Tajikistan has a Muslim population of over 90% and is one of the most religiously conservative, as well as poorest, of the Central Asian countries. Islamism is on the rise and it is a difficult place for the small Christian population.
Since 2011, children under 18 have been prohibited from taking part in public religious activities. Even the presence of children on church premises can be punished severely.
Converts from Islam are persecuted by authorities and often subjected to violence from their relatives, or threatened with death.
The “extremism law” (Criminal Code article 189) is used to crack down on anyone involved in certain religious activities. Churches are frequently inspected by officials who use intimidation, blackmail, illegal searches and seizure of church property to put pressure on Protestant congregations. Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov served nearly three years in prison, having been found guilty of “singing extremist songs in church and so inciting religious hatred”.
Only one church has managed to gain registration in the last decade, even though the minimum requirement is only ten members. Since 2018 all religious activities must be reported to the state. The import and distribution of religious publications must be approved by the authorities. Between August 2019 and January 2020, four church leaders were given huge fines for arranging a translation of the Bible into modern Tajik.
Tens of thousands of ethnic Russian and European Christians have left Tajikistan to seek work in Russia, including many pastors. So too have converts from Islam, who often lose their jobs when they decide to follow Christ. The declining numbers make life harder for remaining Christians.
A census taken in October 2020 included a question about religion, for the first time since 1937, when Tajikistan was part of the Stalin-led Soviet Union. There are fears that this will be used to track down Christians (Forum 18).
Ask the Lord to uphold Christians facing increasingly restrictive laws. Pray that authorities will relent in their harassment of Christians. Pray for Christian children banned by law from attending church.
The above content can also be found in the Praying for the Persecuted Church (2021-2022) booklet