Becoming a Christian in Tajikistan is no easy matter. The government, afraid of Islamic extremism, has also entirely barred Christian churches from registration, and closely monitors the few that it does allow to meet and hold services. Social pressures from the heavily Islamic (though largely nominal) culture are ever present. Despite all this, persecution watchdog group Open Doors reports that Muslims are coming to Christ in this closed, repressive nation. Here, they share the stories of several Tajik women who have become believers and ask for prayer on their behalf.
7/28/2014 Tajikstan (Open Doors) – Over a month ago, Zara* prayed to receive Christ, and began to secretly attend Sunday services at a local church. Her joy in her new found faith was quickly challenged. Upon finding her hidden Bible, Zara’s husband began to beat her. His anger was compounded because he discovered it in the middle of Ramadan.
When Zara admitted that she brought the Bible into their home, and that she had become a believer in Jesus Christ, her husband’s reaction was fierce. Even though this type of aggressive act is prohibited during Ramadan, he beat Zara, destroyed the Bible, and locked her inside their house. He also took her cell phone, and warned her that if she leaves the house, he will divorce her and leave her and their child on the street.
According to Open Doors sources, he is apparently now trying to force Zara to deny her new faith and turn back to Islam. Local church members have shared that they do not have any way of contacting her. They have asked for us to pray for Zara and her faith. Her neighbours have not seen Zara or the baby for some time and don’t know where they are.
In Tajikistan, both Christians and organized churches are heavily affected by persecution. No church has been able to register, and the few churches that are allowed to meet and hold services, face constant monitoring by the government. In addition, at any moment, a meeting can be suddenly interrupted and believers interrogated. And yet, the gospel is proclaimed, and people like Zara respond in faith. Christ’s Church is growing.
Your prayers and gifts are making a difference. One such supporter gave a small donation, and then prayed for the anonymous recipient to be blessed by it. Open Doors used the gift to print three books and smuggled them into Tajikistan. They were gratefully received by a Christian woman from a Muslim background. Recently, she wrote a letter telling the effect that these books had on a relative of hers.
“Dear brothers and sisters, I want to thank you for your books. My name is Sabina*, and I live in Tajikistan. My father is a very strict Muslim, and after I came to believe in Jesus a couple of years ago, I was beaten by him and a number of other family members. I have a distant relative called Madina* whose father was among the assailants. After he had beaten me, he told Madina and his other children that they were not allowed to have any contact with me, and that I was a traitor of our state and religion.
But last year, Madina, her husband, and her children moved to the same region where I now live. One day, she came to my house in tears. Her husband had beaten her because of some conflict. I tried to calm her down, and explained that this is what happens in our country. This is how our marriages work. I also told her this was not how God designed marriage. We started to talk about the gospel, and she was very interested. At some point she asked me, ‘How can I learn more about your faith?’
“I remembered the books I had received, The Power of a Praying Woman, The Secret of Love and Men and Women: Equal Yet Different. The books are about marriage, but are also saturated with the gospel. I used these books to talk about Christianity with her.
“Just a few weeks ago, I heard someone knocking at the door. When I opened, I saw Madina. She was in tears again. Before she came in, she asked me, ‘Can you give me a Bible in the Tajik language?’ She explained to me how that evening, she had been staring out her window and to her own surprise, realized she was praying to Jesus. At that moment, she realized she needed God’s Word to understand Him better. That’s why she came to me … ‘Jesus is God. I want to invite him into my heart.’
“We prayed together, and Madina asked for forgiveness for her sins.”
After that evening, Madina returned to her home as a secret believer. “Sabina is part of an underground church,” explains an Open Doors worker. “Of course, she will try to hide her faith from her husband and other family members, but it is only a matter of time before they will find out. She most likely will be beaten. Over time, the situation usually gets a little better, but being a believer from a Muslim background is very difficult, especially if you are a woman. Other women may look down on you. However, thanks to the prayers and gifts of our supporters, we are able to help people like Sabina and Madina. This is how the Body of Christ is supposed to work.”
*Names have been changed to protect their identities.
Father, we thank you for these three women, Zara, Sabina and Madina who, knowing the cost, placed their faith in Christ. We pray for them in the midst of fear and abuse; that You would grant them courage to meet each day, wisdom in how to live out their lives in godly ways before their husbands, and comfort in the midst of sorrow. We pray for Zara; that You would soften her husband’s heart to release her from this prison in their own home. Where their earthly fathers have denounced them, be to them a loving Father, protecting and encouraging them as they faithfully stand in the name of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Use their lives to draw others to Yourself, and we even ask boldly that You would draw their husbands into saving faith and bring about reconciliation in their marriages. We pray for Tajikistan; that one day, a multitude will rise to lift up the name of Christ in praise and worship. In the name of Jesus who loves us with an everlasting love, Amen.
International Christian Concern.