Russia/Chechnya (MNN) — The recent ISIS attack on a church in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, has people wondering — are churches in the area in danger? Despite the religious culture of the region, governments aren’t okay with radicalism.
History of Unrest
Chechnya, which lays between the Caspian Sea and Black Sea in the Caucasus region of Russia, has been known as a hotbed for Muslim communities and unrest. During the 1990s, wars broke out between Russia and the separatists. The separatist movement fought with the hopes of seeing Chechnya become an independent Islamic republic.
After the failure of these wars on the Chechen’s part, that ambition was washed away. Since those wars, Russia has poured money into the region in efforts to rebuild. And while the area is no longer at war, there are still occasional flashes of violence, much like the ISIS attack on the Russian Orthodox church. Add into the mix some known Chechen rebels have returned home after fighting for ISIS, the governments in this area now have restrictions in place aimed at curbing religious activity.
“Although they are majority Muslim countries [in the Caucasus], they still maintain very tight control, and [are] very wary of anything that would seem to open a door for the potential for violence such as this,” Slavic Gospel Association‘s Joel Griffith explains.
SGA in Chechnya
In recent years, there’s been an effort to rebuild an Evangelical church in Grozny. However, because of a lack of resources, the project was sidelined.
“They’re not encountering any difficulties from the government necessarily there, but being where they are they still have to function very, very discretely. We tend not to publicize efforts that go on there to not only evangelize, but to plant churches. The churches are certainly continuing to meet and worship discretely. They’re continuing to proclaim the Gospel discretely,” Griffith shares.
The pressures on churches come from their communities. These pressures are also intensifying as the Chechen ISIS fighters return home, bringing their radicalization and violent actions with them. And since ISIS lost its stronghold in Iraq and Syria, there’s concern it may be looking elsewhere to set up camp.
“If ISIS does get established in an area, we’ve seen by the news reports and the video reports that come out, even those released by the group itself, just how brutal they can be to people and certainly Christian believers,” Griffith says.
Be Prayerful, Be Active
This means the concern for future terror attacks by ISIS is real. However, it’s not for a lack of the Russian and local governments’ attempts to stomp out radicalism in the region.
Rather than looking at this situation with fear, pray for the advancement of the Gospel. Nothing can change a situation for the better the way the transformation of a relationship with Christ does. Pray for wisdom, protection, and guidance of the Christians in this region who are sharing the Gospel.
Also, pray for these Christians to be good examples of Christ and for opportunities for them to share the Gospel. Ask God to guide leaders and give them wisdom and vigilance as they tackle radicalism in the area.
Please pray these same prayers over the churches in Central Asia, too. And finally, ask God to provide these believers with the resources they need to live out Christ in their communities.