What does persecution look like in Uzbekistan?
Freedom of religion remains severely restricted in Uzbekistan. Although the population is 96% Muslim, the government is staunchly secular and no religious activities beyond state-run and state-controlled institutions are allowed.
With the exception of foreign Christians, all Christians experience some form of pressure because of their faith. Russian Orthodox churches experience the fewest problems as they have adapted to government restrictions and tend to keep themselves separate from the Uzbek population. Churches from non-traditional denominations are frequently raided, and those who attend may be threatened, arrested or fined. Church leaders are fined, detained, denied exit visas to leave the country, or put under house arrest in an attempt to spread fear throughout their congregations. Pastors and lay leaders of unregistered churches in particular have been insulted, beaten and humiliated.
The Islamic culture is hostile towards those who convert to Christianity, and converts are likely to be pressured by their families to return to Islam. They may face house arrest, disinheritance, physical and verbal abuse, and eviction from the family home. In conservative regions, a convert may be kidnapped by their own community and married off to a Muslim. Local imams preach against them, adding pressure. As a result, most converts choose to hide their faith.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Christians from a Muslim background are most vulnerable to persecution. Apart from suffering at the hands of the state, they also face strong pressure from family, friends and community. Pressure from family, friends and community on converts is stronger outside urban areas, especially in the Fergana Valley in the east.
"After my conversion to Christianity, my brother wanted to have nothing to do with me... he became very angry as soon as he saw me and said: ‘Go away, what are you doing here? I don’t want anything to do with you!’ For 20 years we did not have contact with each other.”Aziz is a believer from a Muslim background, who regained a relationship with his brother after 20 years of ostracism
What has changed this year?
There has been little change for Christians in Uzbekistan in the last year. Improvement was expected when President Mirziyoyev came to power, but this has not materialised. There was a slight decrease in levels of violence recorded against Christians, but this was balanced by an increase in pressure on churches.
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, socio-economic development projects, and children's, youth and women's ministries.
How can you pray for Uzbekistan?
- Pray for God to protect secret believers. Pray that they draw close to God in their own covert times with Him
- Pray that God will soften the hearts of those who have rejected a family member for their Christian faith.
- Pray for bold faith for church leaders who are being monitored or threatened by the state.
Heavenly Father, encourage believers who follow you in secret. Help them to access Your word and Christian resources safely. Draw close to Christians who have been detained or imprisoned for their faith. Grant leaders the wisdom to navigate restrictions and monitoring on their churches. Replace fear and anxiety in congregations with fearless joy and hope. Build Your Church in Uzbekistan. Amen.