The former dictator (Niyazov) named himself “the father of all Turkmen”, and people followed him as a kind of cult leader. He spent money on elaborate monuments to himself rather than on development for the people. His death brought hope for positive change, and Turkmen citizens may now travel abroad and within the country more easily. Pray that the government of President Berdimuhamedow will respect the human rights and religious freedom guaranteed by the constitution.
Ethnic Turkmen Christians are few but have increased since independence, from one or two people to as many as 1,000. Most Christians are Russian, Ukrainian or Armenian; among them are a thousand or so evangelical believers. Persecution has brought growth, greater unity and a strong spirituality, and the Church continues to grow despite the constant threats. Pray for these believers to stand firm in their faith and to win others to Christ.
Hostility against any non-Orthodox Christian activity or even presence has persisted for over 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. Pray for a softening of the attitude of the authorities, for courage for Christians in the country to stand firm and for Christians outside to pray and speak up against these hostile actions.
The diaspora. The Turkmen people live in many surrounding lands: Iran (2m), Afghanistan (1m), Iraq (340,000), Uzbekistan (175,000), Syria (130,000), Russia (50,000) and Tajikistan (27,000). There are now Christians (Turkmen and foreign) working in evangelism and church planting among these people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pray for the fruitfulness of these ministries. Pray for similar work among the almost completely unevangelized Turkmen in the other countries mentioned.
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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.