Uzbekistan, a small landlocked country in Central Asia, is rarely in the news. Prior to 1991, it was part of the Soviet Union and fell under communist rule. Today Uzbekistan is a republic and has adopted Islam as its main religion. The Uzbek Christian community is so small that out of a population of 27.5 million, only 208,500 are Christian. It would be a mild understatement to say that being an Uzbek Christian is very difficult.
In Uzbekistan Christians face intimidation, threats, fines, and the possibility of being expelled from their workplace or residence. Negative pictures and ideas of Christians are often portrayed in the media increasing the harassment by authorities and society. In addition laws have been changed to restrict religious freedom. Anyone involved in distributing Christian literature faces large fines or imprisonment. Hardly a week passes without a Christian getting arrested. Held without cause they face the possibility of being sentenced to prison.
Such was the case for Tohar Haydarov (27). Born a Muslim but converted to Christianity, he was constantly under pressure to return to Islam. Arrested in January 2010, he was later sentenced to 10 years in prison for possession of drugs; charges that he and others vehemently deny. Fellow church members insist that the police planted the drugs and wrote petitions on his behalf testifying that he is an innocent and good man to no avail.
Also in Uzbekistan educating children in the Christian faith is prohibited. For Dilnara, a Christian single mother, this restriction came at a high cost. Working as a teacher Dilnara was fired for speaking out against the schools director. The director became angry and took revenge by accusing her of distributing Christian literature and forcing children to believe in Jesus. Fined over $ 600, Dilnara and her children quickly became outcasts in their village. Dilnara was even asked to not apply for several positions after potential employers received a warning that she was a believer. Forbidden to leave her city, Dilnara is under constant surveillance and is forced to visit the police station weekly for interrogations.
Open Doors is hosting a letter writing campaign for Tohar. Please write to this brother while in prison, your letters will let him know that he is not alone. Dilnara asks for your prayers; unable to find a job she asks for us to pray that God will provide for all of her family’s needs.
*photo: International Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians and Baptists