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Police arrest 80 church leaders in raid on meeting in Uzbekistan

Country/Region: Uzbekistan, Central Asia

Police detained 80 church leaders in a raid on a ministry training gathering in Uzbekistan; they confiscated Bibles and Christian books, which were later destroyed by a court order.

A map showing the location of Uzbekistan

The raid took place at a centre in the village of Sailyk, outside the capital Tashkent, on 1 December. Officers insulted those present and took their fingerprints. Police said that people must worship “only in registered places specifically set up for religious purposes”.

Four leaders were charged with offences under the country’s harsh laws regarding religious practice, including violating the procedure for holding religious meetings, carrying out unauthorised religious activity and teaching religious beliefs without permission.

They were each fined more than a year’s salary in Uzbekistan and are appealing against the ruling.

On 24 December, a court ordered that Bibles confiscated during the raid must be destroyed, despite the fact that the Committee on the Religious Affairs of Uzbekistan officially recognises the Bible as a legitimate text. 

Growing persecution

A church leader from Tashkent told Barnabas Aid that the persecution and arrest of Christians has been on the rise since September, peaking over the Christmas season. He said that even registered churches have faced harassment and a number of pastors have been fined substantial sums. 

In one incident, an unregistered house church gathering in Tuiteppa was raided on 18 November. Timur and Irina Kholmatov, the couple who live there, and another woman, Marina Khvan, were fined between 20 and 100 times the minimum monthly wage for meeting together, reading their Bibles, singing Christian songs, praying and possessing religious books without state permission.

A large amount of Christian media, including Bibles, books, leaflets and cassettes, was confiscated; a court subsequently ordered that the books and Bibles be destroyed.

Uzbekistan is officially a secular state, but a strict religion law severely limits all religious activities, making it one of the most restrictive countries for religious freedom in Central Asia. Police frequently raid all types of Christian gatherings.

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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  • “Jesus Christ performed tremendous miracles in all our lives through this Shalom Camp.” A pastor spoke of how God had worked through a Barnabas-sponsored weekend Bible camp for persecuted Christians in Sri Lanka. The camp was attended by believers from five different churches that had been the target of threats or attacks by Buddhist or Hindu extremists. The participants heard teaching on the Biblical basis for persecution and took part in group discussions; they came away refreshed and encouraged, and for many the camp was a time of great spiritual renewal. Give thanks to the Lord for the peace He has brought to these persecuted believers, and ask that the weekend will continue to bear much fruit in their lives. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Wed, Apr 2014 00:00

  • Pray for a church leader in Sri Lanka, S.S. Johnpillai, who was threatened at gunpoint by attackers who claimed to be Special Forces officers. The minister was in a hut next to his church building in Guadalupe, Trincomolee when, he said, the men “appeared out of nowhere”. The intruders put a gun to Johnpillai’s head and accused him of holding a Communion service in honour of the founder of the Tamil Tigers, the government’s opponents in the country’s long and bloody civil war. The government had that day made it a criminal offence to commemorate the group. The gunmen ignored Johnpillai’s protests that he had not dedicated Communion to the group’s founder, and they threatened to shoot him. Ask the Lord to support and strengthen Johnpillai as he recovers from this terrifying ordeal. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Apr 2014 00:00

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  • Condemned Christian mother Aasia Bibi’s final appeal hearing is scheduled to take place tomorrow (14 April) having been deferred twice. She was sentenced to death for blasphemy in November 2010 having been falsely accused of insulting Muhammad following an argument with Muslim co-workers. Aasia has been languishing in jail since the accusation was made in June 2009. Pray that her appeal will finally go ahead and that the judges will have the courage to acquit and release Aasia; there are concerns that they may give in to pressure from hardline Islamists who have been calling for her execution. Pray that Aasia, her husband and children will know the Lord’s peace as they await the verdict. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Apr 2014 00:00

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