TRUMPED UP CHARGES
Please pray for an Azeri brother who is in prison in Georgia on what we strongly believe are false charges that he was in possession of drugs.
‘Shimon’ (not his real name) was arrested last May.
Our partner said:
‘His health is very bad and he needs urgent help – medical, spiritual and materially.’
If found guilty, Shimon could be sentenced to between 7 and 14 years in prison. Shimon, an ardent Christian evangelist, insists that the charge is false and that he has been framed by those angered by his witnessing to Muslims.
President Aliev declared in December 2014:
‘All the freedoms, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience, are guaranteed in Azerbaijan. All religious freedoms are fully provided.’
Yet, the reality on the ground falls far short of this pronouncement.
In May 2014, three women in southern Azerbaijan were convicted of meeting for religious purposes without state permission: two were heavily fined and police confiscated Bibles and other Christian literature. In another case in the same month, police detained two women and a 14-year old girl for talking about their faith to others in northern Azerbaijan; though no charges were brought, police confiscated what they described as ‘the banned book the Old Testament’.Religious organisations are tightly controlled in other ways too. Christian groups say they are not free to print or import religious literature. There are also increasingly tight laws regarding religious education: Article 167-1 of the Criminal Code, for example, bans ‘forcing’ individuals, including children, to take part in religious education or activities – without specifying the meaning of ‘forcing’. Violations carry stiff fines or even jail terms.Despite these pressures, the church in Azerbaijan is growing. Before 1991, the church barely existed beyond the Orthodox.
Current and recent projects include:
- Support for 22 Christian workers and their ministries
- Organising visits for people who can encourage and pastor these workers and other Christians in the region
- Support for an organisation providing legal aid and advice to churches and individuals facing legal action due to their faith or Christian activities
*If you would like to support this work please go here.
Thank you so much for your prayers.