Two Azerbaijani church leaders have been fined fined 1,500 Azerbaijani Manats ($850) each for holding an “illegal” prayer meeting at a church leader’s home, and twenty-four more Christians who were at the meetings have been warned not to hold another meeting.
All of the attendees were arrested when a dozen policemen interrupted the meeting on the morning of 27th November, at a church leader’s house in a village in the south of the country.
The 30 Christians were each questioned and had their names and passport details logged. Police also took an inventory of all Christian literature in the house.
Twenty-six of them were then taken to the police station. Twenty-two were released later that evening, but four were detained overnight, including the leaders who hosted the meeting, and another church leader, Mehman Agamemedov.
They were released the following day, but warned not to hold another meeting.
“Each of you may pray in your own house, but meetings are forbidden, otherwise you will be arrested again – with more serious consequences than a fine,” the police told them, according to a World Watch Monitor source.
Their arrests were reported on national television, although they were not identified specifically as “Christians”, but were said to have been arrested “for illegal religious activities” and “spreading illegal religious doctrines”.
“It sounds like we are some kind of sect!” Agamemedov told the World Watch Monitor source.
Religious meetings in private homes are prohibited under Azerbaijani law, which states that only registered religious organisations can hold prayer or worship meetings
The potential punishment for “illegal religious activity” is a fine for a first offence and a prison term for repeat offenders.
- Pray for these church leaders, as they will struggle to pay these hefty fines. Pray for provision for them, and for protection over their families and church members in the light of these charges.
- Pray for Christians in Azerbaijan, as they face increasingly tough restrictions on where they can meet. Pray for wisdom, and courage to continue to meet together to pray and worship in the face of these restrictions.
- Pray for the Azerbaijan government, for an easing of the restrictions against the Church.
- Pray for a move of the Holy Spirit over this nation, for many, including those in government, to have life changing encounters with Jesus Christ.
2 Chronicles 6 vs 40: “Now, O my God, let your eyes be open and your ears attentive to prayer from this place.”