Pastor Imprisoned in Tajikistan Represents Larger Issue
*representative image used
It was nine months ago that Holmatov Bahrom – a pastor at a Christian church in Hujand City, Tajikistan – was brought in by the KGB for questioning. The officials said they just wanted to ask some questions about Bahrom’s religious activities. He has been imprisoned ever since.
Bahrom was charged with violating Tajikistan’s oppressive limitations on religious expression. Five months later his trial began where multiple witnesses either lied or exaggerated facts against Bahrom. One man who lived near the church claimed the congregation sang too loud and kept him from being comfortable in his own home. Another man – possibly a KGB agent – accused Bahrom of distributing Christian literature that had been banned in Tajikistan.
One man claimed Bahrom would only give humanitarian aid to people who converted to Christianity while another said he highly pressured Muslims to convert and cursed them when they didn’t. These last claims specifically were outright lies, but on July 6 the court found Bahrom guilty and sentenced him to three years in prison.
TAJIKISTAN’S HISTORY OF RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION
Bahrom’s story is one of many coming from Tajikistan, a country ranked #35 on Open Doors’ World Watch List. Like so many former Soviet countries, a dark shroud of religious persecution permeates the country’s government, escalating under the increasingly-dictatorial rule of President Emomali Rahmonov. This past April the Tajik government issued a new law allowing the government to listen, record and save all phone conversations. This law also allows the government to control all of online social networks in Tajikistan. Since most Tajik churches are unregistered and thus deeply vulnerable, this new law makes even normal phone conversations between Christians dangerous.
This isn’t the only concern for Tajik Christians, who are the minority religion in a predominantly Muslim country. In the years after the USSR’s collapse, Tajikistan was thrown into civil war between Russian-backed forces and Islamist insurgents. Islam, which even during Soviet rule was strongly present in the country, quickly reclaimed its influence over Tajikistan with experts believing around 97% of the country identifying with the religion. The strange tension this creates can be seen in President Rahmonov who identifies as Muslim while simultaneously repressing certain public forms of Islamic expression. Christians suffer on both sides of this equation, facing cultural persecution from their Muslim neighbors and family and institutionalized persecution from a secular government.
HOW YOU CAN PRAY
- Holmatov Bahrom’s lawyer is appealing the sentencing. Pray that God would soften the hearts of the judge and give Bahrom his freedom. Ask God to give Bahrom a deep sense of identification with Jesus, who knows what it’s like to be falsely accused and imprisoned. Pray also for Bahrom’s family and church community, that God would comfort them and given them boldness.
- Pray against the religious persecution in Tajikistan, both from the Muslim community and the autocratic rule of Emomali Rahmonov. Pray that God would bring true religious freedom to the country.
- Lastly pray for the 150,000 Tajik Christians. Ask God to powerfully expand his church and open ears to the good news of His kingdom.
HOW TO LEARN MORE
Part of Open Doors’ mission is to share with the Church the stories of our persecuted brothers and sisters around the globe. Each week we send out an email updating Christians on how they can help their spiritual family around the globe. If you’d like to receive that email you can sign up for it here.