|Ever thought that owning Christian books might make you an ‘extremist’?
Christian books can be a huge encouragement to us – and we take it for granted that we can buy them freely. But what if they became a reason to persecute us? What if singing ‘Onward, Christian soldiers’ made us guilty of treason?
Pastor Bakhrom is behind bars today because secret police found songbooks and Christian literature during a raid on his church in Tajikistan last month. They claim these books are ‘extremist’ and appear to be pinning the same label on him.
Please pray for Pastor Bakhrom as he waits to hear whether Tajik police will press criminal charges related to ‘extremism’.
Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov leads the Sunmin Sunbogym Protestant Church in Khujand, the capital of Sogd region in the north of the country. Police have been raiding other congregations in Sogd, which are part of the same church, since early February.
Officials closed down a congregation in the town of Konibodom in March after they interrogated, intimidated and beat church members. Some Christians in Konibodom also reportedly lost their jobs, after the secret police put pressure on employers to dismiss them.
Tajik officials frequently use criminal charges related to extremism to persecute those who worship outside state-approved religious communities. Meanwhile, officials in Dushanbe have closed down two kindergartens. One was closed apparently because Protestant Christians worked there and the other was shut because officials found a book of Christmas carols.
- Pray that Pastor Bakhrom will be released immediately. Ask God to protect him, his congregation and other congregations linked to them.
- Pray for Christians in Sogd region and across Tajikistan. Pray that they will draw their strength from God and look to Him for wisdom and guidance.
- Pray that God will touch the hearts of secret police officials involved in raids on Sogd churches: pray that He will speak to them through His people and their witness.
(Source: Forum 18)