Pastor’s four-year work camp sentence draws to an end

By January 28, 2011

Uzbekistan (MNN) — In January 2007, a unit of secret service members came to Dmitry Shestakov's door. They asked to speak to him for five minutes. When they all stepped outside, they did more than talk. The police took Shestakov away.

Shestakov was the pastor of registered Full Gospel church at the time of his arrest, which police claimed was a cover-up for his real identity as a member of a group of charismatic Pentecostals. Uzbek officials equate such worshipers with militant Islamic groups.

In June 2006, the secret police raided Shestakov's house, confiscating videos of his sermons, and demanding a list of his congregants. Shestakov refused, and he, his wife, and his three daughters went into hiding.

When the police tracked him down in 2007, they arrested Shestakov for illegal proselytizing of Muslims, and for "incitement of national, racial and religious enmity." The court claimed Shestakov had no chance of being "reeducated" unless he were isolated. Despite the international attention that was stirred by the case, the pastor was sentenced to four years in a work camp.

After four long years of endless work for Shestakov, and worry for his family (view a video about their struggle here), Shestakov has finally been released. Voice of the Martyrs, Canada recently confirmed that Shestakov was let go last week and greeted by two elders of the Andijan Church.

Praise God that Shestakov has been released. Pray that he would be reunited with his family, and that he would be able to continue ministry in whatever capacity God allows.

Pastors and faithful believers are a vital need for Uzbekistan. The country remains ninth on Open Doors' World Watch List.

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