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January 15th, 2014
“Singing About God Here is Banned”
Police and Ministry of State Security (MSS) secret police recently raided the homes of two Christians who attend Light of the East Church in Dashoguz, Turkmenistan. The authorities seized religious literature, including personal
Bibles, and threatened one believer with a 15-day jail term and deportation, even though he is a Turkmen citizen.
One raid occurred during a music rehearsal for the following Sunday’s worship service. Officials stated that “singing about God here is banned.”
They also threatened to revoke the church’s registration, thus making it illegal. A state religious affairs official, who is also an imam, pressured the church’s pastor, Yuri Rozmetov, to become a Muslim because the Christian
faith “is wrong.” Individuals and communities are increasingly faced with fines for exercising their freedom of religion or belief. Officials have refused to discuss the cases
with Forum 18.
Forum 18 News Service
Homes raided, business closed and ousted from town; threatened with expulsion and harassment of their children at school; taken to court and fined: this was summer 2012 for Christians in Turkmenistan.
Protestant Christians faced an upsurge in harassment, raids, threats and legal action then.
One, who wished to remain anonymous, said:
The situation has got markedly worse since July 2012 and we don’t know why. Children of believers can be singled out by head teachers and individual teachers for ridicule and can have their grades lowered because of the faith of their parents.
While Turkmenistan’s constitution theoretically grants religious freedom, a Religion Law passed in 2003 forbids any activity by unregistered religious groups. The authorities try to suppress Christian activity, subjecting believers to raids, fines or exile; some lose their jobs and homes, and pastors are sometimes beaten or imprisoned.
Pray that Christians in Turkmenistan will stand firm in their faith and that they will find favor with Turkmen officials. Pray that the church will not lose its registration and that members will be able to meet freely and without government interference.
Pray for the salvation of Turkmen lawmakers and enforcers.
“Having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” 1 Pet. 3:16-17
VOM provides Christian literature and other means of assistance for believers in Turkmenistan.
- Umid Gajaev was jailed for 4 years in 2012, on trumped up charges. Pray for his release & for his wife Malahat & 3 children.