fbpx

2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #33

TAJIKISTAN

Country rank

33

Persecution score

66.13

Last year’s rank

31

Region

Asia

Persecution Type

Dictatorial paranoia (Very strong), Islamic oppression (Strong)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

9,475,000

Christians

66,300 (0.7%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Presidential Republic

Leader

President Emomali Rahmon

Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Central Asia through:
• Literature distribution
• Biblical and vocational training
• Socio-economic development
• Women’s ministry

ABOUT TAJIKISTAN

What does persecution look like in Tajikistan?

In Tajikistan, the government puts heavy pressure on all “deviating” religious groups by tightening and strictly enforcing existing laws. All religious activities must be approved by the government, and it is common for churches—particularly Protestant—to be raided by authorities. Church leaders and Christians can be detained if they are found to have any Christian materials that aren’t government-approved. The country also has a law specifically targeting religious work among young people, leaving Christians unsure of what they are legally allowed to say to young Christians. 

From time to time, police officers disrupt meetings and interrogate attendees. Local authorities often impose fines on Christians because of their faith and for legal reasons, such as gathering without a permit, possessing and printing religious material without a permit, or perceived proselytization. Persecution from the state includes searches, detention, interrogation, confiscation, fines and imprisonment—all meant to pressure Christians and keep them in line.  

The government of Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic, is primarily concerned with power and holding onto control, but the surrounding society is heavily Islamic. The Tajik ethnic identity is directly tied to Islam. That is why Christians who have converted from Islam bear the brunt of persecution at the hands of both the state and from family, friends and community. 

Russian Orthodox Christians and churches experience the fewest problems from the government because they do not usually attempt to make contact with, or evangelize, the Tajik population.  

How women experience persecution

Although the law gives equal rights to men and women in Tajikistan, traditional culture puts women in an inferior position compared to men and requires them to be obedient to men in the family. 

For that reason, women cannot choose their own religion and will be persecuted if they convert from Islam to Christianity. If their conversion is discovered, female converts run the risk of being locked up, beaten, rejected, harassed or forced to divorce—or they may lose their inheritance. In short, they are subjected to immense pressure to recant their new faith.

The government in Tajikistan prohibits the use of religious clothes or symbols. Among some Baptists and Pentecostal groups, married women traditionally cover their heads with a headscarf. This headscarf is different from the one used by Muslim women, so there is concern it could possibly become a future cause for suspicion or arrest. 

How men experience persecution

Like other parts of Central Asia, men in Tajikistan normally hold leadership roles within the family and churches. So, there is more police pressure on men than women. When detained by police, Christian men suffer verbal and physical abuse, threats, beatings and pressure to become an informant on other Christians. If a man is a church leader, his persecution will also impact his church and the surrounding Christian community.

Christian men can lose their jobs and suffer beatings, threats, verbal and physical abuse, discrimination, ostracization and pressure from their community—sometimes, the community will target men’s families for additional pressure. Men are the main breadwinners, so any loss of employment affects the whole family. 

Domestically, known male converts will be harassed and interrogated harshly by non-Christian family and community members. At the hands of his Muslim family, a Christian convert may face beatings, humiliation, home detention, rejection and loss of inheritance. For young Christian students who still need their family’s financial support, their dependency can be the means parents use to prevent their sons’ conversion to faith in Jesus. 

What has changed this year?

Although Tajikistan fell two rankings from last year’s World Watch List, persecution and pressure actually rose slightly. Violence is still very low, but pressure from every sphere of life increased just a bit. Being a Christian in Tajikistan continues to be difficult and dangerous, particularly for churches trying to show the gospel and make disciples. 

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Tajikistan’s Christians who have converted from Islam are most at risk. They are doubly targeted by both the government and their communities and families. Additionally, Christians living outside Tajikistan’s major cities are more prone to experiencing greater pressure than followers of Jesus inside urban settings. 

How can I help Christians in Tajikistan

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Tajikistan?

Open Doors provides immediate aid to Central Asian believers when they are imprisoned, excluded from families and communities, and deprived of livelihood and employment because of their faith in Christ. Open Doors also strengthens the persecuted church in Central Asia primarily through literature distribution, prayer support, training for Christians, socio-economic aid and persecution preparedness seminars. 

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Tajikistan, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

-Pray for pastors and church leaders in Tajikistan, especially those who are monitored and detained by the government. Pray they will be safe and not be unjustly targeted, and that God will sustain their faith and the faith of their families.

-Pray for converts to Christianity from Islam who live in areas of Tajikistan where conversion means severe pressure from family and communities. Pray they would sense they have a community that transcends location and situation, and that they would know they aren’t alone. 

-Pray for the government of Tajikistan, that their hearts would be softened toward Christians and other religious minorities, and that they would allow all religious expression to flourish. Pray for the truth and hope of Jesus to break through the opposition in Tajikistan.

A PRAYER FOR TAJIKISTAN

God our Father, we pray for Your people in Tajikistan. We ask You to give courage and hope to pastors and church leaders—and to every believer who claims Your name. We pray for those Christians who have been detained for their faith; we ask that, in Your power, they would be released and reunited with their families and communities. We also lift up Your followers who have risked the wrath of their families and communities to follow You—will You strengthen and encourage them?  All this we ask in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.