In Uzbekistan earlier this year, police raided Urgench Baptists and threatened them with criminal prosecution for meeting at Easter. In August last year there was a raid on a Protestant meeting, and the interrogations and charges against the same Protestants continue. Women in an Urgench church continue to be targeted by male officials, accompanied by flagrant violations by police, bailiffs, and a court of due legal process. As persecution continues, please pray for boldness for these believers, that the Lord will use this situation to call many Uzbeks into his kingdom.
The President of Uzbekistan recently died. He had led the nation since 1989. Incredibly nearly half of the country's 32 million citizens were born after he came to power. His death has triggered an outpouring of grief, mixed with uncertainty about the future. Pray for openness to the Gospel in this time of uncertainty. Pray too for believers who can suffer severe persecution, that they would have courage and faith.
Exciting things are happening spiritually in Uzbekistan and many are coming to faith across the country. There are an estimated number of 8,000 Uzbek believers. Official churches are predominantly Russian speaking while Uzbek fellowships are generally underground house churches and no Uzbek church has yet got official registration. Severe persecution from the government keeps fellowships small but general despair in society is bringing many to put their hope in Jesus. Please pray for continued growth in the church and for the protection of those who meet to worship.
Religious persecution in Uzbekistan is driven by dictatorial paranoia and, to a lesser extent, organised corruption and Islamic extremism. No religious activities beyond state-run and controlled institutions are allowed, with Christians frequently branded as 'extremists'. As the leadership prepares for transition, taking into account the president's age and health, pressure is unlikely to diminish. Security forces have increased wire-tapping homes in order to find ‘extremists’. The crackdown has also targeted religious education of all types, and many control systems and mechanisms derived from the communist system are still in place. For example, it is up to the state to define the illegality of a meeting or a piece of literature. Pray for believers who are detained, fined, and even beaten for owning Christian materials and for pastors trying to lead their churches with very limited resources.
In Uzbekistan, the strict monitoring of all Christian activities has now intensified, even in the Orthodox Church. Outreach, training and youth activities are forbidden in unregistered churches - and in the last ten years only one new church was granted registration. Private Bible study meetings are always in danger of being closed down. Printing or importing Christian literature is also prohibited. Please pray for pastors trying to lead their churches with limited resources as well as for Muslim-background believers who experience great pressure from family and society.
Like thousands of other Uzbeks, Ona (name changed) moved to Novosibirsk, Russia, in search of better-paid work. There, she not only found work; she also found Jesus, through the friendship of two church-planters working to establish an Uzbek fellowship in the city. While attending house church meetings, Ona grew in faith. Last year, she returned home and was baptised by a local pastor. Two of Ona’s relatives have since come to faith and Ona also plans to ask a few of the senior women in the church to visit her mother.
Churches in Uzbekistan are often shut down and church leaders can be jailed for conducting worship services. Nevertheless, stories have emerged of pastors continuing with their ministry following their release from prison and of churches growing despite harassment by police. Give thanks for the courage of these church leaders and pray that the church in Uzbekistan would grow in number and in faith
Uzbek Christians face many obstacles - singing and preaching in the Uzbek language are prohibited and Uzbek Christian fellowships cannot obtain registration, without which their meetings are illegal. The persecution of Christians in Uzbekistan increased in 2009. In a change of strategy, the authorities broadcast a programme called In the Clutches of Ignorance several times on national television. The programme described Christians as Satanists and even accused them of deceiving children and using drugs and money in order to convert people to Christianity. The impact has been to intimidate Christians as well as promoting anti-Christian attitudes and behaviour. In spite of the persecution, the church in Uzbekistan continues to grow and many Christians are actively looking for ways to reach others with the gospel.
Population: 32,979,000 (2017)
Official languages: Uzbek
GDP (PPP) per capita: $7,023 (2017 est.)
Life expectancy: 68 years
Religions: 88% Muslim, 9% Eastern Orthodox, 3% other religions