No more new churches in Central Asia’s Tajikistan

July 20, 2022 by Noah Cassetto in Asia

“We will no longer register any new Churches.”

This is what the Tajik government told assembled Protestant leaders in a late May meeting. Reportedly, officials also warned that “under-18-year-olds cannot have freedom of religion or belief and participate in church activity, and no religious camps are allowed for them.”   

The news is troublesome for the church in Muslim-majority Tajikistan. Already under strict scrutiny from the government, the new proclamations put additional stress on believers in the country, No. 45 on Open Doors World Watch List. Without state registration, all exercise of freedom of religion or belief is illegal and punishable.  According to the law, people who are part of an unrecognized church can be fined weeks’, even months’ worth of wages. Another Protestant put the figure at 20. In January 2022, a group of Protestants were fined in the northern Sugd region for exercising freedom of religion or belief without state approval. 

People wanting to start new churches or denominations are now unable to do so. One Tajik Protestant lamented, “We meet for worship without registration but are afraid that the authorities can punish us at any time.” The believer also said that he knows up to 15 Protestant groups that do not have registration but would like to, while another Christian put the number at 20. For now, these groups cannot legally hold church services together. 

But as we have seen time and time again, nothing can stand in the way of God’s plans. Open Doors has had contact with a local church leader who shared, “The good news is that, despite all the prohibitions, the church in Tajikistan is growing in numbers and, God willing, will continue to grow. Today there are many young people involved in evangelistic work and the Good News is spreading. Please pray for us. Whether they will register churches or not, so that we remain faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ and continue His work while we live. Thank God!!!”

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Join us in praying for the Tajik church. Pray that believers would soon be able to meet without fear of being fined, that worship could rise freely from Tajikistan. Let’s ask God to be a hiding place for Tajik believers, that he would shield them from the government’s fines. And praise God that, despite these restrictions, He is continuing to grow His Church.