Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 361 - Wed 18 Jan 2006
--------------------------------------------- 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 him.
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, Karapalkastan.
* 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 119:147-149
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.
Please send this RLP to others, with attribution to World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty Prayer List <[email protected]> ----------------------------------------------------
The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this 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.
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