Pastor Sentenced in Tajikistan
Dear brothers and sisters, please pray for pastor of the Christian church in Tajikistan, in Hujand city, Holmatov Bahrom. On 10.04.2017 Brother Holmatov Bahrom was summoned to the KGB for questioning on April 10 where he was arrested and locked in a prison cell.
The court hearing began July 3, charging Bahrom with extremism according to the criminal code of Tajikistan. On July 4, the hearing continued with several witnesses giving false testimonies. One of them said that the church, near his home, sings too loudly and prevents him from relaxing at home. He asked the court to protect the people from the church and remove it from their territory.
Another claimed falsely that one day in January, when the church was handing out humanitarian aid, Brother Bakhrom urged people to accept faith in Jesus Christ and forbade humanitarian aid to those people who did not accept the Christian faith. This witness said that Pastor Bakhrom kicked him from the church grounds and cursed him because he said he was a Muslim and didn’t want to accept the Christian faith. He asked the court, again falsely, to consider that Christians, including Pastor Bakhrom, forced Muslims to turn to the Christian faith.
Another witness ( who was obviously an employee of the KGB) accused brother Bahrom and said to the court that the church, and especially Pastor Bakhrom, distribute forbidden literature, such as The Power of a Praying Wife, The Power of Praying Husband, Not Just a Carpenter, The Children’s Bible in Pictures, The Right Choice, and some other books which are prohibited there in Tajikistan.
After the testimony of witnesses, the court asked the prosecutor and the defense lawyer to deliberate. But the defense lawyer asked the judge to postpone the trial for two days that he might prepare better. So the next session was on July 6 when Pastor Bahrom was convicted the false accusation of extremism and sentenced to three years in prison.
Pastor Bahrom’s arrest and sentencing seems be part of a more general effort against the churches. Several churches of one denomination in the area have been closely monitored by police and security services during last two months. The authorities appear to be searching for reasons to close the churches, removing their official registration. The head Mullah said at one of the monthly meetings of the city leaders, “This is a Muslim country and a Muslim city, but we have eight Christian churches and only one Mosque here. We all have to do our best to close all of the churches.” After that, the authorities began to raid the churches and search the properties.
Father, we pray today for Pastor Bahrom that his faith may remain strong, that Your Holy Spirit will encourage him daily from the Word. We pray for his family, that You will comfort them and sustain them during this difficult time. And we pray for his lawyer as he prepares the appeal and for the judges who preside, that justice will be served and Pastor Bahrom will be released. We pray also for his church, that the people will grow spiritually in these circumstances and that their trust in Christ will be strengthened. In the midst of this pressure against the churches in the city, we pray for their safety, for their official status to be retained, and for the gospel of Christ to be proclaimed in great power and might through the work of the Holy Spirit in their midst. In the name of Jesus whose gospel we proclaim, Amen.