Tajikistan is mostly Muslim with around 150,000 Christians (approximately 2%). Following independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, government repression of religious freedom has steadily increased. In 2016 the United States designated Tajikistan as a “country of particular concern” for the first time because of its record on religious freedom.
Under highly restrictive laws introduced in 2009, all churches need to be registered with the state and there are onerous registration requirements. Unregistered church activity, evangelism and private religious education (except by parents) are all banned, whilst the import, export and distribution of religious publications must be approved by the government. Official permission must also be given to provide Christian instruction. A 2011 law on parental responsibility means children under the age of 18 are now prohibited from taking part in public religious activities other than funerals. This is causing great concern to Christian parents. Some churches dutifully try to keep the law about children, while others are trying to find ways around it.
The heavy government restrictions apply to all religious groups, including its Muslim majority. There is fear that radical groups like Islamic State will gain more influence.
Tajikistan is a very poor country. Emigration levels are high because of a lack of employment opportunities. Pastors are amongst those leaving the country as they seek to find work to support their families. Many churches suffer from instability as a result. Christians from Muslim backgrounds encounter persecution from the authorities and relatives.
Ask the Lord to lead, guide and protect Christians in Tajikistan as they seek to live and share their faith whilst facing many restrictions and pressures. Pray that restrictions on Christian activity and publications will be eased. Ask the Lord to provide financially for all church leaders so that they do not have to leave the country to find employment. Pray that Tajikistan’s Christian children will grow in their faith despite the government restrictions on their involvement in Christian activities.