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Uzbekistan campaigns against evangelicals, believers imprisoned

By June 30, 2008

Uzbekistan (MNN) — The tide of persecution against Christians is rising in Uzbekistan to levels unseen in recent history. The government is using media to incite hatred toward believers. And now, police are actually arresting evangelical leaders, says Vice President of Russian Ministries Sergey Rakhuba.

Rakhuba says, "Recently the state launched programs using state-owned media describing Christians as terrorists supported by western terrorist organizations, [saying] that pastors are there just to make money and that's why they do all these outreach programs."

Police also started their campaign against Christians. Rakhuba says, "We just received a letter from our coordinator there with a prayer request that several pastors were arrested. Their computers were seized, their information was carefully evaluated. and some of them are still in prison today. "

They're being charged with the promotion of terrorist activity.

While some groups have been allowed to register with the government, Rakhuba there isn't much religious freedom. "For national evangelical Christians–and I'm talking about Uzbek people–if they are Christians, they are not allowed to have any activities. And if you show any signs of active faith, you will be persecuted for that."

While the oppression is growing, it's not stopping the church. "Despite any persecution, any oppression, any evil plans that the Islamic state is directing against Christians, the evangelical church is growing underground, and it's exciting to witness that," Rakhuba adds.

Russian Ministries sponsors Schools without Walls, a program to help prepare young Christians for leadership in the church. Despite the oppression, the program continues. "We have over 80 young potential Christian leaders in several locations all over Uzbekistan. It's not going slower. The only concern is that those young people and the leaders will be wise and prudent enough and have enough resources to continue."

In the meantime, Rakhuba is asking Christians to pray that believers will be bold in the witness, strong in their faith and wise in their planning.

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