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Church fire under investigation in Turkmenistan


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By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

TURKMENBASHI, TURKMENISTAN (Worthy News)– Some churches in Turkmenistan have literally come under fire after the Baptist House of Prayer in Turkmenbashi was recently razed, according to Slavic Gospel Association spokesman Joel Griffith.

Because the fire involved a religious organization, Griffith said its pastor, Vasily Korobov, was thoroughly questioned by the police; but during the interrogation, Korobov was asked many questions just about the church.

"It just seemed like — the questions that they were asking him — they were looking for something other than just a church fire," said Griffith.

As of press time, no one knew whether the fire was arson, or an accident, but harassment has been intensifying in Turkmenistan as Christians continue to face fines and threats of expulsion from villages and schools.

Believers have been accused of violating laws against participating in unregistered religious communities, a charge that can carry a fine of up to ten times the minimum monthly wage. Although unregistered religious gatherings of any size are forbidden, registration is not only problematic, but can lead to closer surveillance of the congregation by the authorities, resulting in the expulsion of foreign Christians and the exile, or imprisonment of native pastors.

"We have to remember how things were under atheistic communism," said Griffith. "Now, I wouldn't say that's it's gone that far quite yet, but it's beginning to head in that direction … If I know anything about the believers in the former Soviet Union, they're going to stand boldly and continue to serve Christ no matter what."

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