OVERVIEW: As a former Soviet republic on the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan’s churches developed in the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution. Azerbaijan’s economy is dependent on oil and gas, but corruption and an authoritarian government have impeded economic growth. Poverty has been reduced in recent years, and the country’s infrastructure is gradually improving.
MAJOR RELIGION: Islam (Shiite)
PERSECUTOR: Families are the biggest persecutors of Christians. Azerbaijan has a shame/honor culture in which those who leave Islam are considered to have brought shame on the family. The government also pressures Christians with heavy fines.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN AZERBAIJAN: For many years now, churches have been denied the ability to register as a legal churches. Secret police attend every church meeting, and raids on “illegal” church meetings are common. In 2015, the government published a list of banned religious books that included the Old Testament. Those caught with banned religious literature are fined. Today, the government is tightening restrictions and often asking church leaders to submit lists of members’ names. Many pastors and leaders feel this is an attempt to gather information that will be used later against the members or pastors. Many Christians are faithfully sharing Christ with neighbors and family members despite possible fines and legal pressures.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: Bibles are difficult to obtain. Churches can purchase them, but they cannot have them printed in the country.
VOM WORK: VOM brings Bibles, including children’s Bibles, into the country and assists pastors and churches with legal matters.
note: religious affiliation is still nominal in Azerbaijan; percentages for actual practicing adherents are much lower (2010 est.)
President Ilham ALIYEV (since 31 October 2003); First Vice President Mehriban ALIYEVA (since 21 February 2017)
VOM 2020 Global Prayer Guide,
CIA World Factbook