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Azerbaijan

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Barnabas Aid supports a Christian newspaper in Azerbaijan, where Christian literature is heavily controlled

Once a Christian region, Azerbaijan is now 96% Muslim. The government gives preferential treatment to those religions considered “traditional” (Islam, Russian Orthodox Christianity and Judaism), while other forms of Christianity are actively restricted.

The authorities in this post-Soviet state regard religious groups with suspicion, and since independence in 1991 restrictions on Christians have been repeatedly tightened. The country’s Religion Law, first adopted in 1992, has been amended 13 times.

Christian groups that established a presence in the country only after 1991 and those operating without official registration are particularly vulnerable. Their church services are monitored and raided; Christian literature is confiscated; and their members are harassed and imprisoned.

All churches must register with the government, but registering can be a lengthy and confusing process, and applications may be denied or left in limbo. In January 2013, Greater Grace Church in Baku lost its final appeal against a court decision that the church be liquidated for failing to re-register with the government. All religious groups have been required to re-register five times since 1992, providing the government with leverage against those it deems undesirable. Unregistered churches cannot open a bank account or rent property.

Christian literature is heavily controlled and may be subject to censorship or a burdensome approval process. Those caught producing or distributing unapproved literature may be fined up to nine years of the minimum wage or imprisoned for up to five years.

In April 2013, Pastors Zaur Balaev and Hinayat Shabanova successfully appealed against convictions for unregistered religious activity, and the heavy fines they had been given were overturned. But this favourable decision took place against a general backdrop of continuing repression.

An increasing number of Azerbaijanis are nevertheless finding Christ. Many of the new Christians are converts from Islam and can meet with hostility from family, community and authorities. The Christian minority may face discrimination from their neighbours; for example, it may be very difficult for them to find and keep a job.

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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Daily prayer

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  • Give thanks for the Christ-like responses of Christian leaders in CAR to the crisis that threatens them and their churches. They have distanced themselves from the anti-balaka militias, saying that these should not be labelled as Christian and that they hold no mandate from the churches. The leaders have also condemned the violence in the country, whatever its origin, and have called on Christians to pursue forgiveness, reconciliation and healing. Churches are hiding, defending and caring for thousands of Muslims endangered by the anti-balaka, and one of CAR’s most senior church leaders has invited the president of the country’s Islamic community to move into his church compound. Pray that this powerful witness to the grace and love of Christ will help to bring peace to the shattered country. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 5 hours ago

  • On this Good Friday, give thanks to God for the death of Christ and for His gift of eternal life. Praise Him too for the example of those Christians who have persevered in their faith at the risk of their lives and who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of Christ and the Gospel. Pray that their martyrdom will inspire their suffering brothers and sisters in Christ to endure whatever hardships befall them and will convince their persecutors of the truth and power of the Gospel. Pray too that their bereaved families and churches will not grieve without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Cry out to the Lord for Christians in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have been driven from their homes by the violence that has engulfed their country. Attacks by Islamist Séléka militants and retaliation from “anti-balaka” militias has generated a huge humanitarian crisis in which around two million people, many of them Christians, are in need of emergency assistance. Give thanks for the work of Barnabas partners who have been providing food rations to hundreds of displaced believers in the capital, Bangui, and distributing food, medicines, clothing and seeds to thousands in various regions. Pray that the aid will reach those who need it most, and that the Lord will comfort the relatives and friends of the thousands who have been killed in the fighting. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Apr 2014 00:00

  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

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