Bible Miraculously Didn't Burn When an Evangelical Church Was Firebombed by Militants, Congregants Claim

A man holds an evangelical Bible. Getty Images

Christians in an evangelical church in Kyrgyzstan said they "saw a sign from God" when a group of militants firebombed their church, but their Bible didn't burn.

Witnesses claimed that flames engulfed much of the church but stopped when they reached the Bible, according to Release International, an organization for persecuted Christians around the world.

"This is an amazing sign," a man named Paul, who works with Release International in Kyrgyzstan, said in a statement. "This happened once before when Communists set fire to a Pentecostal Church during the night. The Bible and that building survived too, and there is no doubt the church in Kyrgyzstan will survive – and continue to preach the gospel."

Islamic militants allegedly firebombed the church, located near Lake Issyk Kul in northeastern Kyrgyzstan, on January 3. The fire was eventually put out when firefighters arrived on the scene.

Kyrgyzstan is a Muslim-majority country that once formed a part of the communist Soviet Union. Today, around 80 percent of the population practices Islam, and 17 percent of people practice Russian Orthodox Christianity. Evangelicals make up less than 1 percent of the population, according to the evangelical organization Joshua Project.

A man holds an Evangelical bible. Getty Images

For several years, regional analysts have claimed that the number of Islamic militants in and from Kyrgyzstan is growing. Some Central Asia militants have gone to Syria to fight with ISIS, and several high-profile terror attacks in countries like Russia and Turkey have been carried out by Kyrgyz nationals.

Some experts have said that more people are being radicalized due to a lack of economic opportunities and endemic corruption in Kyrgyzstan.

"In the absence of political pluralism, a reliable state and economic opportunities, growing numbers of citizens are taking recourse in religion," a 2016 report from the International Crisis Group noted.

"Islam has become a central factor in public life since the end of the Soviet era. The 39 mosques of 1990 are more than 2,300 today. Islamic civil society organizations, more than doubled since 2000, increasingly substitute the state in providing services. They promote a variety of versions of Islam: some are tolerant; others much less so."

An boy lights a candle during an Orthodox Christmas service in a church in Kyrgyzstan. Getty Images

Meanwhile, a 2009 law on freedom of religion put strict controls on the activities of religious groups and required that all religious organizations apply for approval from the state. At the time the law was passed, some evangelical groups said the law was being used to restrict their activities. Proselytizing, for example, is also prohibited under the law.