For more on my Lenten Focus, see my Ash Wednesday post. A quick summary is that I am spending Lent fasting and praying for the Persecuted Church, and I invite you to join me.
Uzbekistan is number 15 on Open Door’s World Watch list, and the Christians there face severe persecution. Uzbekistan is a country in Central Asia tucked among the rest of the ‘stans: it’s south of Kazakhstan, north of Turkmenistan–lost to most of us in a jumble of unfamiliar geography and language. These lands don’t seem to have much to do with our lives, but if we believe the Bible, then Christians anywhere in the world are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to pray and help them.
Uzbekistan, which gained independence in 1991, is Central Asia’s most populous country and one of the poorest. It is the world’s fifth largest cotton exporter and much of its agriculture centers around cotton. President Karimov has held office since 1990. The country’s authoritarian regime has been blamed for vast human rights abuses, including the systematic use of torture. Uzbekistan has been listed as a Country of Particular Concern by the USCIRF since 2005.
Though a secular state, Uzbekistan’s religion law bans unregistered religious activity. The government relentlessly persecutes Christians, especially active congregations. Almost all Christians are ethnic minorities, who are treated with particular harshness. Proselytism is illegal. In the southeast, police have campaigned to prevent children from attending worship services. Uzbekistan’s secret police carry out phone taps and surveillance on places of worship, occasionally recruiting informers to infiltrate church activities. Because it is nearly impossible to obtain church registration, there are about 65 unregistered fellowships scattered throughout the country. Christians also face raids, literature confiscations, heavy fines, public humiliation, property seizure, job dismissal, beatings and torture. Observers report that torture is widely used to force adults and children to renounce their religious beliefs or to implicate themselves or others. Authorities routinely extend the sentences of religious prisoners, a practice that appears aimed at keeping religious prisoners incarcerated indefinitely. An official with the Council on Religious Affairs (CRA) told reporters in 2013 that Uzbek law only allows religious texts to be read within buildings belonging to officially registered religious groups, and the CRA issued a decree in 2014 which bans all materials that “distort” beliefs or encourage people to change their religion.
- For Uzbek Christians who are under constant scrutiny, especially in their homes
- For strength for believers who are under pressure to betray their fellow Christians
- Obtaining a Bible can be difficult for many Christians; pray that Christian materials and Bibles will get into their hands without consequences from the government