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Azerbaijan Facts

Score: 58 / 100
Region: Central Asia
Persecution Type: Dictatorial Paranoia
Persecution Level: High
Population: 9,924,000
Christians: 321,000
Main Religion: N/A
Government: Presidential Republic
Leader: President Ilham Aliyev

Profile of Persecution

Violence 9%
Church Life 75%
National Life 66%
Community Life 56%
Family Life 60%
Private Life 79%

Constant monitoring and pressure

Most of the Christian persecution in Azerbaijan comes from government officials at various levels–ranging from the country’s central government that imposes restrictive legislation to local authorities and police who raid religious meetings, detain believers and confiscate religious materials. No religious activities beyond state-run and state-controlled institutions are allowed.

Another source of persecution comes from the Muslim community (family, friends, local imams, etc.), which opposes evangelism among Muslims. If indigenous people convert to Christianity, they’ll face pressure and occasionally, physical violence from their families, friends and local community to force them to return to their former faith.

How Christians are suffering

The government of Azerbaijan monitors the activities of religious groups closely. While on paper, the country is secular and religion is tolerated. However, churches are subject to excessive surveillance by the government. Russian Orthodox churches experience the least problems from the government because they do not usually attempt to make contact with the Azerbaijani population.

It is the indigenous Christians with a Muslim background who face the most severe persecution both by the state and from family, friends and community. Some converts will be locked up for long periods and be beaten. Local mullahs will preach against them, and they may eventually be expelled from their communities. As a result, converts will do their best to hide their new faith–becoming secret believers.

Examples

In January 2018, Azerbaijan’s Constitutional Court in the capital city of Baku informed Baptist Pastor Hamid Shabanov that it would not be considering his appeal against a large fine for meeting for worship without state permission, according to regional news agency Forum 18. He cannot appeal to the higher Supreme Court because his offense was an administrative matter. Shabanov’s trial was conducted in Azeri, a language he does not speak, and he was repeatedly asked to sign documents he could neither read nor understand.

Azerbaijan’s government continues to claim its “tolerance,” but restrictions of freedom of religion and belief, censorship of religious literature and jail sentences for prisoners of conscience are ongoing, Forum 18 reports.

According to Forum 18’s recent survey, the exercise of freedom of religion and belief in the country is impinged by “a complex labyrinth of ‘legal’ restrictions,” while groups acting without state permission are subjected to raids and large fines. Meanwhile, Forum 18 noted that Transparency International, a non-governmental organization based in Berlin, had revealed that some foreign politicians had been bribed to deny human rights violations in Azerbaijan.

Pray for Azerbaijan

  • Pray specifically for those who convert to Christianity from Islam who face pressure from family, friends, and community.
  • Pray for non-traditional Christian communities who are required to make regular reports to the government and who are constantly being monitored.
  • Pray God would soften the hearts of local authorities who purposefully obstruct legal proceedings of new converts.
  • Pray that the Azerbaijani Christians will have the courage to evangelize to their communities despite the high levels of oppression.

Stories from Azerbaijan

August 12, 2018

7 Reasons Why Hotbeds of Persecution Are Growing in Central Asia

What's happening to Christian believers in today's Central Asia republics? And what do you need to know to pray with empathy…

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January 10, 2018

215 Million Believers Face Persecution for Their Faith in Christ

The release of the 2018 World Watch List confirms what we've seen and shared over the past year. Our brothers…

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March 29, 2017

The World Watch Research Persecution Update

Recent news and its significance for the persecuted church.

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