Monday, August 2, 2010

Pastor Targeted In Dagestan

Slain Pastor Brings New Ministry Questions In Dagestan
Mission Network News

Dagestan (MNN) ― Thursday's public murder of a pastor in Dagestan has distressing overtones.

North Caucasus Network confirmed that gunmen opened fire on the 49-year-old senior pastor of an evangelical church in central Dagestan, Russia, around 6:30 pm local time on July 15. He died a short time later from his wounds.

This is the latest in a series of incidents causing growing concern over the government's increasing scrutiny on believers and church activity.

Reports on the deteriorating situation are scarce. Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs explains that Dagestan appears to have "slipped under the radar." "Because it's a Federal Republic of Russia, we group it in with Russia, and we don't think of Russia as being 'restricted,' so we kind of overlook the level of persecution that happens in some parts of Russia."

The immediate impact of the pastor's death may be severe. Nettleton says, "You can imagine the 'chilling effect' of having your pastor shot in the head outside of the church building. This is also a church group that has had a very effective ministry with drug addicts, the social work, the work in the prisons."

Dagestan, 98% Muslim, is situated on the Caspian Sea in the North Caucasus region. The country remains one of the economically poorest republics of Russia.

NCN reports that Dagestan continues to suffer under the competing factions of a complex global jihadi movement. Collaborative efforts of the global Church have a long-standing history of blessing families in Dagestan.

It's not surprising that the church faced threats and increasing pressure. The pastor was a convert from Islam. In such a high Muslim population, he would have been considered an apostate.

Nettleton says in many strict Muslim cultures, an apostate can be punished by death. However, the pastor's example was clear. Despite threats, he lived and died as a Christ follower.

"Pray that the Holy Spirit will give them courage and boldness even in the midst of this loss--that they will boldly go forth and represent Christ in their communities."