Turkmenistan gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The former Communist leader Saparmurat Niyazov transformed himself into a nationalist dictator, controlling the army, police, the justice system, the economy and the press. His death in 2006 heralded the potential for great change, since his appointed successor demonstrates signs of moving toward a more open and less repressive system.
Constitutionally, there is freedom of religion. In practice, this is limited to Sunni Islam or Russian Orthodoxy?all other forms of Islam or minority religions are subject to severe repression and harassment. Hostility against any non-Orthodox Christian activity or even presence has persisted for more than 10 years. Almost every foreign Christian has been expelled. Several national pastors have been exiled, beaten, heavily fined or imprisoned. Congregations continue to be intimidated and forbidden to meet. Registration is a difficult, near-impossible process, and when it does occur, it only subjects the church to greater surveillance. Unregistered religious gatherings of any size or kind are strictly forbidden.
In August 2010, Pentecostal pastor Ilmurad Nurliev was arrested on charges of swindling. A “witness” produced by authorities was a woman already in jail on criminal charges. One church member was threatened that if she did not testify against Pastor Nurliev, her husband, who is not a church member, would be fired from his job. Police have continued pressuring members of Nurliev’s church, asking them if his wife is gathering them for worship services or meetings.
- Pray that Christians facing persecution will stand firm in their faith.
- Pray that the truth of the gospel will permeate the nation.
- Pray that key Turkmen leaders will come to faith in Christ.