Russia (MNN) — A brutal authoritarian regime rules Chechnya, a small enclave located in the Northern Caucasus region of Russia. Dictator Ramzan Kadyrov uses local Sufi Islam as a means to keep his power.
Sufism is a form of Islamic mysticism that emphasizes personal introspection and closeness with God. It has often been practiced more as a style of worship than a sect. Chechens have traditionally seen Sufism as part of their ethnic identity. However, Kadyrov’s regime uses this identity to persecute those of different religions and maintain control within the region.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom released a report this week, detailing the abuses of religious freedom in Chechnya. Todd Nettleton with The Voice of the Martyrs USA says, “Other brands of Islam, other theologies within Islam, are actually persecuted in Chechnya. They’re distrusted. And Christians are treated this way as well. That’s what they face: being seen as outsiders, being seen as rejecting or betraying their Chechen ethnic identity by not following Sufi Islam.”
One tool of repression used by the Chechen government is public shaming ceremonies. State television broadcasts the ceremonies, often featuring women accused of being witches.
But Nettleton says the persecution from close family can often be worse. “That first line of persecution is your dad or your big brother, who says, ‘Listen, we’re a Muslim family. You need to be Muslim if you’re going to be part of our family. Being a Muslim, and in this case, being a Sufi Muslim is such a part of identity as a Chechen.”
Ask God to encourage Christians in Chechnya. Pray entire families would come to Christ together. Nettleton says, “Because that alleviates that family pressure. Then you’re not left facing that family pressure to renounce Christ.”
The header photo shows Ramzan Kadyrov, dictator of Chechnya. (Photo courtesy of Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)