How many Christians are there in Uzbekistan?
Only about one per cent of Uzbekistan’s population are Christian: about 347,000 from the 33.6 million people. Almost the entire country is Muslim.
How are Christians persecuted in Uzbekistan?
Uzbekistan is largely Muslim, so any Christian who converts from Islam faces increased pressure from their family and community. Christians like these may be beaten or expelled from their communities. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to house arrest, which remains a common and socially accepted form of pressuring female converts. These girls and women also risk being kidnapped and married off to a Muslim – or, if she is already married, divorced and denied any possessions. As a result of all these risks, many converts from Islam are forced to hide their faith.
Though all Christians experience some level of persecution in Uzbekistan, Protestants are often the victims of the greatest pressure. Christians who are a part of these non-registered churches may be viewed as ‘extremists’, and the government believes church members are spies trying to destroy the government. Therefore, Christians and their churches may be monitored, and unregistered churches may be the victims of police raids, arrests and fines.
“The police asked us why we became Christians and demanded we renounce our faith.”Adam, an Uzbek Christian
What’s life like for Christians in Uzbekistan?
Church leaders, most of whom are men, are common targets for violations of rights in Uzbekistan. Typically, they will be fined, detained, denied exit visas to leave the country, or put under house arrest. They can be fined for such offenses as meeting illegally, possession of religious literature, having Christian songs on their smartphones and more.
The persecution of church leaders is a deliberate tactic, since targeting them causes a ripple effect, spreading fear and anxiety throughout their congregations. Pastors and lay leaders of unregistered churches in particular have been insulted, beaten and humiliated. Some men will be denied promotion at work, while others may lose their job altogether.
When a church does try to officially register, persecution can increase. Adam* attends a church that tried to register with the Uzbek government – it was unsuccessful, and led to more interrogation. “The police asked us why we became Christians and demanded we renounce our faith,” remembers Adam. “This had never happened before, even when we were fined in previous years. This happened because we asked for registration.”
*Name changed for security reasons
How can I help Christians in Central Asia?
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Uzbekistan. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors strengthens persecuted Christians in Central Asia by providing Bibles and Christian literature, training, socio-economic development projects, practical aid, and women, children and youth ministries.
Heavenly Father, we are acutely aware that living as a Christian in Uzbekistan can carry enormous challenges and even danger. Encourage, equip and empower believers in the face of pressure and persecution, and may all hostility against them soften. Grant leaders wisdom and discernment as they navigate state restrictions, and keep them in good health and spirits. Keep and protect Your children. Amen.