What does persecution look like in Turkmenistan?
Although Turkmenistan's Constitution allows for religious freedom, in reality, there is little room for Christians to breathe, with tight restrictions and close surveillance making it very difficult for believers to express and share their faith. The totalitarian government of Turkmenistan uses a huge body of state agents, such as police, secret services and local imams, to closely monitor all religious activities. The printing or importing of Christian materials is restricted.
Historical Christian communities such as the Russian Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic churches largely abide by government restrictions and so face less interference, although Sunday services may be monitored. Unregistered churches, however, such as Baptist, Evangelical and Pentecostal groups, suffer from raids, threats, arrests and fines.
Christians who come from Muslim backgrounds bear the brunt of persecution—not just from the authorities, but from their family, friends and the local community. Men can experience beatings, threats, disinheritance and boycotting of businesses, while women can face house arrest, forced marriage, verbal abuse, threats, social rejection and sexual assault.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
While government hostility toward Christians is consistent throughout Turkmenistan, pressure on converts from family, friends and the local community is stronger in rural areas.
"Please, tell people who pray that we can feel their prayer. Sometimes, when I'm in difficulty, I think: 'This is the end.' But suddenly, I feel someone taking care of me. And I know that someone is praying for me"Azamat, an underground pastor in Central Asia
What has changed this year?
Essentially, very little has changed in Turkmenistan this year. There were no reported arrests of members of religious organizations for holding illegal religious gatherings or possessing banned religious literature. State agents continue to monitor churches and Christians, and converts from Islam can experience pressure from their families, friends and communities.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Turkmenistan?
Open Doors strengthens persecuted Christians in Central Asia by providing Bibles and Christian literature, biblical and vocational training, medical and social care, socio-economic development projects, and children's, youth and women's ministries.
How can you pray for Turkmenistan?
- Please pray that God would protect and sustain Christians converts from Islam.
- Pray that leaders living under surveillance will be able to lead God's people despite the dangers.
- Ask that the authorities will see that Christians are an asset to society rather than a threat.
Father God, refresh the spirits of our brothers and sisters who are wearied by restrictions and surveillance. May their experience of Your love empower their faith. Guide and equip church leaders as they navigate different challenges. Hide church gatherings from the prying eyes of the authorities, and we ask that these meetings will stir an unquenchable faith in all those present. Give Your people boldness in the face of hostility, and we pray that their lives will compel those around them to discover more about You. Change the atmosphere in Turkmenistan, build up Your church, and draw more and more people to You. Amen.