The publication of religious literature inside the country is banned. The government controls Internet access and has shut down cellphone service. No unregistered religious groups or communities are allowed, and religious communities have been unable to register for years. However, both registered and unregistered religious groups face police raids and other harassment. Unregistered congregations are prohibited from gathering publicly, proselytizing or disseminating religious materials. Participants in house church services have been beaten, fined, had their personal property and businesses seized and faced salary reductions. Authorities have also warned Christians that their children will be kept under close scrutiny in school. (Voice of the Martyrs 2)
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Begjan Shirmedov’s 77-year-old body struggled as the officer dragged him from his home. Though remaining outwardly calm, his heart sank as he watched the police pull 15 of his church members, including women and children, out into the street.
There was no question of their guilt. Worshiping in a private home is illegal in Turkmenistan. Pastor Begjan, of the Path of Faith Baptist Church, knew they were all in serious trouble.
Standing in the cold evening air, they watched silently as six policemen confiscated their Christian literature and CDs. It had taken months, and much hard-earned money, to get them. Now, it was all in the hands of the authorities.
Eleven members of the group were later convicted of “violation of the law on religious organizations.” Each was fined 750 Manats ($300), about two months of wages. Without the means to pay these huge fines, they could have easily fallen into despair. But choosing grace in the midst of hardship, Pastor Begjan testifies that there are many things for which to be thankful. “Yes, there are difficulties,” he admits. “But many people have become believers and been baptized in our community. God is giving us strength to carry on.”
- Voice of the Martyrs 1“The Voice of the Martyrs – Persecution.com – A Global Perspective on the Persecution of God’s Children.” Persecution.com. Voice of the Martyrs, 17 January 2014. Web. 17 Jan. 2014.