TURKMENISTAN: BELIEVERS REPRESSED AND PERSECUTED
On Wednesday evening 3 May, more than 15 secret police and security
officials broke into a Christian house-fellowship, the Soygi (Love)
Church, in Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat. Though these attackers
did not have a warrant they searched the premises, interrogated and
videotaped the 13 believers present and confiscated their
belongings, including Bibles, discipleship texts and videos,
personal pictures and a notebook computer. The 35 Christians who
normally attend Soygi Church’s Sunday services are anxiously
expecting more harassment and persecution. Through Compass Direct
they are appealing, ‘We are now being investigated. We want prayer
Turkmenistan, a Central Asian former Soviet nation, is 92 per cent
Muslim and is ruled with Soviet-style authoritarianism. It rates as
one of the world’s most serious abusers of religious liberty.
Sources have reported to Forum 18 there seems to be a whole array
of unwritten laws in addition to the published, legislated
restrictions. Most Christians are Russian Orthodox, with
Protestants a tiny minority. Turkmenistan’s Constitution guarantees
freedom of religion and declares Turkmenistan to be a secular
state. However the reality is quite different. The cult of
President Niyazov along with the religious text he has written
(Ruhnama) is the unofficial state religion being forced on the
Registration of churches is compulsory, and whilst fewer
requirements have made registration easier to obtain, it has only
resulted in the government exerting more pervasive and repressive
control over the churches. Forum 18 reports that Protestants cannot
build places of worship and it is illegal to hold religious
services in private homes or government-owned buildings, in
commercial or residential districts – which does not leave many
options. Groups may worship only in government-approved sites
designated for religious activity. Of course approval is virtually
never given. Protestants are not able to share their faith, and
because they cannot print or import religious literature, they
desperately need Bibles in both Turkmen and Russian.
Turkmenistan’s believers are isolated from the worldwide Church,
and travel for religious purposes is restricted. Officials can raid
services, take down names of the believers, confiscate their
property and ban them from meeting. Officials demand to know what
happens in every meeting – worship and business – and the state
exerts control over the way the churches use their own money. Forum
18 reports that every ‘velayat’ (region) has its own representative
from the Religious Affairs Committee. But apparently these
officials are rarely neutral. Some are Muslim imams who persecute
ethnic Turkmen who convert from Islam to Christianity.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT:
* God will bless the Soygi Church in Ashgabat with great courage,
faithfulness and grace, that the believers’ witness will be
powerful and effective; may God grant them security to worship
and study the scriptures in peace.
* the Spirit of God will be working powerfully in the Church in
Turkmenistan and in the Turkmen Diaspora, increasing faith,
love, courage, grace and unity.
* God will provide Bibles in Turkmen and Russian. ‘For nothing is
impossible with God.’ (Luke 1:37 NLT)
* God will raise up wise and courageous leaders in Turkmenistan,
in every field and at every level, who will respect the
Constitution and lead the country towards reform, openness and
liberty; may the international community defend their efforts.
* God to create openings for the gospel.
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE:
BELIEVERS REPRESSED AND PERSECUTED IN TURKMENISTAN
Turkmenistan is one of the world’s most severe abusers of religious
liberty. The Central Asian former Soviet state is 92 per cent
Muslim and is ruled with Soviet-style repressive authoritarianism.
The government exerts a pervasive control over the tiny Protestant
minority who face immense obstacles even in just meeting together.
Protestants may not share their faith, or print or import Christian
literature. They desperately need Bibles. The authorities harass
and persecute the churches. On Wednesday 3 May, some 15 secret
police and security officials raided the Protestant Soygi Church in
the capital, Ashgabat. They interrogated and videotaped the
believers, and confiscated their belongings. The believers are
anxious and have requested prayer. Please pray for the Church in
Turkmenistan. Ask God to provide Bibles, and bring liberty.
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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.
RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.