A “CLAMPDOWN” on Christians is happening in Central Asia, says Release International, which has launched an appeal to help the Church there.
Ten Christians were arrested and fined in Tajikistan, in August, for handing out gospel literature. They were fined £750 each, which is more than the average person in the country earns in six months, the organisation said.
A religious survey published last week by Forum 18 also said that 284 individuals, religious communities, charities, and companies were “prosecuted for exercising their freedom of religion and belief” in 2017, of which 263 were punished. Protestants were involved in 93 of these cases, and the report also says that there is increasing repression of Muslims.
Protestant, Pentecostal, and Baptist churches were handed three-month bans in the country, alongside mosques.
Forum 18 wrote: “Kazakhstan tries to make exercising human rights conditional upon state permission. It systematically violates intertwined fundamental rights — such as the freedoms of religion or belief, of expression and of assembly — it has solemn international obligations to respect and defend. There is a culture of impunity for such violations among officials. It is likely that the government will continue violating the human rights of everyone in the country.”
Release International said that Christians in Central Asia could be arrested for reading the Bible in public, and were forced to meet in registered churches.
Pastor Batyr, from Turkmenistan, told Release International: “If a Muslim decides to follow Christ, then he is considered to be a traitor — a traitor to our people, our culture, and our nation. All former Muslims who believe in Christ are secret and underground. They can never be officially recognised.”
Anton, a pastor from Tajikistan, said: “People who become Christians are forced out of society, and face many problems at work.
“We are part of the living body of Christ. If we feel the pain of our brothers and sisters, then we will always find the right ways to help them”
The CEO of Release International, Paul Robinson, said: “When you live in a country where everything is against you because you are a Christian, it becomes a lifeline to know that somebody is standing with you.”