The Church’s Struggle in Uzbekistan

April 17, 2015 by Open Doors in Asia

Before Islam arrived in the region, communities of Eastern Christians existed. Beginning with Tamerlane, around 1400, Christianity was targeted and by the end of the century, the last two churches in Samarkand were destroyed. Christianity returned in the 19th century, when Russia conquered Central Asia.

As ARDA reported on May 15th, 2008, the government had registered 2,228 religious congregations and organizations- an increase of 1 from the 2,227 recorded in May 2007.

Open Doors reported that in the last 10 years, not a single Christian church has been registered.
Cooperation among churches is rather poor. There are denominational federations, especially when registered churches are concerned. But a broader alliance or council of churches is not possible. Notably, domestic churches widely are not included, even in informal contacts.

The country got back its independence in 1991, but it is still ruled by the former leader of the communist party for this region, while it is on the way of rediscovering its history and traditions and re-inventing an identity for the country. Islam in the country serves as the supranational form of identity.
In this process, some want to tie in the times when the universities and madrassas of Samarkand and Bukhara were famous for its scientific development and research and attracted people from all over the world. Others follow a more radical approach on religion which allows the use of violence. Groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Jihad Union, both connected with the al-Qaeda network, are the most prominent among them. Most of these radical elements were pushed out of the country and are fighting the international troops in Afghanistan at the moment.

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