Uzbekistan (MNN) — The oppression facing evangelical churches in Uzbekistan continues to grow, and according to one mission leader, it doesn't appear to be easing any. Reports indicate the pressure is mounting. However, this may be the fuel needed to see church growth explode, says Sergey Rakhuba, Vice President of Russian Ministries.
According to Forum 18 News, Uzbekistan handed down 15-day sentences for three Protestant Christians from a registered church earlier this week. Forum 18 also learned three others, arrested after a raid on the Tashkent church, were each fined 80 times the minimum monthly wage. Two other Protestants were fined five times the minimum monthly wage. Six computers seized during the raid were ordered to be given to the state, and orders were given to destroy seized Christian literature.
Rakhuba describes the raid: "Police, National Security Service (NSS) secret police, tax inspectors, fire brigade, and sanitary-epidemiological service raided a Russian Protestant Church in Tashkent that has been there for years and years."
Open Doors USA ranks Uzbekistan 10th on their World Watch List of countries where persecution of Christians is most prevalent.
Rakhuba doesn't believe it will get any better. "They're creating more and more pressure to push out all religious influence, especially evangelical Christians and all missionaries that had a chance to work there for the last decade and a half. They were all kicked out."
Many western organizations were forced to close their ministries. However, Russian Ministries continues working there because nationals do all the work.
Rakhuba describes the charges. "They are charged with the 'unlawful act' of having a service in a registered building, in a registered church, and having Christian literature. Apparently, a Bible isn't allowed any more. It's a prohibited book all of a sudden."
Russian Ministries is providing training in this area of the world because the need is so great. Rakhuba says church growth is happening because of the persecution, just like it did during his time in the Soviet Union. "Small home churches are starting everywhere. These young people want to continue to spread the Gospel. Despite pressure, they continue carrying the torch and faithfully expanding God's kingdom."
Funding is needed to help train the next generation church leaders who are growing in number. Rukhuba says, "It takes about $360 for one person to get through our training program there, led by experienced pastors under very serious risk of spending a few years in prison for that activity."
Funding is also needed to replace literature — Bibles, books and other resources — to help these new leaders grow in their faith and have the tools they need to lead more people to Christ.