Uzbekistan Sends Conflicting Messages to Christians

By March 5, 2007

Uzbekistan (MNN) — Uzbekistan continues to keep Christians on their guard. Two Pentecostal Christian men are now facing charges of "violating the law on religious organizations" while another was released.

Voice of the Martyr's Canada's
Glenn Penner said, "This is useless harassment and its quite unnecessary in a country which claims to have religious freedom and yet for all intensivepurposes is sliding very rapidly in recent months towards restrictions that we use to see in the former Soviet Union.

Protestant activity is illegal in the area where the two men are part of an underground church.  Religious harassment is common and worship often is held many kilometers from town to avoidit.  "Religious laws in Uzbekistan are rather vague and hard to define.  Registration is extremely hard. Congregations are officially required to register but, nonetheless, they are often harassed and registration is often refused or delayed, and so, many churches just finally just go ahead and worship anyhow," said Penner.

 "Registration in Uzbekistan is a way in which the government tries to exercise a degree control over the church,"he added.

On an optimistic note, a visiting Kazakh pastor was released after being arrested for possession of Christian literature.   "The Uzbek government tends to send conflicting messages. On one hand they're arresting some people and on the other hand they release others.  It just keeps the church there in a state of turmoil and uncertainty, and that's in a sense I think what they want," Penner said.

Penner said you can help by writing to Uzbek authorities asking them to respect the religious rights of their citizens.  Also, pray for brothers and sisters in Christ who are in Uzbekistan and for the men facing up to five years in prison.

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