In Central Asia, Women Risk It All for the Chance to Read a Bible
Women who turn to Christ in this Muslim-majority country often endure violent abuse.
Zara* prayed to receive Christ and began to secretly attend Sunday services at a local church. Her joy in her newfound faith was quickly challenged. Upon finding her hidden Bible, Zara’s husband began to beat her. His anger was compounded because he discovered it in the middle of Ramadan.
Tajikistan is ranked #22 (up from last year’s 35th spot) on the World Watch List, and Christians face the most persecution here at the hands of Islamic extremists. In Zara’s case, it was at the hands of her devout Muslim husband.
When Zara admitted that she brought the Bible into their home, and that she had become a believer in Jesus Christ, her husband’s reaction was fierce. Even though this type of aggressive act is prohibited during Ramadan, he beat Zara, destroyed the Bible and locked her inside their house. He also took her cell phone, and warned her that if she left the house, he would divorce her and leave her and their child on the street.
Zara’s husband is now trying to force her to deny her new faith and turn back to Islam. Local church members have shared that they do not have any way of contacting her. They have asked for us to pray for Zara and her faith.
The gospel can’t be stopped!
In Tajikistan, persecution is strongest in the private, national and church spheres. No church has been able to register, and the few churches that are allowed to meet and hold services face constant monitoring by the government. At any moment, a meeting can be suddenly interrupted and believers interrogated.
And yet, the gospel is proclaimed, and people like Zara respond in faith. Christ’s church is growing.
Your prayers and gifts are making a difference. One supporter gave a small donation, and then prayed for the anonymous recipient to be blessed by it. Open Doors used the gift to print three books and smuggled them into Tajikistan. They were gratefully received by a Christian woman from a Muslim background. Recently, she wrote a letter, sharing the impact of these books on a relative.
“Dear brothers and sisters, I want to thank you for your books. My name is Sabina*, and I live in Tajikistan. My father is a very strict Muslim, and after I came to believe in Jesus a couple of years ago, I was beaten by him and a number of other family members. I have a distant relative named Madina* whose father was among the assailants. After he had beaten me, he told Madina and his other children that they were not allowed to have any contact with me, that I was a traitor to our state and religion.
‘Can You Give Me a Bible?’
But last year, Madina, her husband, and her children moved to the same region where I now live. One day, she came to my house in tears. Her husband had beaten her because of some conflict. I tried to calm her down and explained that this is what happens in our country. This is how our marriages work. I also told her this was not how God designed marriage. We started to talk about the gospel, and she was very interested. At some point, she asked me, ‘How can I learn more about your faith?’
“I remembered the books I had received, The Power of a Praying Woman, The Secret of Love and Men and Women: Equal Yet Different. The books are about marriage but are also saturated with the gospel. I used these books to talk about Christianity with her.
“Just a few weeks ago, I heard someone knocking at the door. When I opened it, I saw Madina. She was in tears again. Before she came in, she asked me, ‘Can you give me a Bible in the Tajik language?’ She explained to me how that evening, she had been staring out her window and to her own surprise, realized she was praying to Jesus. At that moment, she realized she needed God’s Word to understand Him better.
“That’s why she came to me … ‘Jesus is God. I want to invite him into my heart.’ We prayed together, and Madina asked for forgiveness for her sins.”
Later that evening, she returned to her home as a secret believer.
“Sabina is part of an underground church,” explains an Open Doors worker. “Of course, she will try to hide her faith from her husband and other family members, but it is only a matter of time before they will find out. She most likely will be beaten. Other women may look down on her. However, thanks to the prayers and gifts of our supporters, we are able to help people like Sabina and Madina. This is how the Body of Christ is supposed to work.”
*Names changed to protect identities. Representative image used.