Slightly smaller than the state of Wisconsin, Tajikistan lies just west of China in the heart of Central Asia. Mountains blanket over 90 percent of the country, leaving the majority of the population spread out in valley villages and small towns. Tajikistan is the poorest of the former Soviet republics, and due to few employment opportunities, over a million citizens work as migrant laborers abroad.
Tajikistan is overwhelmingly Muslim at 99.5 percent, but its secular government fears religious extremism and strictly controls religious expression. Unregistered religious activity, private religious education, and proselytism are criminal offenses, and minors are prohibited from all organized religious activity except for funerals. According to Open Doors USA, “members of the Protestant church are commonly regarded as followers of an alien sect with only one goal—to spy and destroy the current political system. As a result, Christians are seen as threats that need to be controlled or eradicated.”
This makes ministry work highly dangerous, yet ministry is desperately needed in this almost entirely unreached country. Tajikistan’s few Christians tend to live in major cities; hundreds of small villages and many small towns have no churches or even a single believer.
Christian Aid Mission assists an indigenous ministry that is training and sending missionaries into these most unreached rural areas to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the ministry’s missionaries build relationships in the communities they visit, they establish house churches and train local believers for the work of ministry.
In addition to training believers from the communities they are reaching, the ministry holds training and leadership courses year-round to raise up new leaders to carry the gospel into unreached areas. They have found it is crucial to support the young missionaries they send out. “There is a huge problem with unemployment, so many young people called to ministry cannot stay and leave for jobs to Russia to be able to support themselves,” the ministry leader said. “That is why we want to keep them in the country so that they serve and preach the gospel here.”
Working with children is another important priority in this country where more than 50 percent of Tajikistanis are under the age of 25. Though it is illegal and dangerous, the ministry has been reaching hundreds of children each year through camps in rural areas and through gospel and discipleship programs throughout the country. They report that young people are very open to the gospel, and by reaching children, they also reach entire families.
Ministry workers find that many people in unreached areas are receptive to the gospel, and as new believers come to Christ, God is strengthening them to remain firm in the faith. “All our brothers and sisters who convert from Islam to Christianity go through serious persecution in their families and in a society that rejects them and it is not easy for them to start a new life outside the family, but they are not discouraged,” the ministry leader said.
Sources: Joshua Project, CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Open Doors USA
How to Pray for
- Pray that God would cause His gospel to spread throughout this unreached and spiritually needy country.
- Pray for gospel workers to multiply so that more people will have the opportunity to hear the good news of Christ.
- Pray that churches would grow strong in faith as they face persecution from the government, their families, and their communities. Pray also for pastors and missionaries who are under pressure from the government.
- Pray for the wisdom and resources native missionaries need to carry out their ministry to the unreached, including difficult-to-obtain church buildings and much-needed Bibles and Christian literature for distribution.