A little over a year ago, the Bible Society in Azerbaijan was officially registered by the government’s Committee for Religious Affairs. This was the result of lots of hard work from the small local team, with the support of the UBS Fellowship.
“God is really good to us at this very important time, as we establish our young Bible Society,” says Rasim Khalilov, who became General Secretary at the constitutional meeting last April. “We see how our partners are helping us make our first steps, and we really appreciate all of you, dear friends.”
Although Azerbaijan, which is in Central Asia and was part of the USSR, is officially secular, 96% of its population is Muslim. So Christians are a tiny minority, reaching only a little over 2% of the 9.5 million population, all Christian denominations included (Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals). The various Christian denominations are all represented on the Board of the new Bible Society.
“Azerbaijan is a country that really needs the Bible,” says Rasim. “Last week, we imported from Ukraine 3,000 Russian Bibles. Now we are busy distributing them among the churches that have been looking forward to receiving them! We also plan to print 1,600 Azeri Bibles to answer the need among Azeri speakers in our churches.
“And we don’t have any Scriptures for the youth either in Russian or in Azeri, so we will have to focus on that as well.”
But the country is also home to many minorities – Talish, Udi, Tsahur, Hanalig, Tat, Lezgi, to name just a few. Some of them have parts of the Bible, but most don’t have anything…
“So there is also a lot of work ahead of us with translating the Bible into those languages,” adds Rasim.