Tajikistan borders on Afghanistan and China. It is very mountainous covering 93% of the area. The Soviet collapse and civil war damaged the economy and infrastructure, ranking it one of the poorest of the former-USSR states. The majority of the Christian population was greatly reduced afterwards from emigration. Though they have freedom of religion, the fear of radical Islam in the 94% Muslim majority prompts the government to attempt to control all religious expression. There is a recent birth of a new church, the Tajik Church, that is now growing. Pray for the new church, and for the importing of Bibles and Christian literature for the people, which is extremely difficult.
The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a large island 80 km southwest of India. They gained their independence from Britain in 1948, and were engaged in civil war up until 2009. Buddhism is the national religion, and is protected and promoted. Christianity is perceived as foreign, and evangelism as an unethical way of conversion. Missionaries have all but ended due to restriction of visas. Christian literature is in great demand. Literacy is high but affordable quality literature that is culturally relevant is lacking. Christian radio and the Jesus film are available. Pray that the people will receive the literature and resources they need to learn about Jesus Christ for themselves.
Singapore is a small island off the tip of the Malaysian peninsula. It is Asia’s cleanest and greenest area, and among the wealthiest countries per capita and highest standards of living. The economy is heavily export-dependent. There are 95 racial groups, and although there is freedom of religion, government policies strongly influence the preserving of ethnic and religious harmony which sometimes goes against freedom of speech.
Religions are just as varied as the racial and ethnic groups. 40% are Buddhist, 16% Christian, 14% Muslim, 7% Chinese, and 18% non-religious. Many of the Christians are evangelical, and the responsiveness of the gospel among the educated is a strong trend. Christianity is considered a progressive belief system with positive influence, and this brings many of the educated to the faith, including Chinese university students. Many young people are very responsive to the gospel as well, with about 35% involved in student ministry. Singapore is strategically located for missions and reaching other Asian countries, especially China. However, most mainland Chinese people who live in Singapore do not convert to Christianity. Pray for the Chinese churches in Singapore that they may be able to reach out more to those who come from mainland China.
The Philippines is a rather small geographical area with 7250 islands and over 700 of them inhabited with 94 million people. Their main export is people! Filipinos are hard working and highly skilled, but there are too few work opportunities at home. Over 8 million live abroad as nurses, engineers, domestic servants, nannies and seamen. Filipino seamen are the largest group from any nation. On my last vacation cruise, the entire crew was from the Philippines. They were friendly, happy and proud people, and they produced a show on board the ship about their homeland.
There is freedom of religion, and the Catholic Church wields enormous influence, but there is also emerging independent and protestant groups that have influence on social and political issues. The Muslim minority also seeks to set up an independent Islamic state in the south.
The Philippines has emerged as a missionary-sending force with so many going to other countries. Pray that the Philippine Christians may be a light to the entire world.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, located between Afghanistan and India, has a complex arrangement of ethnicity, language and caste, far more than in most nations. Public data on their economy and population is not available. Officially their literacy rate is 56% but a more realistic estimate is 25-45%. There is high inflation and widespread corruption. It is common to have shortages of electricity and gas disruption in normal life. About 20% live below the poverty line. The fight against radical Islamist groups continues to be a huge drain on the economy, which serves the Islamist groups even further. There is limited land and water and a crumbling infrastructure, along with decades of conflict and war. Previous governments have pursued Islamization of the legal system, taxation and public life, as well as discrimination against all religious minorities. Shari’a law is increasingly applied, even to Christians and Hindus, and this continues to oppress the people. Non-Muslims and non-Sunnis must practice their faith cautiously.
I write all of this with a personal heavy heart, because I have met co-workers from Pakistan and keep in touch with them through email and social medial. I sense the cautiousness in their responses, and they always give praise to Allah in anything they write. They are smart and educated and independent for women, definitely a minority in Pakistan. On the surface, their talk of Allah seems very much like the Christian God. But once you get a little further into it, the differences become more subtly apparent, and then it becomes very different. The Pakistani government also spreads a lot of false-teaching about Christianity and anti-Christian propaganda. We must be secure in our beliefs as Christians so we do not become deceived. Be a light, so that people may see the true Christ through you. It may be the only light they get to see.