Uzbekistan (MNN) — Violence against Christians continues to rise in Uzbekistan as the government comes down hard on practically anyone affiliated with any type of religious movement. The government appears to be nervous over any form of revolt, but especially over Islamic radicalism.
Uzbekistan is ruled by long-time President Islam Karimov, and according to Reuters, Karimov has noted the growth in Islam militancy as a threat. Joel Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association affirms that this may be part of the reason for such harsh treatment toward believers.
"The government basically is concerned about extremism in any way, and they're concerned about Muslim extremism. To be able to justify a crackdown on that, then they have to crack down on everybody, whether they're extremist or not," says Griffith. "I think that probably is what the government's mindset is. They don't want Islamic radicalism to get out of hand, but in cracking down on that, they basically feel like they have to keep their thumb on everything."
Islamic extremism has been high in Uzbekistan and may very well be the reason for caution toward any religious group. Last October, Muslim radicals grew violent after the town council refused to create a celebration for the end of Ramadan holiday Eid al-Fitr, according to ISN News. ISN says other Muslim groups plan to turn Uzbekistan into an Islamic state. In an effort to put an end to this kind of activity, the government has grown severe in its punishments.
Human rights groups in the country believe that the government maintains true disdain for more than Islamic groups. According to Reuters, rights groups believe that the government actually does desire to exterminate all religious influence in the country. This would suggest that the government not only has to go after Christian groups, but it wants to do so.
A fear of Muslim extremism mixed with a likely disdain for other religions does not bode well for Christians. Regardless of what the government's true motives are, Christians are still being violently persecuted. It's hard to say whether pressure from the west would be beneficial or not in quelling this problem. In some instances, western pressure has been well received, and in others it has backfired.
What is certain to be effective, however, is prayer, says Griffith, "because prayer works where human effort doesn't."
Pray that the government would stop directing its anxiety over other extremists toward believers. Pray also for the strength of the believers in Uzbekistan and other Slavic nations.
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