Does Paying For A Persecuted Christian’s Fines Do More Harm Than Good?
When we hear the stories, we are prompted to act, and we jump into action. Oftentimes, however, we are prompted more by what our hearts are telling us, and we do not consider how the receiving party will be affected. This is often the case in Central Asia with outrageous fines being placed upon Christians for simply meeting in churches or possessing Christian materials. Regularly, when Open Doors writes about Christians from Uzbekistan, for example, who have to pay severe fines, we are frequently offered help by supporters who want to pay these fines. Though we are very thankful for this compassionate gesture, paying a fine from a country in the West can have consequences. While many are compelled to assist these persecuted Christians by removing their financial burdens, an Open Doors fieldworker shares an interesting perspective of why this may produce more harm than good: Why are fines imposed on Christians? Christians are fined, for example, for holding “illegal” church services. In order to hold a church service, it is necessary to have permission from the government. However, in the last ten years, no single application has received a positive response. Christians are also fined for possessing or distributing Bibles and Christian books. How high are these fines? Recently, the sums have varied between twenty and a hundred months’ salary. An average monthly salary in Uzbekistan is $33 American dollars. Is it sensible to pay a fine for a persecuted Christian in Central Asia from a country in the West? This is complicated. Three years ago, the fines were about $33 per infringement. Open Doors supported these believers who were not able to raise the money, but as a result of this, the amounts of fines went up, sometimes to over $2,673. On average, the fines are now around $1,000 per infringement. Not only were the sums increased, but the number of fines also increased. A policeman told a Christian who was fined, “The people who gave you this literature will simply have to pay the fine. Just ask them for it!” Simply paying the fine creates new problems. We are now bringing in lawyers, who are arranging for Christians to be able to pay off the fines in monthly installments. This approach has worked, but we are now also seeing that the police are coming to the homes of Christians and confiscating all of their possessions. We are considering in each case how we can best help these brothers and sisters. Please pray for our co-workers in this region: that God would grant them with His wisdom with how to act in each case. Please also pray for the strength, safety and encouragement of these believers. Pray for Uzbekistan