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Azerbaijan

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Barnabas Fund supports a Christian newspaper in Azerbaijan, where Christian literature is heavily controlled

Once a Christian region, Azerbaijan is now 96% Muslim. The government gives preferential treatment to those religions considered “traditional” (Islam, Russian Orthodox Christianity and Judaism), while other forms of Christianity are actively restricted.

The authorities in this post-Soviet state regard religious groups with suspicion, and since independence in 1991 restrictions on Christians have been repeatedly tightened. The country’s Religion Law, first adopted in 1992, has been amended 13 times.

Christian groups that established a presence in the country only after 1991 and those operating without official registration are particularly vulnerable. Their church services are monitored and raided; Christian literature is confiscated; and their members are harassed and imprisoned.

All churches must register with the government, but registering can be a lengthy and confusing process, and applications may be denied or left in limbo. In January 2013, Greater Grace Church in Baku lost its final appeal against a court decision that the church be liquidated for failing to re-register with the government. All religious groups have been required to re-register five times since 1992, providing the government with leverage against those it deems undesirable. Unregistered churches cannot open a bank account or rent property.

Christian literature is heavily controlled and may be subject to censorship or a burdensome approval process. Those caught producing or distributing unapproved literature may be fined up to nine years of the minimum wage or imprisoned for up to five years.

In April 2013, Pastors Zaur Balaev and Hinayat Shabanova successfully appealed against convictions for unregistered religious activity, and the heavy fines they had been given were overturned. But this favourable decision took place against a general backdrop of continuing repression.

An increasing number of Azerbaijanis are nevertheless finding Christ. Many of the new Christians are converts from Islam and can meet with hostility from family, community and authorities. The Christian minority may face discrimination from their neighbours; for example, it may be very difficult for them to find and keep a job.

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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    • Praise God that local police in the village of Tehsil Summodri, Faisalabad District, Pakistan acted to withdraw false allegations of blasphemy against 31 Christians and 23 other villagers. The allegations under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (which carries a mandatory death sentence) were made on 2 September when Christians were ploughing a piece of land given to them for free by its Muslim owner to extend the local Christian cemetery. A group of Muslims accused them of desecrating Muslim graves. The police investigation revealed that the land had been a Muslim cemetery many years earlier but the graves had been moved elsewhere. They changed the charges to the lesser ones under Section 297 (which carries a maximum prison sentence of one year or a fine). It is very unusual for the Pakistani police to defend the rights of Christians in this way. Pray that others will follow their example. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 21 hours ago

    • School text-books in Turkey are still teaching that the Armenians and most other Christian minorities of the Ottoman Empire a century ago were agents of enemy foreign powers such as Britain and Russia. This, the books say, was the reason for what they call the “necessary deportation” of the Christians. Turkey still does not accept blame for the deaths of at least 1.5 million Armenian and Assyrian Christians, many massacred or dying of deprivation as they were force-marched out of their homeland. Next year, 2015, is the 100th anniversary of the worst year of the Armenian and Assyrian Genocide. Please pray that the innocent suffering of these faithful believers will be recognised by every country and that the world will resolve never to let such a genocide happen again. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Thu, Nov 2014 00:00

    • Pray for 27 Christians, believed to be from various Asian countries, who were detained overnight by the Saudi authorities on 5 September for worshipping at a private home in Khafji. The home had been under surveillance since a neighbour had reported suspicious activities there. Pray that the Lord will protect His people in Saudi Arabia, where it is illegal to practise a non-Islamic religion in public but supposedly permissible to do so in private. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Nov 2014 00:00

    • Wao, a predominantly Christian town on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, is protesting against its inclusion in the new semi-independent Islamic region of Bangsamoro. Wao’s mayor, Elvino Balicao, is seeking exemption from the Bangsamoro government and its Islamic law and has asked that the town remain under the central government. He said that the town is 83% Christian and that local churches support exemption from Bangsamoro. Wao is in the centre of the Muslim-majority province of Lanao del Sur. Pray that the Lord will protect His people and that Wao will gain exemption from the Bangsamoro government. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Nov 2014 00:00

    • Our Father in Heaven, we lift up our brothers and sisters serving sentences in labour camps in North Korea, whether foreigners like Kenneth Bae from the USA, or the far greater number of North Korean believers whose names we do not know but You do. Please pour out Your grace into their lives as they suffer hunger, exhaustion, pain and imprisonment for the sake of Christ. May they continue steadfast in their faith, loving their enemies and praying for their persecutors. May their Christ-like lives draw other North Koreans to You. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Nov 2014 00:00

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