In Tajikistan the small Christian minority of less than 2% faces hostility from the Muslim majority, while the authorities place severe restrictions on the activities of all religions.
No churches have been registered in the last decade, though many applicants easily meet the minimum requirement of ten members. In May 2022 the State Committee for Religious Affairs (SCRA) announced that the government would not register any more churches, though it did not give a reason why.
A church leader reported that he had been reminded that children (those under the age of 18) “cannot have freedom of religion”. Since 2011 under-18s have been prohibited from taking part in public religious activities, except funerals. Even the presence of children on church premises can be punished severely.
A census taken in October 2020 included a question about religion for the first time since 1937, when Tajikistan was part of the USSR. There are concerns that the results will be used to track down Christians, who fear for their safety if identified. At the time of writing, the results had not yet been published.
In August 2022, furthermore, the SCRA began sending questionnaires to non-Muslim places of worship, asking for information about employees and their families, as well as details of foreign funding.
The “extremism law” (Criminal Code article 189) is used to crack down on religious activities. Churches are frequently inspected by officials who use intimidation, blackmail, illegal searches and seizure of church property to put pressure on Protestant congregations. The import and distribution of religious publications must be approved by the authorities. In prisons Christians and other religious minorities are often the target for harsh treatment from officials and other prisoners.
Converts from Islam are persecuted by authorities and often subjected to violence from their relatives, or threatened with death. Many converts, and other believers, have fled the country, to escape both persecution and desperate poverty.
Ask that the Lord will sustain His people, even as the authorities increase restrictions and surveillance. Pray especially for converts who face extra hostility for having left Islam to follow Christ.