The Seventh-Day Adventist community in Dushanbe appeared in 1990, but Adventism emerged in Tajikistan back in 1930.
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* This publication was prepared as a series of CABAR.asia articles dedicated to raising awareness on religious diversity in Central Asian countries. The authors do not seek to promote any religion.
According to the book Historical Dictionary of Seventh-Day Adventists by Gary Land, in 1929, the first Adventists were sent to exile to Tajikistan, and in the 1930s the exiled German Adventist s formed their first community.
Today, Seventh-Day Adventists are officially registered as religious movement in Tajikistan. They own four churches – in Hisor, Khujand, Tursunzade and the central one in the capital.
In total, according to the Committee on Religion, about 4 thousand religious associations are registered in the country, 67 of them are non-Islamic.
“In Tajikistan, everyone is equal before the law, regardless of their attitude to religion and religious affiliation. Articles 5, 8 and 26 of the Constitution of Tajikistan and the Law of the Republic of Tajikistan on conscience and religious associations guarantee the same rights for everyone. Regardless of gender, skin color, race or religion, everyone is equal before the law”, said Afshon Mukim, spokesperson of the Committee on Religion, Regulation of Traditions, Celebrations and Ceremonies under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan
Vasily Skripkor moved with his family from Ukraine to Dushanbe 5 years ago. Here he is engaged in construction and helps with church repair.
According to him, today in Tajikistan there are about 800 followers of Adventism. On Saturday, around 120-130 people come to the service in the Dushanbe church. But due to migration, the number of parishioners is decreasing and now more than half of them are ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks.
See also: Life of Adventists in Uzbekistan
“There are people who are sick and cannot come to church, and we personally visit them. Previously, there were many Russians and Germans among the parishioners, but after the [civil] war [of 1992], the majority left. We see that there is tolerance for worshippers in the country. We treat Muslims well and are ready to listen to others’ beliefs, but we are against discrimination, for example, such statements as: “We are better than you, we are good, but you are bad, we are right, but you are wrong”, says Skripkor.
He notes that the main difference between Adventists and other Christian movements is that their worship is held on Saturday, not on Sunday. Like Muslims, they neither eat pork, nor use icons and candles for worship.
Bakhriddin Sanginov, preacher of the Seventh-Day Adventist church in Dushanbe, follows this confession since he was 18 years old. As a child, he and his parents lived in the city of Tursunzade, 60 km from the capital:
I was in the sixth grade when my parents divorced. After that, my father married five more times and some things became normal for me.
In Tursunzade there was the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Once, passing by, I saw my friend Ruslan standing beside it. I was surprised that he went to church because he was Muslim before.
He invited me to enter the church and on that day the topic of the service was about the Christian family and what it should be – one wife, one husband and children. This was one of the reasons why I became a Seventh-Day Adventist.
Yes, at first, I was always haunted by the fear that someone might see me there. What would they say about me going to church? Of course, I had problems in my family. Parents said: “What do you believe in? This book is for Russians, Europeans and Americans”.
Unfortunately, people here believe that the Bible is only for Europeans. But I began to read the Bible and invited my mother to read too. After some time, she noticed that I had changed, had different lifestyle and began to go to church herself, becoming an Adventist. A year later, my sister also came to believe..
According to Sanginov, ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks who change their faith and become Christians are confronted with their parents and relatives’ misunderstanding.
“All Tajiks who became Adventists first had problems with the family. But over time, they see that the person is getting better. For example, we do not smoke, do not tell lies, do not drink, we have one wife, we do not cheat. Therefore, over time, family ties are improving”, says Vasily Skripkor.
This publication was produced under IWPR project «Forging links and raising voices to combat radicalization in Central Asia»