Uzbekistan (MNN) — The #10 country on Open Doors World Watch List is cracking down harder on Christians than ever before. The Uzbek government fears that Christians will cause social unrest.
Several unjust rulings have been made against Christians since the start of 2010. The homes of numerous Christians as well as churches have been raided, and many Christians have been fined for sharing their faith, holding religious services, and illegally distributing Christian literature, according to Forum 18 News.
Within the last three months, however, pressure has increased to the point of unlawful imprisonment.
"In the last several months, 10 Christians have been sentenced to administrative detention for their Christian activities–that can mean something as simple as holding a Bible study in their home," says Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA. "This is four times the amount of detentions that we saw last year."
It's unclear as to exactly why the crackdown has gotten so much worse so quickly. Moeller confirms, however, that the Uzbek government favors uniformity, not diversity. A rise in numbers of any group could be considered social and political dissension.
It has also been indicated that the government may be concerned that Christianity will lead to terrorism. Forum 18 reports one instance in which the Uzbek government delivered a verdict fining two Christians for distributing Christian literature on the street "without appropriate documentation." The verdict notes that these charges were made during an "Anti-Terror" operation.
"Christianity, as a minority religion in these places, is seen as a disruptive influence. And some may associate disruption with the concepts of terrorism as that region may define them," explains Moeller. "Of course, we know that that's not the case. Christians are not working for any political overthrow of a government, or a way of life, or anything like that."
Moeller says the situation in Kyrgyzstan with immigrant Uzbeks (some of them Christians) fleeing back to Uzbekistan has likely ramped up hostile feelings toward Christians. Regardless of any logical reasoning behind this upswing, however, Moeller says conditions have seldom been worse. "Our contacts in the region tell us that since the fall of the Soviet Union, things have rarely been tighter and more restrictive on the churches there."
Beyond putting the integrity and wellbeing of believers on the line, the Uzbek government has also caused uninterrupted evangelism to be difficult. "This has a chilling effect on the capacity of individuals to share their faith, to open Bible studies up to neighbors, and to allow people to come to their churches with honest questions," confirms Moeller.
Despite the present danger, evangelical Christians are still reaching out and living the Gospel. Uzbek Christians ask for your prayers as they travel this difficult road. Pray for boldness, for safety, and for relief from such heavy persecution. Pray that this crackdown would strengthen the church and not weaken it.
You can also be an advocate for Uzbek Christians by contacting your local representatives about the issue and urging them to respond to the injustice. Click here for a list of U.S. representatives.