How many Christians are there in Turkmenistan?
There are only around 67,300 Christians in Turkmenistan, about 1% of a population of 6 million, the majority of whom are Muslim.
What does persecution look like in Turkmenistan?
In Turkmenistan, persecution against Christians comes from most parts of society. The government heavily restricts religious freedom, going as far as making it extremely difficult to print or import religious materials. While unregistered churches are most heavily targeted, even Russian Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic churches are monitored by authorities. In addition to official pressure, Christians who have converted from Islam are also pressured by their families and their communities. Some Christian converts are victims of violence, all in an effort to coerce new believers into renouncing their faith in Jesus.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Church leaders in Turkmenistan are especially targeted for persecution. Muslims consider them primarily responsible for leading people away from Islam and attack those they deem to be most active evangelistically. The government sees leaders as primary targets to control Christian activities. All Christians experience some level of rights violations, but Christian converts from Islam are certainly the most impacted by direct violence. Additionally, persecution is worse outside of urban areas, though the government's persecution extends into every corner of Turkmenistan.
Meet "Pastor Ilmurad"
Pastor Ilmurad from Turkmenistan was sentenced to four years imprisonment, falsely accused of fraud. While he was in prison, he was told that he would be released if he denied his Christian faith, but he refused. He had to do hard labor during his imprisonment and sleep on a concrete floor.
He was released in 2012, and Open Doors' local partners recently had contact with Ilmurad again. It has taken time for him to heal after his hard experience in prison, but he has largely recovered. He is still a pastor and helps people in his town.
Ilmurad is still thankful for all the support and prayers he received from his fellow brothers and sisters around the world.
What has changed compared to last year?
Not much has changed in Turkmenistan, though it fell slightly in the rankings. Turkmenistan has continued to function as if the COVID-19 pandemic does not exist. The authoritarian system of government has operated outside of reality, neglecting to care for its people. Similarly, the country continues to treat religious freedoms as optional, making it extremely difficult to follow Jesus in Turkmenistan. The government cracks down on anything it perceives might be a threat to its rule, including expressions of Christianity that leaders feel they can't control. Christians who converted from Islam continue to experience significant pressure from family and society, and most of the reports of violence against Christians have stemmed from that reality.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Turkmenistan?
We can’t talk specifically about work in Turkmenistan for security reasons. Open Doors provides immediate aid to Central Asian believers when they are jailed, excluded from families and communities, and deprived of livelihood and employment because of their faith in Christ. We also strengthen the persecuted church in Central Asia through biblical training and discipleship.
How can you pray for Turkmenistan?
- Pray for church leaders who are imprisoned or arrested because of their faith. Pray for them to stand strong and return to lead their communities through the pain of persecution.
- Ask God to reach the hearts of Turkmenistan authorities. The president acts as a dictator and his rule stretches over every part of Turkmenistan society. Pray that Christians would be able to reach out freely and that their lives would display the truth of the gospel.
- Pray for Open Doors partners in the entire Central Asian region. Pray for work among Muslim-majority areas, that Christians would be strengthened with the knowledge that they are part of a global Church, and not on their own.
Dear Father, please strengthen Your followers in Turkmenistan as they seek to live for You in a place that seems so difficult. Deliver them from danger, protect them from harm, strengthen their hope. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus, help Your people to stand strong. In His name, Amen.