UZBEKISTAN: PERSECUTED BELIEVERS SPEAKING OUT
(By Anneta Vyssotskaia)
Religious intolerance in the predominantly Muslim Uzbekistan has
escalated after the anti-government uprising in Andijan in May
2005. The authorities have tightened control of the ‘other-minded’
and the measures taken against them. Officially there is freedom of
religious belief, and Westerners who live in Uzbekistan, Russians,
Koreans and other groups who practise Christianity enjoy the luxury
of worshipping God freely. However, the Uzbek Christian minority is
under constant threat from the authorities as well as Muslim
nationalists. Uzbeks who accept and practise Christianity are
immediately attacked by society, the authorities and even their own
families. Many Uzbek Christians live under the constant pressure of
daily persecution. Charities with Christian workers are under
pressure, with a significant number being closed for no stated
reason. In August 2005 the Forum 18 Russian journalist, Igor Rotar,
who specialises in the problems of religious minorities, was
deported on arrival in the country.
After the events in Andijan, action against Christians included
closing the only registered church ‘Emmanuel’ in Nukus,
Karapalkastan, because some of its activities were considered
‘missionary work’. Also cited was ‘religious agitation and
distribution of religious literature among the young people’, with
the main official reason for the closure being their ‘disobedience
to the authorities’ order’ to stop using the church building, which
was considered to be too old to be used.
Other persecution of Protestant Christians after Andijan also
included arrests, interrogations, threats, beatings, tortures,
crackdown on Christian meetings and confiscation of Christian
literature. In one village the Christians’ homes were even cut off
from tap water to make them reconvert to Islam.
In Andijan an Uzbek pastor Bakhtier Tuichiev of the Full Gospel
Church ‘Resurrection’ with his family and church have been
continually persecuted by the local authorities for several years.
A former Muslim who became a Christian, Pastor Bakhtier received
theological education in a Korean seminary in Novosibirsk. Several
times this case attracted attention from various foreign
organisations including the US Embassy in Uzbekistan. In a letter
to the author of this RLP he wrote, ‘We are still facing
persecution, only it has become much worse.’ In November 2005 he
was interrogated by the police for nine hours a day over four days
with the purpose of making him close his church. However, after the
intervention of the US Embassy he was released and fined.
At Christmas he woke up in intensive care after a severe beating,
organised he thinks by the National Security Service. His church
and family suffer tremendous financial difficulties, and had to
sell some of their family furniture to help pay for his medical
treatment. He thanks God for his wife and church who prayed for
Despite the seeming total impossibility of withstanding the
pressure of the authorities and the Muslim population, the Uzbek
Christian minority are seeking to defend their rights and publicise
the truth about persecution in Uzbekistan. Writing to the author of
this RLP they asked for help in making their plight known to the
world. They ask their Christian brothers and sisters everywhere to
pray for the re-registration of the church in Nukus and for the
restoration of justice in Uzbekistan.
A small group of Christian lawyers in Tashkent is helping the
church ‘Emmanuel’ defend its rights in the Upper Economic court.
These Christian lawyers have other projects aimed at defending the
rights of the believers in Uzbekistan. However, the lawyers
emphasise their loyalty to the President and that they want to help
him establish a democratic and developed state in Uzbekistan.
Difficult though the situation is for Christians in Uzbekistan,
their number continues to grow – former criminals and drug addicts
change their lives for Jesus and start living a righteous life. It
is impossible to stop the process of spiritual revival.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:
* the re-registration of the church ‘Emmanuel’ in Nukus,
* God’s wisdom, protection and provision for the group of
Christian lawyers in Tashkent who defend the rights of persecuted
Christians in Uzbekistan, and that other Christian and human
rights groups will support them.
* Pastor Bakhtier Tuichiev’s healing and good health; for God’s
provision of finance and other needs of his family and his
Full Gospel Church ‘Resurrection’ in Andijan; for their ministry
and protection from the authorities and Islamic extremists.
* other individual Uzbek Christians and churches to be protected by
God and have more freedom for worship and evangelism.
* the Uzbekistan government to respond with justice in cases of
religious discrimination and persecution of Christians and other
religious minorities, and for the growth of religious tolerance
in Uzbek society as a whole.
‘I rise before dawn and cry for help, I have put my hope in your
word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night that I
may meditate on your promises. Hear my voice, in accordance with
your love; preserve my life, O Lord according to your laws.’ Psalm
SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE:
PERSECUTED BELIEVERS SPEAKING OUT IN UZBEKISTAN
The religious intolerance and official control of all religious
minorities including Christians has escalated since the May 2005
political uprising in Andijan. Ethnic Uzbek churches suffer most,
being persecuted by the state authorities and Muslim nationalists.
The Full Gospel Church ‘Resurrection’ in Andijan is continually
persecuted, along with their pastor Bakhtier Tuichiev who was
severely beaten at Christmas. A group of Christian lawyers in
Taskent is helping believers speak out about persecution, and is
working on getting the church ‘Emmanuel’ in Nukus, Karapalkastan,
re-registered after its closure by the authorities. Charities with
Christian workers are under pressure, with many being closed for no
stated reason. Uzbek Christians want the world to know about their
persecution and ask for prayer. They also believe it is impossible
to stop the process of spiritual revival.
Anneta Vyssotskaia is an RLP guest writer. Elizabeth Kendal, our
regular researcher and writer, is on leave.
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RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.
RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.