WWL Ranking: 10
Leader: President Islam Karimov
Population: 27.5 million (5.2% Christian)
Majority Religion: Islam
Type of Government: Authoritarian
The Church in Uzbekistan
Before 1991 when Uzbekistan became an independent state there were only a handful of Uzbek believers. The Russian church had to function in secret and most of the Russian Christians did not have a vision to share the Gospel with the local population. However, in the beginning of the 1990s, Uzbek people started to come to the Lord. Gradually an indigenous Uzbek Church began to form, using indigenous Uzbek ways to worship and to share the Gospel. Music, poetry recital, story telling and other expressions of Uzbek culture are used in outreach.
Often church growth takes place through families. Relatives see the impact of the Gospel on a family member and come to faith as well. Even though open proselytizing is forbidden in the country, the number of Christians has increased rapidly over the last years.
Because it is almost impossible to get official registration with the government, most of the protestant groups have to work unofficially. They face fines, threats, beatings, prison, loss of jobs, confiscation of literature and many other things as many local authorities are very much against the presence of a Christian Uzbek Church. The pressure is particularly heavy in the Karakalpakstan autonomous region of North West Uzbekistan, but has spread over the country over the past year. People have become more cautious in asking about Christianity for fear of negative consequences from authorities.
In May 2008 Uzbek State television repeatedly broadcast an hour long program about Protestant churches. "In the Claws of Ignorance" encouraged hatred and intolerance of religious minorities. The program continues to be used by officials to warn the people of Uzbekistan against Christians. It was repeated several times (most recently in September 2009) and produced on DVD. The impact is very intimidating and it resulted in an active anti-Christian promotion.
Christian cell group leaders in Karakalpakstan have been on the target list of security services for a long time. Some of the leaders have left the country; others face trials, have to pay enormous fines or spend time in prison.
Sources of Oppression and Persecution
1. Government control of the Uzbek Church through the SNB (former KGB) is very strong. All religious communities have to be registered, but for the Protestant church to obtain registration is a long, tiresome and almost impossible process. Often registration is refused or after it has been granted it is withdrawn again. There is no Uzbek indigenous church with registration.
Ask God to strengthen the church to firm under pressure. Pray also that one day the Church in Uzbekistan will be recognized by the government.
2. Indigenous church leaders and those who are active in outreach to the Uzbek population are regularly ‘invited’ to the police station for questioning; believers are intimidated, threatened, fined, expelled from their place of work and/or residence and frequently imprisoned for several days, a few weeks or several years.
Pray for the head of the Baptist Union, who was fined and banned from leading his church for holding a youth camp.
3. Literature import and in country printing is strictly monitored and censured. National and local authorities regularly confiscate Christian literature in the Uzbek language and other indigenous languages. Serious fines are handed out to those who are involved in the distribution of Christian literature.
Pray the Lord provides ways in which this literature can safely reach those who desire to know more.
4. Pressure from the Muslim family members can be very strong on new believers.
Pray for these men and women that they may stand strong against these pressures, and in turn may be able to share Christ with their family members.
5. Local community leaders put pressure on Christians by cutting off water supplies and/or electricity, etc. to force them out of the village or to make them renounce Christianity.
Pray that despite their persecution, these believers' physical needs will be met.