When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, Islam Karimov, the former Communist Party leader was elected president of the new country. Despite an agreement to political reform, widespread political corruption continues and repression (including of religious believers of all faiths) has escalated in recent years.
Uzbekistan is a secular state, promoting a moderate, tightly controlled form of Islam. The growing Islamist movement is handled with venom by the state. Christians are third-party victims of this struggle. Believers among non-Muslim minorities have more freedom. Ethnic Uzbek Christians, in particular, receive harsh treatment.
Religious communities are required to officially register. Only approved religious organizations—Muslim groups, Jews, Russian Orthodox and some Protestant groups—can be registered, and registration is frequently refused or delayed. Police make surprise visits to churches and forcibly close those who cannot immediately produce registration papers. Evangelism, missionary activity and religious instruction are forbidden by law.
The distribution of religious material is legal in Uzbekistan, but only of material approved by the State Committee for Religious Affairs. Officials claim that the material could be used to convert Muslims and often confiscate Bibles, Christian literature and films. In September 2010, the government fined a Christian man for owning an Uzbek version of the JESUS film. In November, the government confiscated Christian books from a youth group returning from Kazakhstan.
Uzbek Christians have been fined, beaten and imprisoned for their faith. In January 2010, a young Christian man was arrested in Syrdarya region on charges of producing or storing drugs. At the police station, the young man was reportedly pressured and threatened to renounce his faith. When he refused, police allegedly planted drugs on him. In May, three Christians were given 15-day jail terms, following a raid on the Church of Christ in Tashkent. Five other members of the church were fined at the same trial.
- Pray that imprisoned Uzbek Christians will be released.
- Pray for continued strength for Christians facing charges and harassment from authorities.
- Pray that the government of Uzbekistan will allow Christians to worship freely in the county.