Religious Intolerance Escalates in Uzbekistan, Commission Reports

Religious intolerance in the predominantly Muslim Uzbekistan has escalated since an anti-government uprising in Andijan in May 2005.

Religious intolerance in the predominantly Muslim Uzbekistan has escalated since an anti-government uprising in Andijan in May 2005, where hundreds are thought to have died when government security forces attacked unarmed, peaceful protesters.

After the events in Andijan, authorities have tightened control and taken measures against Christians including closing the only registered church in Nukus, Karapalkastan, because some of its activities were considered “missionary work,” according to the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC). Other reasons given for the church closure included “religious agitation and distribution of religious literature among the young people” and “disobedience to the authorities’ order” to stop using the church building because it was too old.

In addition, charities with Christian workers are also under pressure, with a significant number being closed without reason, reported the WEA Commission in its recent Liberty Prayer Bulletin.

Other persecution of Protestant Christians after the Andijan uprising include 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, the RLC reported.

Officially, there is freedom of religious belief and foreigners who live in Uzbekistan –such as Russians, Koreans, and other groups who practice Christianity – can worship God freely.

However, the Uzbek Christian minority is under constant threat from the authorities as well as Muslim nationalists. According to the WEA, Uzbeks who accept and practice Christianity are immediately attacked by society, authorities, and even their own families. Many Uzbek Christians live under constant pressure of daily persecution.

In Andijan, an Uzbek pastor named Bakhtier Tuichiev, his family, and church – the Full Gospel Church “Resurrection” – has been continually persecuted by the local authorities for several years. He was a Muslim who converted to Christianity and received theological education in a Korean seminary in Novosibirsk.

“We are still facing persecution, only it has become much worse,” said Tuichiev in a letter to WEA RLC.

In November 2005 the church pastor was interrogated by police for nine hours a day for four days, fined, and during Christmas he was severely beaten and spent the holiday in intensive care.

“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,” the RLC concluded.

Despite the difficulties, the Commission noted in its religious liberty bulletin that Christians in Uzbekistan continue to grow in numbers and that former criminals and drug addicts are changing their lives for Jesus and starting to live righteous lives.