Slightly larger than California, Turkmenistan is one of the most sparsely populated nations in Asia and has the lowest population of all the Central Asian republics. Bordering the Caspian Sea, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Iran, the country is comprised of mostly sandy desert and low mountains. The Karakum Desert occupies nearly 80 percent of the country. More than 50 percent of the population in this Soviet socialist republic lives in or near the capital city of Ashgabat.
The majority of Turkmenistan’s citizens are ethnic Turkmen. Russians and Uzbeks are the country’s largest minority groups. For hundreds of years before Soviet rule, the Turkmen were nomadic herdsmen. Arabs introduced Islam to them, forcing them to become Muslims. Then, in the late 1920s, the Soviets attempted to purge the nation of religion, namely Islam, through violent coercion. Today, however, approximately 94 percent of the population identifies as Muslim.
Turkmenistan is one of the most gospel-resistant countries in the world with very few believers. Government scrutiny hampers Christian activity, including church gatherings, which are monitored. Proselytism and printing Christian literature is illegal. If believers are found meeting in unregistered churches, they could be fined or even face jail time. This hostility toward Christianity has gradually increased since the late 1990s and rose significantly after a new law on religion was introduced in 2016.
Because evangelism is illegal in Turkmenistan, an indigenous ministry finds ways to indirectly share the gospel. One effective method is for two or three missionaries to share their stories of salvation with one another on public transportation within earshot of other passengers. This has yielded many questions and conversations, along with several decisions to follow Christ.
Financial assistance is needed to support brave pastors in Turkmenistan who are leading their congregations at great risk. Support is also needed to train young people to share the gospel throughout the country and for ten native missionaries to be trained in a secure location. An indigenous ministry requests help to continue discipling groups of Christians who meet together in house churches, along with the means to plant more house churches. A sturdy all-wheel drive vehicle is also needed to traverse the rural terrain to reach remote villages with the gospel.
Sources: Joshua Project, Open Doors, CIA World Factbook, Wikipedia
How to Pray for
- Pray that God would lift the spiritual veil that covers the eyes of the people of Turkmenistan, exposing Islam as a false religion.
- Pray for protection, provision, wisdom, and courage for brave native missionaries who have made it their life’s ambition to spread the gospel throughout their country.
- Pray for open doors for ministry, that God would pave the way for the good news to reach into scattered, rural villages.