Open Doors recently asked a few believers from Uzbekistan how they see things playing out in their country now that long-term president Islam Karimov has passed. One protestant believer, who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons, says, “I don’t expect drastic changes. Christians in Uzbekistan will continue to experience harassment by the government.”
A pastor who also didn’t want to be named, added: “The attitude of the government towards us, will not change, no matter who becomes the new leader. Of course, we hope for a better scenario. But we have to be realistic: our government is always afraid of any manifestation of dissidents. It is not clear how, but unfortunately Christian believers fall into the category of potential religious extremists.”
Another pastor of a secret church in Uzbekistan shared, “The situation with the persecution of Christians will turn to be even worse. Actually, as it seems, it was [new president Shavkat Mirziyoyev ] who initiated or was at least involved in the persecution of the Uzbek Protestant Church and converts from the Muslim background.”
Based on these responses and expert opinions, it’s unlikely there will be any major changes for the better for the Uzbek persecuted church. An Open Doors worker requests prayer: “We don’t know the details of God’s plan for Uzbekistan, but we know that His intentions are the best possible for the country and the people. We pray for the new president and trust our Lord. Do we want religious freedom to come? Many Uzbek Christians would surely say ‘Yes!’ But if the situation will improve, we don’t know. What we do know is that He has always been gracious and He will continue to be gracious. We ask our supporters to pray that His will be done in Uzbekistan.”
Open Doors estimates there are around 200,000 Christians in Uzbekistan, but during the last decade not a single church has been able to register. Unregistered religious activity is outlawed, while even registered churches face pressure from the authorities. Muslim converts have to deal with the added pressure from Muslim family members and local communities who oppose their faith in Jesus Christ.
*Representative photo used to protect identities