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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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    • It is reported that Hindu radicals have planned an event to convert 4,000 Christian and 1,000 Muslim families to Hinduism on Christmas Day. Pray for Christians in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India who are facing increasing pressure and violence since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party gained political power on 26 May. Pray that God will grant strength to His people so that they will remain faithful. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 1 hour ago

    • Praise the Lord that around 6,500 homeless Christians in Kandhamal District of Orissa State, India, now have proper homes to live in, with help from Barnabas Aid. Their houses had been damaged or destroyed more than six years ago in two bouts of severe anti-Christian violence by Hindu radicals in 2007-8. Some 60,000 Christians were made homeless. Continue to pray for the speedy completion of more houses currently under construction. Pray also that God will continue to heal the victims of this terrible trauma. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Dec 2014 00:00

    • Continue to remember Pastor Tandin Wangyal, who is serving a prison sentence of almost four years in the small nation of Bhutan, only because he received funds from outside the country to help support his ministry. Ask God to sustain our brother at this time, so that he will draw comfort from God’s grace. Pray that his faith will not fail. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Dec 2014 00:00

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    • Praise God for the continued Christian presence in northern Mali, despite the apparent desire of jihadists to wipe it out. Most of the Christians who had fled the region when Islamist radicals took control in 2012 have now returned to their homes, after French troops ousted the Islamists. Many church buildings were desecrated, looted or severely damaged, but the Christians are determined to resume their ministries. Pray for their protection. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Dec 2014 00:00

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