Central Asia is one of the most difficult places on earth right now to be a Christian, but World Challenge’s partners are finding ways to reach communities despite the oppression.
In many of Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan, owning a Bible is a punishable offense. OpenDoors USA has noted that churches in this region that do not have government permits are considered illegal. Pastors can be arrested and beaten in front of their congregants as a warning.
Persecution is severe for those who convert from Islam, especially for women who are culturally ‘not allowed’ to choose their own religious beliefs.
Those who dare to do so may be ostracized by their families, have their homes raided by the police for illegal Christian materials, be arrested for long periods of time and face incredible pressure to recant their beliefs.
The Heavy Opposition
World Challenge partners in Central Asia work with encouraging new believers, supporting those who have been alienated from family and offering trainings on evangelism strategies for such a hostile environment.
They shared with us the testimony of one sister in the Lord who participated in their classes. “On the first day of training, she was rebuked through the Word of God that she was satisfied with her own salvation and did not try to evangelize the lost. Having set a goal for herself to begin serving the Lord, she prepared and shared what she learned in [the training] when she arrived home.”
Believers like this dear sister are risking their social standing and even personal safety by sharing the good news with others. They will almost inevitably face opposition.
Several ladies in a similar situation were prohibited by their unbelieving husbands from attending a training, most opposing the women from going on the last day before the event. Another group were not able to attend a training because there was nowhere the team could hold it in their town.
The team is asking for prayer as they consider strategies for how to reach these groups who are being isolated from the church, and they are asking God to provide divine openings for the gospel.
A Rising Tide of Witnesses
In those areas where the team has successfully been able to reach local believers, the reports are incredibly encouraging.
One man shared, “I have just realized that we need to go outside of the church walls and really serve the community. Also, what was most valuable for me is learning how to find truth in the scriptures myself.”
Another participant added, “I really loved that…we have worked a lot in teams. You made us think for ourselves, made us seek answers and find them together. This is really amazing.”
A woman told the team, “My husband and I were really encouraged. Now we know what we can do practically, and we have already started discussing future plans. I can’t wait for us to start reaching out to people around us!”
Many of these believers are hungry to understand the Bible better, to know how to share their beliefs effectively and to be lights of hope and new life to their communities. God is moving powerfully through the church in Central Asia despite strong opposition. Please join us in praying for these believers and for the good news of Christ’s work to continue spreading.