Turkmenistan has a population of about 5 million people, and nearly half its work force is employed in agriculture, even though the nation’s main export is natural gas. Despite efforts to improve gas exports in the past few years, the economy is struggling, largely due to corruption. The government refuses to publish most of its information regarding the state of the economy, and excessive bureaucracy limits the nation’s ability to engage in international business.
Christians suffer some of the worst persecution in the world in Turkmenistan. In fact, it has the strictest religious regulation of any nation in the former Soviet Union, and is currently ranked number 19 on the World Watch List. The government requires censorship of religious texts, all religious organizations are required to register, and these organizations must also report on all foreign support they receive.
About 95 percent of the population professes Islam, about 3 percent belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church, and only 0.1 percent is evangelical Christian. Almost all Christian worship takes place underground, and Christian leaders are frequently imprisoned for their faith. They also suffer intimidation and property confiscation, but they remain dedicated to sharing the gospel with their neighbors.
In the midst of this extreme persecution, we introduced School Without Walls (SWW) as a pilot program in April 2014, and it became fully functional in September 2014. Today, there are 17 SWW students studying in three groups in Turkmenistan. At least once a month, they gather in small groups to study together, and some of them have already seen the fruits of their labors, as some of their friends have come to Christ! In 2016, we also graduated 10 SWW students, who are now bringing the gospel to their communities!
- SWW would encourage young Christians in Turkmenistan, and that these young people would be motivated to share the gospel with their nation to transform it from within.
- God would continue to strengthen Christians suffering religious persecution so that they can continue to shine their light in the darkness.
- Turkmenistan’s government leaders would recognize that God is the ultimate authority, and that this would lead them to end religious persecution of Christians.
- God would bless our ministry efforts in Turkmenistan, so that we can continue to spread the gospel in this nation that is in such desperate need of its transforming power.
One SWW student in Turkmenistan shared, “I never thought that I would look at Christianity as a way to change society. Our faith is forbidden, so we are used to keeping it to ourselves. SWW is helping us to see the opportunities around us and to discover our potential to share the gospel.”