A brutal firebomb attack has gutted a local church in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan. The flames were so fierce they destroyed everything in their path, except one item: the church Bible.
Members of the small Evangelical Christian Baptist Church in the north-eastern town of Kaji described how they have been “inspired” by the text’s survival, which has been referred to as an incredible miracle.
“This is an amazing sign,” said Paul from Operation Mark, a Christian ministry operating in Kyrgyzstan.
“This happened once before when Communists set fire to a Pentecostal Church during the night.”
Despite the extensive damage to the church’s interior, Paul insisted that, armed with the written word of God, the congregation would rebuild from the ashes. “The Bible and that building survived too, and there is no doubt the church in Kyrgyzstan will survive – and continue to preach the gospel,” he said, as reported by Premier.
The church was doused with petrol during the night of Jan 3, before being set alight with Molotov cocktails – a homemade incendiary weapon.
There is some speculation that Muslim militants were to blame for the attack.
Christian persecution organization Release International detailed more about the incident in a report posted on their website.
“The fire spread to much of the inside, engulfing pews and the altar cloth, but the flames went out just before they could reach the open Bible,” the organization reported.
“Firemen arrived at 1.30am and fought to bring the flames under control. In the smoke-blackened building, they found several full bottles of petrol which had failed to ignite. No-one was hurt.”
The group said that congregants are taking heart from the miraculous survival of Bible that is used to teach the message of Christ.
Indeed, the small group of believers is taking the undamaged Bible as a sign from God to keep on going and are refusing to be discouraged.
Release International is concerned that the attack was in response to the church holding various outreach and evangelism events in the local area.
“The Evangelical Christian Baptist Church has been active in organising outreach events, which observers say could have prompted the attack. Churches in Kyrgyzstan have faced growing opposition and hostility but this is the first to be firebombed in recent years,” the organization stated.
Police are currently investigating the incident and other churches in the area have been warned of further possible attacks. Release International continues to support some 20 churches across Central Asia, by providing pastoral care and support to local church leaders. However, the group is concerned by the increasing level of persecution Christian’s are facing in these Muslim-majority nations.
“Persecution is on the rise in these predominantly Muslim countries that have a history of communism. Increasingly, persecution is at the hands of Islamic radicals, but the authorities in Central Asia still discriminate against Christians,” the organization stated.
Recent regulations in Kyrgyzstan strictly forbid any kind of missionary work. Militants have been digging up the bodies of Christian converts from Islam who have been buried in Muslim cemeteries. One Christian woman has had to be reburied three times.”
“Persecution is still everywhere,” noted Paul.
“In Kazakhstan, unregistered churches are not allowed to gather. In Tajikistan, Christian parents are not allowed to take their own children to church and in Turkmenistan many Christians have been arrested and beaten, interrogated and threatened. Copies of the Bible and New Testament have been confiscated.
But the most difficult situation for Christians is in Uzbekistan and its autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan. Any gathering is illegal. In some places the only way to meet as a small group is to drive around town in a car.”
Pray for these faithful men and women who are preaching and teaching the gospel in the harshest of conditions.
“Please pray for our Christian family in Central Asia,” requested Release Chief Executive Paul Robinson. “Most Christians there are unable to lead ordinary lives. They can be arrested for reading the Bible in a public place like a bus or train, or for telling other people about Jesus.”
“Often the homes of local believers can be searched and their belongings confiscated by the police. Everyday Christian activities, such as praying together or doing a Bible study, can be deemed “illegal.”