Uzbekistan (MNN) — Uzbekistan, a country in Central Asia, has added two new requirements for religious organizations applying for legal status. Forum 18 reports these requirements have made some Christian churches and groups fearful. The requirements are also against Uzbekistan’s international human rights obligations.
“As I understand this, these new restrictions target a couple of areas that are closely related. So, it might be hard to tell the difference between the two. Basically one of them is requiring any religious community there that is seeking religious status to provide a notarized copy of the country’s official recognition of religious education that’s been completed by the head of whatever the religious community is,” Slavic Gospel Association’s Joel Griffith explains.
And that’s only one of the new requirements.
“Whoever the head of the religious educational institution is—they also have to provide some notarized copy of the state’s official recognition of the religious education that the head of the institution completed,” Griffith shares.
Currently, little information is available as to what type of education is considered acceptable under the requirement. Griffith says there appears to be no official agency which currently recognizes foreign religious education in Uzbekistan. Forum 18 notes that fulfilling these new restrictions is presently impossible.
Persevering in Faith
Yet, Griffith says these kinds of restrictions are nothing new for churches in Central Asia.
“During the Soviet communist years…oppression was really severe. The churches are going to, of course, carry on their ministries as Christ commands them to do, regardless of what difficulties man puts in front of them. They may have to get more creative about the way that they do it,” Griffith says.
Churches across Central Asia have faced raids where Bibles and other religious materials have been confiscated. Summer camps in the region have also been raided and in some situations shut down. Griffith says this is hard on the churches SGA serves, but unless God intervenes, it’s unlikely the situation will change.
Be Prayerful, Be Active
Pray for believers in Uzbekistan as they try to obey these new laws while sharing the Gospel. Ask God to give them perseverance, encouragement, and strength to continue His work. Pray God would continue to use SGA to resource and train the church in the former Soviet Union.
“We need to be mindful just about how blessed we are here in Western nations to be able to worship freely, proclaim the Gospel freely, [and] evangelize freely,” Griffith shares.