Published: 00:01 GMT Standard Time - Friday 19 February 2010
Praying for the Persecuted Church in Lent - Azerbaijan
Laws in Azerbaijan expressly prohibit the government from interfering in religious activities, yet strict controls are placed on all religious communities. Once a Christian region, Azerbaijan is now around 90% Muslim. However, the number of ethnic Azeri Christians has been increasing in recent years although, as converts from Islam, many of them face much hostility from family, community and authorities.
In March 2009 a gathering of several adults and 12 children – who were present with their parents’ permission to hear Bible stories – was raided. The police removed the children to a separate room where they were questioned without lawyers or parents present. The adults were taken to the police station and fined for illegally teaching children to spread Christianity. The raid was widely shown on television stations, and the names and addresses of the adults detained were made public.
Religious literature is censored, and all incoming parcels containing books go to the post office in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku. The recipient has to collect (in person) one copy of each title posted, take it to the State Committee for permission and take a letter back to the post office to claim the books.
- Pray for greater religious liberty in this country, which is only 2% Christian.
- Pray that the Lord will help Azeri Christians to stand strong in their new faith and that He will continue to grow His Church in this country.
- Pray for church leaders such as Javid Shangarov, who was fined in September 2009 and faces deportation to Russia because he invited friends and neighbours to Christian events in his home.
- Pray for Christians in Azerbaijan who experience pressure from local authorities, that they will be left alone to worship and witness freely.