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Uzbekistan

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A minaret in Uzbekistan, which is 93% Muslim
Nikolaus88 / CC BY-SA 3.0

All Christian activity is illegal for members of unregistered churches in Uzbekistan, and the official reprisals inflicted on them can be shattering. Sardorbek Nurmetov, who attends an unregistered church, was brutally beaten following his arrest in June 2013. A police officer beat him about the head and chest and kicked his legs. Christian literature and other materials were seized.

Officially a secular state, Uzbekistan has long been recognised as one of the most repressive regimes in Central Asia with respect to religious freedom, with the number of incidents against Christians increasing in recent years and extremely harsh religion laws severely limiting Christian activities. Churches are required to register with the authorities, but the stringent requirements are impossible for some to meet, and others are turned down for petty reasons such as minor grammatical errors or problems in certifying addresses. Children are discouraged from practising the Christian faith, and in 2013 the government raided a Christian children’s camp.

Christians from unregistered churches are vulnerable to police raids on their meetings and homes as well as to harassment and surveillance. During raids, threats and physical violence are common; arrest and detention can follow. Attending services, teaching the Bible to adults or children and training Christian leaders can result in fines of up to 200 to 300 times the monthly minimum wage for repeated violations. Even registered churches may be targeted. All evangelism is illegal, and Christians accused of illegally storing, importing or distributing Christian literature are subject to heavy fines. In the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan, where persecution is especially severe, it is even illegal to own a Bible. Members of churches that are considered “non-traditional” may be criticised in the media or suffer discrimination.

Uzbekistan has a strong Islamic heritage, as 80% of its population are Uzbek, a traditionally Sunni Muslim Turkic tribe, and 93% are nominally Muslim. Christianity in the area was almost entirely eradicated in 1300 AD under the Turkic military leader Tamerlane, who was renowned for his hatred of Christians and who is still celebrated as a hero in Uzbekistan. This legacy is very noticeable in the way Christian converts from Islam are often ostracised from their families and communities or threatened and beaten to force them to return to Islam. Churches with many Muslim-background believers frequently face harassment from the authorities as well as from local communities.

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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    • Two Christian families in Uzbekistan who meet in a private home to read the Bible and pray together have been repeatedly fined and had property confiscated. Alisher Abdullayev and Veniamin Nemirov were originally fined in 2012 for unregistered religious activity and teaching religion “illegally”. They refused on principle to pay, claiming that they had not violated any laws. But earlier this year bailiffs went to their homes and confiscated a car, a mobile phone and household items. The men and their wives were then fined again, ten times the minimum monthly wage. Officers have also raided one of their meetings, filming and harassing those present and seizing religious literature. Pray that the authorities will stop targeting the families and that they will be left alone to study and pray in peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 19 hours ago

    • Leaders imprisoned for up to 60 days and members for up to 45 days; fines, corrective labour or community service: these are the penalties for taking part in religious gatherings in Kazakhstan held without state permission, according to a new criminal code. Those who finance unregistered religious activity will be liable to the same punishments as leaders. In addition, a new Code of Administrative Offences lays down a wide range of penalties for exercising the right to religious freedom. Both codes have been condemned by 119 Kazakh and international human rights groups and individuals. They further tighten controls on religious practice in a context where it is already much restricted. Pray for wisdom and courage for Christians in Kazakhstan as they seek to maintain their worship and witness. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Give thanks that 55 Christians, almost all church leaders and converts from Islam, received Bible training at a three-day seminar in Kyrgyzstan that was supported by Barnabas Fund. The participants have virtually no access to Biblical training, and so the studies were a great boost to their faith and ministry. Meeting fellow church leaders, who are all dealing with similar issues, such as isolation and persecution from Muslim relatives and local Muslim communities, was also very encouraging to them and gave them the opportunity to build up a Christian support network. Pray that the Lord will continue to speak to them through the Bible passages they studied at the seminar, and that He will bless their ministries. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Christians and other minorities in Burma (Myanmar) are extremely concerned about a proposed religious conversion bill that will require people to seek permission from the authorities before changing religion. It is part of a package of four bills designed to “protect race and religion” in the Buddhist-majority country. The government says it is intended to prevent forced conversions. The draft says that forcing someone to convert would be punishable by a year in prison, while insulting another religion would be punishable by between one and two years in prison. Similar laws in force in several Indian states are used to threaten legitimate evangelism by Christians and as a pretext by Hindu militants to attack Christians, whom they falsely accuse of forcibly converting people. Pray this bill will not become law in Burma. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Pray for the members of two churches in Yogyakarta that were attacked in separate incidents in June. On Sunday 1 June, members of Islamist groups and local residents threw stones at one church building, shattering the windows. Then on 29 June, three groups of masked intruders burst into another building in Pugaram, dressed in black and shouting “Allah is great”. They vandalised property and posters on display. This incident coincided with the start of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. Pray for protection for Christians in the area and that the intimidation and violence against them will cease. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Fri, Sep 2014 00:00

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