Secret police arrested a church pastor in Khujand – the second largest city in Tajikistan – in April and are accusing him of “extremism” for being in possession of Christian literature, including church hymnbooks. Bakhrom Kholmatov’s family have not heard from him since his arrest.
TAJIKISTAN – Pastor jailed for three years after “subversive” hymnbooks seized
A church pastor from the northern city of Khujand has been jailed for three years for allegedly “inciting national, racial, local or religious hatred or dissension.” Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov, a 42-year-old father of three, was arrested in April and was held in jail until his trial. Full details of his case have not been released, but it is understood that police charged Pastor Kholmatov after confiscating church hymn books. Police claimed that the songs in the hymnbooks, which include “God’s army is marching” and “Our fight is not against flesh and blood,”were “extremist and call on people to overthrow the government.”
The Tajikistan government imposes heavy restrictions on all religious groups and the import, export and distribution of religious publications has to be approved by the authorities. Under new laws introduced in 2011, children under the age of 18 are prohibited from taking part in public religious activities – a cause of great concern for Christian parents. Christians make up around 2% of Tajikistan’s mostly Muslim population.
Lift up pastor Kholmatov and ask that the Father will be his hiding place and protection (Psalm 32:7).
Pray that his family will be encouraged that the Lord delivers the righteous (Psalm34:17).
Pray that the government of Tajikistan will revoke its oppressive laws and permit religious freedom.