Christians in Central Asia are facing worship bans, arrest, and torture as Islamic nationalism becomes stronger in their countries.
According to Voice of the Martyrs Korea representative Foley Hyun Sook, Christians in Central Asia can be arrested for reading the Bible in public places (such as a bus or train), or for telling other people about Jesus.
“Some Christians in Central Asia have had their church registrations canceled and are forced to meet illegally in homes,”
representative Foley says.
“And Christians who worship at home are subject to police raids, arrests, beatings, and fines.”
In Tajikistan, security police arrested ten Christians in August for handing out gospel literature and fined them about 1,100,000 KRW—more than most Tajiks earn in six months.
In Kazakhstan, a new religious survey found that 263 people were punished in 2017 for hosting religious meetings, distributing religious literature, and other offenses. Administrative Code Article 489, Part 9 gives police officers the right to fine individuals without a court hearing for “Leadership of an unregistered, halted, or banned religious community or social organization” and recently this article has been used to target Pentecostal, Protestant, and Baptist churches. Within the first six months of 2018 alone, there were almost 80 prosecutions.
Christians in Kazakhstan are often seen as a threat to the state. The authorities have searched the homes of local pastors and believers and confiscated their belongings. Even everyday Christian activities like praying together or doing a Bible study can be deemed illegal.
One of Voice of the Martyrs’ partners in Kazakhstan is a Presbyterian pastor who was jailed for nine months for proclaiming the gospel. In prison, he led nearly 100 of his fellow inmates to Christ.
Christians worship in Central Asia
At a house church in Kyzylorda, a pastor was told by an angry couple (and grandmother) that he was forbidden from allowing children to attend his services without parental permission. The couple brought the police along with them, and the police proceeded to search and film the house. Then they made every member of the congregation write a statement explaining why they had attended church. The police asked each person if they were attending against their will and if they had read any religious books.
In Turkmenistan, Christian women from Muslim backgrounds have been kidnapped and married off to Muslims.
In Tajikistan, churches which do not have their own buildings are banned from meeting anywhere else. Those caught worshipping in secret can face interrogation and heavy fines.
In Uzbekistan, the law requires churches to register, but the authorities have refused to issue permits since 1999. They have tapped the phones of Christians, bugged their homes, and monitored their church services.
According to representative Foley, Christians from a Muslim background face persecution not just from the state, but also from families and communities. One partner who works in Tajikistan told the story of a young teenager who became a Christian. When his family found out, they locked him in his house and beat him.
“They made him lie on a cold floor for months,”
this partner said.
“I praise the Lord that he gave this young man the strength he needed not to give up on Jesus.”
Representative Foley adds,
“As the persecution of our brothers and sisters increases, our prayers for them should increase as well. We are the body of Christ and when one part of the body is under pressure, the whole body should feel the pain.”
Christians worship in Central Asia