TURKMENISTAN – CHRISTIANS ENDURE RAIDS AT SERVICES

Barnabas Fund. On 28 January, police officers and the District official arrived at a private birthday party at a house near Dashoguz. They entered the house without the owners’ permission and began questioning all those present. The police accused the church leader who was attending the party of violating the Religion Law by praying at the party, despite the fact that he had done so at the family’s request. The church leader and his mother were taken to the local police station and interrogated for four hours. This raid highlights the persecution faced by Christians in Turkmenistan, which places many restrictions on religious freedom. Recently, it has come to light that a raid on a Sunday worship service on 20 December 2009 was led by Turkmenistan’s former Chief Mufti, Rovshen Allaberdiev, who is now imam of Dashoguz Region and a senior official for the Council for Religious Affairs. During the raid Christian literature and personal Bibles were confiscated; 22 Christians were taken to a local government building, where they were questioned and pressured to sign statements saying they would not attend church in future. One church member said that some people, especially those who are new to the church, are now afraid to come to services. Officers claimed that such raids are their “duty” and told the church members that they were meeting illegally, as they were not registered to worship. But the church says they are awaiting a response to their application for registration. • Pray that Christians in Turkmenistan will continue to remain faithful to their Lord and Saviour, despite persecution and harassment from the government and police. Pray for a softening of the attitude of the authorities. • Pray especially for the small number of ethnic Turkmen Christians, mostly converts from Islam, who face additional pressure from their families and communities.

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