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Azerbaijan

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Barnabas Fund supports a Christian newspaper in Azerbaijan, where Christian literature is heavily controlled

Once a Christian region, Azerbaijan is now 96% Muslim. The government gives preferential treatment to those religions considered “traditional” (Islam, Russian Orthodox Christianity and Judaism), while other forms of Christianity are actively restricted.

The authorities in this post-Soviet state regard religious groups with suspicion, and since independence in 1991 restrictions on Christians have been repeatedly tightened. The country’s Religion Law, first adopted in 1992, has been amended 13 times.

Christian groups that established a presence in the country only after 1991 and those operating without official registration are particularly vulnerable. Their church services are monitored and raided; Christian literature is confiscated; and their members are harassed and imprisoned.

All churches must register with the government, but registering can be a lengthy and confusing process, and applications may be denied or left in limbo. In January 2013, Greater Grace Church in Baku lost its final appeal against a court decision that the church be liquidated for failing to re-register with the government. All religious groups have been required to re-register five times since 1992, providing the government with leverage against those it deems undesirable. Unregistered churches cannot open a bank account or rent property.

Christian literature is heavily controlled and may be subject to censorship or a burdensome approval process. Those caught producing or distributing unapproved literature may be fined up to nine years of the minimum wage or imprisoned for up to five years.

In April 2013, Pastors Zaur Balaev and Hinayat Shabanova successfully appealed against convictions for unregistered religious activity, and the heavy fines they had been given were overturned. But this favourable decision took place against a general backdrop of continuing repression.

An increasing number of Azerbaijanis are nevertheless finding Christ. Many of the new Christians are converts from Islam and can meet with hostility from family, community and authorities. The Christian minority may face discrimination from their neighbours; for example, it may be very difficult for them to find and keep a job.

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    • Give thanks that two small Christian communities in Niger have received livestock from Barnabas Fund to help them become self-sufficient. The Christians also received three days of training to learn how to take care of the animals. The predominantly Muslim region where these communities are located has endured more than a decade of food insecurity. Pray that the livestock will prosper, so that the Christians will be able to sell them at a good price and will become financially independent. Pray also that growing tensions between Muslims and Christians in Niger will not adversely affect them. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 6 hours ago

    • Almighty God, we call to You for relief for Christians in the Gwoza area of Borno state in Northern Nigeria, as they face repeated violent attacks by Boko Haram militants. We pray for comfort for the relatives and friends of the hundreds who have been killed, and for the thousands who have been forced from their homes and seen them torched. We ask for Your special protection on Christians as they gather to worship You. We pray for the Nigerian authorities to re-establish control of the area, so that the displaced Christians may be safe from further attacks and free to rebuild their shattered communities. We pray too for their persecutors to come to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • “This is a war against Christians and democracy and their constitution. Allah says we should finish them when we get them.” The leader of the Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram was speaking in a video that reasserted their agenda and addressed “the people of the world”, saying, “Either you are with us Mujahedeen or you are with the Christians.” The translation of the video was released as scores of people were killed in suicide bombings in May, including at least 118 in a double attack in Jos, Plateau state on 20 May. Pray that Boko Haram’s murderous campaign to establish an Islamic state in Northern Nigeria will not succeed. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Pray for Bible school students in Vietnam who were subjected to a terrifying night-time raid by police and hired thugs. On 9 June, officers swooped from adjacent rooftops into the church compound that houses the school, while vehicle-loads of people were brought to the site to vandalise the building with bricks, stones and sticks. The students were beaten, punched and kicked before being taken away for interrogation; 20 were left in need of medical attention but were prevented from leaving to find it. Thugs continued to attack the compound over the next ten nights. Pray for the students as they recover from this brutal assault and that they will stand firm in their faith in the face of intimidation. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Aug 2014 00:00

    • In an earlier incident in Saisomboon village, three teenage Christian girls were disqualified from taking their final school examinations because of their faith. The village chief said that in following Christianity, Noi (15), Net (15) and Nut (14) had forfeited their right to education. Five families from the village have now converted to Christianity. A spokesman for Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom expressed the view that the authorities were trying to find every possible way “to stop the spread of Christian religious freedom in the area”. Pray that the girls will be allowed to complete their education and that opposition to the Christians in the village will cease. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Aug 2014 00:00

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