering now from the disastrous
winter, the Christians continue to face other serious problems.
They are expecting further restrictions in religious legislation as
the Centre of Strategic Studies is developing new religious
policies. Meanwhile the Ministry of Culture stopped the importation
of 100,000 Bibles. The Christians in Tajikistan want to use the
time they have to work more effectively while it is still possible,
but have a great need for Bibles, transport and finance. Please
pray about the legislation and that the Church in Tajikistan will
be adequately resourced and empowered by the Holy Spirit to
minister effectively.

----------------

Elizabeth Kendal, our regular researcher and writer, is on leave
following the death of her mother last Sunday.

RLP guest writer Anneta Vyssotskaia serves on the WEA Religious
Liberty Commission.

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