Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Wednesday 11 November 2009
Beaten and Imprisoned for Teaching the Faith
Aimurat lives in Karakalpakstan in northwest Uzbekistan. It is a hard place to be a Christian, but Aimurat, who was brought up as a Muslim, gave his life to the Lord and now serves as Assistant Pastor at a local church.
One day in June 2008 Aimurat, then aged 24, was visiting his senior pastor when police officers arrived and began questioning everyone about their church services and other Christian activities. The police kept them all confined to the house for the whole day, and would not let them eat, or even feed the baby. They searched the house and took away books, video cassettes of weddings, a computer and the senior pastor’s passport.
Hearing the commotion at the house, some of the neighbours turned out, shouting at the police, “What are you doing? Leave them alone!” Their protests made no difference. The police simply ordered the neighbours to stay away or they would be arrested as antigovernment criminals and sent to jail.
Finally the police left, but took with them Aimurat, his senior pastor and some other family members. While the rest were soon freed again, Aimurat was detained on charges of teaching religion without official approval and establishing or participating in a religious extremist organisation. During his time in prison, Aimurat was systematically beaten and told to deny Jesus. At the beginning of his ordeal he was hoping to stay strong but, weakened by the continual beatings, one day he found himself renouncing his faith. The beatings stopped. But Aimurat was immediately filled with remorse and began to pray, telling the prison guards, “You can kill me, but I do believe in Jesus and will never renounce Him!” This enraged the guards, and they began to beat him even more harshly than before until Aimurat eventually lost consciousness. When he came round, he knew that the only way he was going to survive during interrogations was by trusting the Lord Jesus.
After a month Aimurat was set free, covered in bruises and with several broken ribs, but still declaring his faith in Christ.
The Uzbek authorities have now found another way to make life difficult for Aimurat. This year, he got married and wanted to change his internal passport to show his new status. Internal passports are very important in countries such as Uzbekistan as they are used for all important transactions from banking and exchanging currency to buying or selling property. The officials took his passport but did not give him a replacement. This leaves him without any official documents, an extremely vulnerable position in Central Asian society; the saying goes, “Without one’s passport, one does not exist.”