What does persecution look like in Uzbekistan?
Uzbekistan's authoritarian regime continues to restrict religious freedom through a Religion Law that requires all religious groups to register to engage in religious activity.
Although all Christians experience some pressure, officially registered churches, such as the Russian Orthodox Church, experience less scrutiny from the government as they don't tend to engage with the Uzbek population and so are seen as less of a threat. Non-traditional churches, however—especially those who have been unable to obtain registration—are particularly prone to police raids, threats, arrests and fines. Baptist, Evangelical and Pentecostal groups are most at risk; in fact, they're prone to being viewed as "extremists" by the government, which suspects them of being spies trying to destroy the government.
Christians are a tiny minority in this predominantly Muslim culture, and indigenous believers who come from Muslim backgrounds face severe pressure for their faith from their families, local communities and the authorities.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
It is common for Christians to face hostility from the authorities throughout Uzbekistan, but converts face greater pressure from their families and local communities in rural areas, particularly in the Fergana Valley in the east.
“There was a call for repentance in the church. No one called me. No one pushed me to repent. I came out by myself. I was told that I could turn to God in my native language. I repeated the prayer, and I couldn't understand how easy it was to turn to God."Nira, a Christian convert in Central Asia
What has changed this year?
There was some hope for an improvement in the situation in Uzbekistan after the death of President Islam Karimov. But it appears that Uzbekistan may actually be going downhill again, as restrictions on religion have continued to be enforced.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Uzbekistan?
Open Doors strengthens persecuted Christians in Central Asia by providing Bibles and Christian literature, biblical and vocational training, medical and social care, socio-economic development projects, and children's, youth and women's ministries.
How can you pray for Uzbekistan?
- Please pray that Christians who have been victims of police raids will have the courage to continue to worship together.
- Pray that the Holy Spirit will change the hearts of the Uzbek authorities, so they would recognise the valuable role Christians place in society.
- Ask that believers who have lost their jobs for their faith will find the means to earn a living and provide for their families.
Heavenly Father, You know the price that many believers in Uzbekistan pay for following You. May they know deeply today that You see their pain and You honour their sacrifice. Protect church gatherings from raids, watch over those who are under surveillance, and soften the hearts of those who persecute Your people. Heal those who are carrying pain, and may the comfort they receive from You overflow to those around them, including those who don't yet know You. Amen.