(MNN) — Over the last two years, Uzbekistan's government has
expelled most foreign groups.
For Operation Mobilization, that meant that all of their
international team members were forced to leave. That has forced OM to close
down their 16-year-old ministry in Uzbekistan.
The situation has been a deteriorating one. It's roughly the
same timeframe since the government suppression of the popular uprising in
Andijan. Since then, the politics of Uzbekistan have turned, and the
government has begun a new period of heavy Christian persecution.
The Open Doors' World Watch List 2007 (list of the world's
worst persecutors of Christians) ranks Uzbekistan #11 out of
the top 50 countries on the list. Mission
groups also indicate the people, in general, in Uzbekistan consider Christians as
followers of a western religion or members of an extremist sect.
However, OM's team has
partnered with others to train, empower and disciple many new believers, so the
church continues to grow. However,
Christians from an Islamic background in remote parts of the country also
encounter resistance from fundamentalist Muslims and are put under pressure to
return to their former faith.
Praise God for the growing Uzbek church and pray that it
would flourish and endure. Pray, too, for the handful of Uzbek OM staff who continue
to minister in their homeland.