Tajikistan (MNN) — A Pakistani extremist made a statement when he attacked people in a park on Easter Sunday.
Countries dealing with similar insurgencies grew alarmed. At the time of the attack, churches in other countries were preparing for Orthodox Easter services (May 1) and beefing up security, just in case.
With good reason, says Slavic Gospel Association’s Eric Mock. “On several occasions, an individual called the church in Dushanbe (Tajikistan) and threatened to blow up the (Baptist) church. They reported it to the authorities.”
Pressure has been building up on the followers of Christ for a while, due partly to the fact that Tajikistan shares a long and porous border with Afghanistan, where there’s been a surge in Islamist activity.
This threat also is likely to mean that Tajik President Emomali Rahmon may get tougher with religious groups. The government has also implemented many laws severely restricting religious freedom and targeting the activities of Muslims, Protestants, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. That’s drawn the attention of the U-S Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). For the first time, they’ve added Tajikistan to their list as a country of particular concern.
It may be Rahmon’s effort to get the radical element under control, however, persecution is strongest in the private, national and church spheres.
Mock explains, “Imagine eight to 900 believers among six-and-a-half million Muslim people. Imagine how hard it is to stand for the sake of the Gospel.” Children sent to school, whose families are known to be Christians, are often bullied, sometimes severely.
Despite the threat they faced, the church that was threatened in the capital city went forward with its services. Maybe because of the publicity, or maybe because there were security forces in plain clothes; but on May 1, Mock says the church saw, “…an outpouring of visitors that showed up that Sunday morning. It was a wonderful time where people heard the Gospel. There were people they had never seen before.”
Even with a bomb threat hanging over their heads, the good news is that there’s an opportunity to build on these relationships that were started two weeks ago. “At SGA there is a great opportunity to serve the churches there that are the in the midst of these troubled spots both in Central Asia and in the Caucus region.”
New beginnings are a great way to close this chapter on the story, but there are some things to remember.
First, Mock reminds us, “We see time and time again that God’s glory in His people shines most brightly when they stand for the Gospel in the middle of difficult circumstances.”
Second, please remember to:
- Pray for wisdom for believers who know they are under surveillance by authorities.
- Pray that believers would have opportunities to minister to Muslim neighbors.
- Pray that the Tajik Government will take firm steps to protect minorities such as Christians and promote religious tolerance.