Uzbek ministry leaders lose their case

By October 30, 2009

Uzbekistan (MNN) — Pastors and
leaders in Uzbekistan's Baptist Union went to trial over false charges related
to their children's camp ministry, Joy Baptist Children's Camp.   

"Camp Joy" serves hundreds of children
every summer and is well known as a Baptist non-profit enterprise.

Bob
Provost with Slavic Gospel Association says despite all evidence to the contrary, a judge convicted Pavel
Peichev, Head of Uzbekistan's Baptist Union and two colleagues. "The sentence eliminates the president
of the Baptists, the director of the camp, and the book keeper; [they] would be
out of ministry. Secondly, they would have to pay $14,000."  

Specifically, the ruling deprives
Peichev and Yelena Kurbatova, the Union's accountant, and Camp director Dmitri Pitirimov of the right to lead an organization's
administrative and financial activity for three years. 

According to Forum 18, the imposed fine is the equivalent of 260
times the monthly minimum wage for each conviction, allegedly for tax evasion
and teaching children religion illegally. The Baptist Union will also have to pay to the
State Budget the allegedly unpaid taxes on their income from the Children's
Camp.

Provost says the team doesn't
want to let the conviction stand, so they are planning to appeal within 10
days. The move is so hostile it's raising more questions. "The camp
director believes that the authorities want to change the leadership of the
Baptist Union and somehow gain control over the churches."

The bottom line? Pray. "We have a government that wants to
eliminate evangelical Christianity from their soil. The Bible says that God can
change the heart of a king. If He can change the heart of a king, He can change
the heart of a judge."

Ironically, the verdicts come as Uzbekistan
continues encouraging intolerance of people exercising freedom of religion or
belief.

Yet, the distribution of religious material is
legal in Uzbekistan, although materials not approved by the State Committee for
Religious Affairs are not. Officials who
claim that the material would be used to convert Muslims often confiscate it. That
means Bibles, Christian literature and films.

Pray for continued strength for Christians
facing charges and harassment from authorities.

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