Uzbekistan has long been recognised as one of the most repressive regimes in Central Asia with respect to religious freedom. Two incidents recently reported by Forum 18 only serve to enforce this viewpoint.
In the town of Dostabod, near the Uzbek capital Tashkent, police have charged a pastor with religion offences, after they bullied five children into writing statements against him, according to Forum 18.
The children, all of them orphans who live at the Special Children’s Boarding School No. 46, were granted permission in 2012 to start attending Pastor Sergei Rychagov’s church on Sundays. Their head teacher also allowed them to go to a private home next to the church on Saturdays, where they were able to eat, bath and work in the grounds of the church.
However, Forum 18 have reported that, late last year, police bullied the children into writing statements about what went on at the church. Using these statements as evidence, police then brought charges against Pastor Rychagov for violations of laws on religion.
Despite the fact that Pastor Rychagov has religious training and is the pastor of a state-registered church, he was accused of illegally teaching religion, and fined a hefty some of money – US$3,664 – at a court hearing on 27 February. He was not at the court hearing, as he was not informed about it until 22nd June, four months after it occurred.
In a separate case, in the Khorezm Region of Uzbekistan, police searched Pastor Stanislav Kim’s home and car on 20th July, after a woman complained that he had given two Christian books to her brother. Police seized his car, passport, several books and a notebook, and interrogated the pastor and two other Christians who were with him at the time of the raid. The pastor was accused of “teaching religion illegally”.
The publication and distribution of religious literature is subject to intense state control in Uzbekistan, and all Christian activity is illegal for members of unregistered churches.
- Pray for the two pastors as they face huge fines, which are way beyond their ability to pay. Pray for protection for them and their families.
- Pray for the Uzbek Church and Christians. Pray for protection for them, and wisdom as they seek to share their faith and worship in an increasingly hostile environment.
- Pray for the Uzbek Government to recognise Christianity and allow freedom of worship without fear.
- Pray for the spread of the Gospel in Uzbekistan, and the growth of the Uzbek Church.
Ephesians 6 vs 18: “Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.”
Source: https://www.barnabasfund.org, http://www.forum18.org/