SGA says rising persecution parallels rise of militant Islam

By June 11, 2013

Central Asia (MNN) — Christians in Central Asia are in trouble: militant Islam is on the rise.

A recent report prepared for the Open Doors USA World Watch List says upcoming transitions in the region will give birth to a new wave of radicalism.

Transitions such as U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 and leadership changes in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan threaten to destabilize the region. Radical ideology could gain popularity as a response to the region's growing disillusionment.

"If this continues to be on the rise, there's no doubt that this kind of persecution is related to the rise of it," says Joel Griffith of Slavic Gospel Association. He cites a recent account of persecution as an example.

According to churches supported by SGA, Oksana*, a 20-year-old woman from a Muslim background, came to Christ two years ago. Since her conversion, this young woman's family has given her nothing but trouble.

When Oksana first came to Christ, her mother began repeatedly beating her. She ripped Oksana's clothes to shreds, burned her Bible, and then locked Oksana in her room. When Oksana attempted to run away from home, her relatives found her and beat her in public.

On top of all of this, Oksana received one of the worst possible humiliations for a woman in the Muslim culture: her mother shaved Oksana's head bald.

"There are others who convert to Christianity sometimes at the risk of their very lives," Griffith adds.

SGA supports churches in Central Asia and the Caucuses which share the Gospel and reach out to new believers. But these fellowships are meeting hardships, too.

"Because of this kind of extremism, evangelical churches sort of get caught up in the crossfire," Griffith says.

Central Asia consists of five nations formerly belonging to the Soviet Union: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

"The governments in these countries have a very grave concern about the rise of militant Islam, and the instability that that can provoke," says Griffith.

"Because they are concerned about Muslim extremism, they end up passing these religion laws that end up cracking down on everybody, even a typical evangelical church."

He gives Uzbekistan as an example.

"The government really cracks down hard on religion in general, simply because they're really concerned about Muslim extremism," he says.

Griffith adds, "We've really got to keep our brothers and sisters in prayer in these regions.

"They're very much proclaiming the peace and love of the Gospel, but they still end up getting caught in the crossfire."

Ask the Lord to protect His followers in Central Asia. Pray for freedom to proclaim the Gospel, and the freedom to worship Jesus Christ as Savior.

As for Oksana, her mother recently fell gravely ill. When Oksana's family forced her to appear before a Muslim holy man, he berated her for two hours and blamed Oksana's faith in Christ for her mother's illness.

Will you pray for Oksana? Pray that God would protect her, and that persecution would stop.

Griffith asks us to "pray that her quiet and beautiful witness would be used of God to soften their hearts, and to bring her family to saving faith." 

Pray also that Oksana's faith will increase.

"Sometimes it's the fire of persecution that brings out the brightest shining of faithful witness; so I pray that that would be the case here."

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