Although Islam is the religion of 94% of the population, only a small fraction practice "pure" Islam. Most are more influenced by folk superstitions and Zoroastrian beliefs. Mosques sprouted up everywhere in the years following independence, but now the government places severe restrictions on mosque building. Tajikistan's proximity to Iran and Afghanistan makes it vulnerable to Islamism. Pray for extremism to be restrained, and that Muslims might have unprecedented opportunities to discover Christ.
The civil war of the 1990s left an unforgettable mark on the nation. 83% of the population still live below the poverty line. Prisoners, the elderly, widows, and orphans face the greatest risks. The country needs relief-and-development work, as well as education and business training. Pray for sensitive Christian ministry that can address the great social and spiritual needs. Ask God to call more long-term personnel, especially from among Iranian believers who have an ethnic relationship with the Tajiks.
The Christian population has been massively reduced by emigration. It was and remains largely Russian Orthodox. The civil war and its aftermath drove out the majority; most of the remainder are cultural/nominal Christians with little desire to share the gospel with indigenous peoples. Pray that such a vision might be awakened. While multi-ethnic congregations exist in a few cities, the bulk of the rural majority remains unreached. Pray also for contextually sensitive outreach efforts and for church structures that will reproduce in rural areas.
Freedom of religion exists, but barely. The government, to prevent the growth of extremism in Islam, introduced many restrictions that place a stranglehold on Christian ministry. Religious teaching, publishing and proselytism is made very difficult if not illegal. Registering churches is also very difficult. Pray for the gospel to spread and Christians to find ways to teach and minister despite these harsh restrictions.
Expatriate involvement. Tajikistan, with its great social and spiritual needs, is ripe for Christian ministry done sensitively and appropriately. Relief and development are much-needed and fruitful ministries, as are education and business training. Young people, prisoners, drug addicts and women in difficult situations are particularly responsive. Pray for the calling and entry of more long-term personnel. Pray for ethnically related Iranian Christians to become witnesses; they could play a unique role in winning Tajiks to Jesus.
Tajiks number 13 million in Central Asia. For nearly a thousand years, there was no significant outreach to Tajiks. Now, in addition to more than 1,000 believers in Tajikistan, there are a greater number of Tajik believers in Afghanistan as well as some in Pakistan and Uzbekistan. Pray for further growth, and pray for the establishment of a truly indigenous Tajik Church - this is beginning to happen as Tajik church leaders emerge. Pray especially for unity in this young expression of Christ's body.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.