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Children in Tajikistan read Gospel books.
Children in Tajikistan
read Gospel books.

On April 10th, the National Security Committee secret police arrested Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov of the Sunmin Sunbogym Protestant Church in Khujand. He remains in custody, under investigation on criminal charges of alleged "extremism." The charges follow the seizure of hymnals and Christian books during a raid on his church. The pastor's family and church members have received no news of his physical condition nor state of health since the arrest.

In early February 2017, the secret police and other law-enforcement agencies began raiding Sunmin Sunbogym's affiliated congregations. They particularly targeted the church in the town of Konibodom, demanding that the members renounce their faith and leave the church. Some believers were beaten, while others were dismissed from their jobs. The officials, who admittedly stated that their "purpose is to close down churches in Tajikistan and take away their property," enforced closure of the Konibodom church in March.

In early April, the authorities then began raids on the central Sunmin Sunbogym Church in Khujand. While searching the church's premises, they seized the mentioned hymnbooks and other Christian literature. The secret police also condemned another book they had confiscated, More Than a Carpenter, which was written by the highly respected American author Josh McDowell. The officers stated that a group of their religious "experts" concluded that this book, as well as the other Christian texts, are all "extremist."

Authorities frequently use extremism-related charges to punish individuals for exercising freedom of religion, even though these churches are officially registered with the state. Punishments include prison terms of up to twelve years unless an individual voluntarily agrees to stop their activity. Meanwhile, officials in Dushanbe have also closed two kindergartens. One was closed after officials found a Christian songbook, and the other because believers were employed there.

Please prayerfully uphold all the believers in Tajikistan who have come under increasing intimidation and persecution by governmental authorities. Ask God to mightily intervene on their behalf, providing them strength, protection, provision, guidance and encouragement... as they wisely navigate appropriate ways to handle the opposition targeted against them. Also pray that Pastor Kholmatov will soon be released, and that all charges against him are dropped. May the Lord's presence be evident in this case so that those in authority will witness His power at work and come to acknowledge Him as their personal Saviour and Lord.