Dagestan (MNN) — Thursday's public murder of a pastor in
Dagestan has distressing overtones.
North Caucasus Network confirmed that gunmen opened fire on
the 49-year-old senior pastor of an evangelical church in central Dagestan,
Russia, around 6:30 pm local time on July 15.
He died a short time later from his wounds.
This is the latest in a series of incidents causing growing
concern over the government's increasing scrutiny on believers and church
Reports on the deteriorating situation are scarce. Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs explains
that Dagestan appears to have "slipped under the radar." "Because it's a
Federal Republic of Russia, we group it in with Russia, and we don't think of
Russia as being 'restricted,' so we kind of overlook the level of persecution
that happens in some parts of Russia."
The immediate impact of the pastor's death may be
severe. Nettleton says, "You can
imagine the 'chilling effect' of having
your pastor shot in the head outside of the church building. This is also a
church group that has had a very effective ministry with drug addicts, the social work, the work in the
Dagestan, 98% Muslim, is situated on the Caspian Sea in the
North Caucasus region. The country
remains one of the economically poorest republics of Russia.
NCN reports that Dagestan continues to suffer under the
competing factions of a complex global jihadi movement. Collaborative efforts
of the global Church have a long-standing history of blessing families in
It's not surprising that the church faced threats and
increasing pressure. The pastor was a
convert from Islam. In such a high
Muslim population, he would have been considered an apostate.
Nettleton says in many strict Muslim cultures, an apostate
can be punished by death. However, the pastor's example was clear. Despite threats, he lived and died as a Christ
"Pray that the Holy
Spirit will give them courage and boldness even in the midst of this loss–that
they will boldly go forth and represent Christ in their communities."