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Novruz and Azerbaijan

Novruz plate

Novruz, the “Persian New Year,” is celebrated in late March in Azerbaijan, Iran, and other locations. In Azerbaijan it is “the most important holiday,” said a Christian in Azerbaijan.

Katrina, a 10-year-old girl in Azerbaijan, described Novruz in the following way.

“During the last week before Novruz, kids go door to door, putting their hats on the ground before each door, knocking, and then running to hide. The people who live inside the house open the door, take the hat, and put candy and small treats inside. They close the door, and the kids come rushing back to see what was inside the hat!

“During Novruz, people like to decorate boiled eggs to set on the table. A game that everyone likes to play during Novruz is ‘Yumurta Doyusmek’ or ‘Egg Fighting.’ During this game, two people each take a boiled egg and knock the ends together. Whichever egg did not crack wins the fight.

“Another thing people do for Novruz is grow a plateful of green grass (wheat grass) which they set in the center of a tray surrounded by candies and Novruz treats. My favorite Novruz treat is qogal [go-GHAL], a salty round bread that is very crumbly, and is sort of made in layers.” [See the photo. Click to enlarge. The round, yellow pastries are qogal.]

Azerbaijan
Most of the people in Azerbaijan are Muslims. But the government does not want radical Muslims to cause trouble. So, officials try to strictly control religious activity. In recent years, laws have made Christian activities and spreading the gospel more difficult.

In many places in the world, there are fewer people who follow Jesus than there are people who do not follow Jesus. A Christian in those places may be the only Christian in their family or town. They are in the minority. But they are not alone! They trust God to be with them when they boldly serve him.


Azerbaijan: A Christmastime Birthday

The president of Azerbaijan is Ilham Aliyev. He will be 58 years old on December 24, 2019. Aliyev is the son of the previous president. He speaks five languages, and he has three children.

More than 90% of the people in Azerbaijan say they are Muslim. But many do not take their faith seriously. Fewer than 10% are Christian. Zoroastrianism was a main religion in Azerbaijan before the Muslims came. Today the people still honor some traditions from Zoroastrianism. (See the “Beliefs” section for more information.)

Even though many people in Azerbaijan are not serious about their Muslim faith, many do not like it when a Muslim becomes a Christian. They think Islam is part of their culture. Friends and relatives discourage Muslims from following Christ. It is often difficult for young adult Christians to find someone to marry who also follows Christ. Since marriage is an important part of their culture, they are often urged to marry a Muslim.

Officials sometimes give churches and Christians a hard time.

Listen to an MP3 of Christians in Azerbaijan singing a Christmas song in the Azeri language. Do you know the name of the song in English?

Pray for President Aliyev on his birthday and pray that he will have a positive attitude toward Christians in his country. Pray that Christians will be able to celebrate Christmas peacefully.

[Photo: Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan]


Kids of Courage in Russia

KOC in Russia
Дети отваги
(Children of Courage)

The U.S.S.R. (often called “the Soviet Union”) was the largest communist country in the world. In the early 1990s, it broke up into many smaller countries.

People in the smaller countries have their own languages. But many still speak Russian, the language of the Soviet Union.

Russian-speaking Christians have started a children’s website using Kids of Courage stories.

Go to the Map of Visitors page on this site to see if anyone in the former Soviet Union has recently visited Kids of Courage. The countries formed when the U.S.S.R. broke up are: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania.

You can find out what life is like for Christians in some of those countries in the Countries section of this site.


Flags of Turkey and Similar Flags

Flags

The flags of many Muslim countries display the crescent moon and a star. Before Islam began, pagans who worshipped many gods used the crescent moon as a symbol. (Islam is the religion of Muslims.) Muslim Turks who conquered Constantinople also used the moon as their symbol. (Constantinople in now called Istanbul. Istanbul is the capital of Turkey.)

People began to associate the crescent moon with the religion of Islam. Some Muslims today say the moon is not a symbol of Islam. However, the moon and star appear on the flags of many Muslim countries.

Print and color the page of flags here. The background of the flag of Turkey is red and the moon and stars are white. Find the colors of the other flags in the Countries section of this website, in the online CIA Factbook, or in other sources.

Enter the names of the countries in the search box of this site or the tags for this post to find stories that can guide you about how to pray for the country.


The Sad Old Man

Azerbaijan

Day after day, a sad old man wandered up and down the streets of his town in Azerbaijan. At night he slept in a shelter for homeless refugees.

The old man used to live in the part of Azerbaijan called Nagorno-Karabakh. When fighting began in Nagorno-Karabakh, he was driven from his home. His wife died in the struggle. His children and grandchildren were scattered all over the country. So the man wandered the streets, sad and lonely.

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