Introduction / History Azerbaijan is located in the Caucasus Mountain region on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. It is there, in the land of the ancient Medes, that we find more than six million Azerbaijani (also known as the Azeri). The name "Azeri" is thought to have come from the fourth century ruler, Atropat, who governed the area that is now northwestern Iran. However, it may have been derived from azer, the Persian word for fire.
The Azeri have been subjected to numerous invasions throughout history. The homeland of the Azeri was first conquered by the Persians in the sixth century B.C. Islam was introduced into the area during the seventh century A.D., and has been practiced there ever since. By the eleventh century, Persian influence was overpowered by Turkic influence. During the thirteenth century, this region of Asia fell under the dominion of Genghis Khan.
The economy of Azerbaijan is stronger than most other countries in their region, so few of them have migrated to other parts of the world.
Where are they located? The Azerbaijanis in the US are mostly located in the urban centers of California, Texas, NYC, and New Jersey. A smaller number live in Chicago, Washington DC, and Boston.
What are their lives like? The Azerbaijanis in the US hold all kinds of jobs, so their work life cannot be generalized. They have their own organization to influence Azerbaijani-Americans to vote a certain way. This organization networks with other diaspora groups.
What are their beliefs? The Azerbaijani are primarily Shi'ite Muslims, but there are a number of Sunni Muslims as well. Islam among the Azerbaijani is a reflection of the historical ties that exist between Azerbaijan and Iran. Until the twentieth century, most Azeri identified themselves as Muslims rather than Azerbaijani or Turks. They believe that being a "spiritual community of Islam" was much more important than being a nation.
The Islamic religious practices of the Azerbaijanis are less restrictive of women's activities than they are for most other Muslim peoples. Most women have jobs outside the home, which helped them fit in better than other Muslim people who have migrated to the US.
What are their needs? The Azerbaijanis in the US have almost no gospel witness in their communities. They are Shi'ite Muslims whose culture straddles those of the Turks (language) and Iranians (religion). It will take a deliberate effort to take Jesus to the Azerbaijanis in the US. This might best be done by Iranian believers since they at least share the same religious background.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to send his servants to share the life-giving message of Christ and assist Azerbaijanis in the US in finding the abundant life that He intends for them.
* Pray for a powerful disciple making movement among Azerbaijanis in North America.
* Pray for the Azerbaijanis in the US to have the chance to hear and respond to the JESUS Film and gospel recordings in their language.