UZBEKISTAN – HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE
“The Republic of Uzbekistan is completely surrounded by landlocked
countries. It retains a strategic position in Central Asia. It is a
multiparty republic in name only, as the autocratic dictator is firmly
in control with close ties to Russia. Economic production is
concentrated in commodities: cotton, gold, natural gas, coal, copper,
oil, silver, uranium. A fragile water supply is a strategic issue in
this heavily agriculturalist society. At harvest time, all students and
teachers are enslaved as unpaid labour to help in the fields. Revenues
from key exports are of little or no benefit to the people at large.
Uzbekistan is the main transshipment nation for the drug trade from
Afghanistan to Russia and on to Europe. Corruption permeates society.
The population is ~27,795,000 and the official language is Uzbek. Much
of the population is torn between the post-Soviet regime and the
Islamist movements. The government's "iron fist" policy is not
deterring thousands of jobless men from joining these movements.
~89.9% are Turkic, ~5.4% Iranian-Median, ~3.1% Eurasian, ~1.6% Other.
Uzbekistan is a secular state that promotes a moderate, tightly
controlled form of Islam, and strongly opposes the growing Islamist
movement. Christians are third-party victims of this struggle.
Proselytizing of Muslims is illegal - dynamic and evangelism-orientated
churches are relentlessly persecuted. Ethnic Uzbek Christians (there
are ~10,000 believers) receive particularly harsh treatment.
~84.93% are Muslim, ~13.8% Non-religious, ~0.75% claim to be Christian,
~0.2% Ethnoreligionist, ~0.16% Buddhist, ~0.16% Jewish.” 1
In Uzbekistan, the Christian Church has seen much harassment and persecution. Authorities have commanded raids, literature confiscation and court-ordered literature destruction as well as heavy fines, towards many Christians. On April 5, 2011, the National Security Service raided the home of Anvar Rajapov, a Christian believer. The police confiscated around 250 Christian materials, a computer and Rajapov's passport. Police also photographed Rajapov's children without his consent. Rajapov was convicted, on April 14, for the illegal storage of religious material, the illegal organization of meetings and for proselytizing. Rajapov was fined approximately $2,330 which is 80 times the minimum monthly wage. Local Christians claimed that the courts presented no evidence to support their charges against Rajapov. There have been other cases similar to Rajapov's. Uzbekistan's courts have repeatedly ordered the confiscation and elimination of religious literature such as Bibles. In April, 2011, two raids were conducted on the Hamza District Baptist Church. One of these raids saw thousands of Christian books, as well as some money, taken. A nearby Church-owned flat was raided, and printing equipment and tens of thousands of Christian books were taken. Four believers were fined between 50 and 100 times the minimum monthly wage. As well, the Church was fined approximately $4,090 for not using a cash register to record donations and sales. On March 13, 2011, in a supposed anti-terror operation police broke into a nursing home where some Baptist Christians were conducting a service. The Christians maintained that they had permission to conduct the service, however, the police argued that it was unauthorized. The Christians were interrogated and threatened for four hours as well as being called traitors and spies. The police confiscated a number of Christian materials as well as money.
One Bible society in Uzbekistan has also come under stiff opposition from the courts. It was fined approximately $189. for procedure violations in the import of two shipments of Bibles in 2008 and 2009. The court also ordered the Bible society to send back nearly 15,000 Bibles at its own expense. Officials claimed that the Bibles were confiscated because the Religious Affairs Committee did not receive the shipment request on time and, also, said that there was no reason to import Bibles to Uzbekistan, seeing that an Internet version was available. The Religious Affairs Committee holds tight control over the importation and production of religious literature in Uzbekistan. Only registered Churches are allowed to request such materials. A number of large shipments of Bibles, as well as children's Bibles, to Uzbekistan have been stopped by authorities. In 2008, the Religious Affairs Committee published on its website the following comment; “With concerted efforts of the Religious Affairs Committee and Customs and Justice authorities, the attempt of the Bible Society of Uzbekistan to transport into Uzbekistan illegal religious literature was prevented. ... Thus the plot to flood Uzbekistan with illegal literature in the language of native peoples with the purpose to conduct large-scale missionary activity especially among children and youth failed.” 2
Pray for the Church of Uzbekistan which is suffering under the difficult conditions. Pray that they would have all that they need to spread their faith in Uzbekistan. Pray for the Christians in Uzbekistan, that they would be able to forgive their persecutors. It is challenging for any of us to forgive the smallest acts of injustice perpetrated upon us. How much more challenging would it be to forgive horrific human rights atrocities perpetrated upon oneself or one's family. Yet, Jesus Christ forgave even to this extent. To follow Jesus in this kind of forgiveness is the greatest witness that a Christian can show to an unbelieving world. Forgiveness can be given and, still, with it call for human rights reforms.
Religious freedom must be granted to the Christian community of Uzbekistan. Christians must be granted the right to import and produce literature which teaches their faith and they must be granted the freedom to share it with others. This is a basic, fundamental aspect of freedom of religion. Repressive judicial rulings must be overturned and courts and judges in Uzbekistan must be serving, rather than harassing, their citizens. Now is the time for Canadian officials to investigate this situation and begin diplomatic talks with the government of Uzbekistan, calling for reforms in the way religious minorities, such as Christian, are treated. Diplomatic discussions must progress to stronger measures, such as sanctions, if these injustices are allowed to continue.
Write to your member of Parliament and express these concerns. Ask him or her to create diplomatic pressure to start the ball of freedom rolling for Christians in Uzbekistan.
1. Donna, Siemens. zionchristianministry.com International Page.
2. "UZBEKISTAN: BIBLE SOCIETY FINED." http://www.persecution.com
"UZBEKISTAN: BIBLE SOCIETY FINED." http://www.persecution.com
Mandryk, Jason. Operation World. Colorado Springs: Biblica Publishing, 2010
Siemens, Donna. zionchristianministry.com International Page.