Uzbekistan (MNN) — As religious oppression continues in Uzbekistan, ripple effects are reaching innocent children. Pastor Pavel Nenno, sponsored by the Slavic Gospel Association, was detained at the beginning of the month on illegal religious activity charges. The pastor's family is concerned for his health, as he has been sent to a strict confinement facility and has very high blood pressure.
"We really need people to pray that the Lord would intervene in the situation," said SGA's Joel Griffith, "that Pavel would be released, and that this case actually would be thrown out."
As a result of Nenno's imprisonment, his center for homeless children was shut down. One of the children who regularly attended Nenno's center went to play at a local train station because the center was closed. What started as innocent play soon had devastating results.
"Apparently the child slipped in front of a train, and his leg was severed," Griffith said.
On March 27, while Nenno was leading activities for the 65 children who regularly attend his center, police raided the building and confiscated two computers containing his communications with SGA. They also took Bibles, a small pastor's library, and Nenno's work files.
Although he was arrested at the time, Nenno was soon released, and the case was thought to be settled with a fine. However, Nenno was immediately arrested again after appearing in court and sentenced to 15 days in jail.
He faces several charges, including conducting illegal religious activities with children and using Christian literature in educational activities with children.
Nenno's wife asks for urgent prayer; he has been taken to a strict facility where the cells have no beds, and family isn't allowed to bring him food. Nenno has extremely high blood pressure, and his wife is meeting with the police officials in charge of this case.
Religious oppression has increased in Uzbekistan, with a rise in police raids, detentions of believers, and deportations of foreigners participating in religious activities. In a documentary aired last year on Uzbek television, missionary activities were placed on the same level as "religious dogmatism, fundamentalism, terrorism and drug addiction." But while churches in Uzbekistan feel increased governmental pressure, Griffith says religious oppression is not unique to the country.
"This seems to be something that's just spreading across those former Soviet republics in Asia which are largely Muslim in make-up."