Azerbaijan is a post-Soviet, Muslim nation. It is a key player in the global oil trade and oil wealth has led to a more western outlook and lifestyle. However for many, the drastically rising cost of living is a challenge. Devotion to family and friends is paramount and Azerbaijanis pride themselves on warmly welcoming guests with food and generosity. Christian believers and churches face persecution through ostracism, registration roadblocks and other restrictions.
Because of restrictions, it is not possible for Christians to meet at universities, so they function as city groups. Presently there are groups in three of the four cities, with steps being taken to start in the fourth city.
The greatest strength of ministry in Azerbaijan is a staff team full of energy, passion and hope. The main challenge is to connect with students, whether Christian or not. The number of Christian students is decreasing, as they often avoid going to study at university, where there tends to be a lot of corruption.
View from the inside:
A Christian worker in Azerbaijan describes how he has been encouraged and challenged in her work: ‘In 2010, we began to pray that God would help us grow beyond our office. Because of the challenges here we often relied on having student meetings in our office in the capital and staff and students were increasingly reluctant to reach out.
‘As it turns out, God did much more – in late 2010, city officials came to everyone in the area and informed us all that our buildings were to be torn down for new development. The transition has been challenging; because of the loss of the office, many students assumed that nothing would continue and so just stopped coming. But the lack of an office represents for us a new day in ministry, where we can now look outward and really seek to meet other students.’
- for students to have passion and creativity in reaching out to their friends;
- for universities to be more open to groups.