Uzbekistan continues to raid, arrest, fine, and jail people who attempt to exercise their freedom of religion and belief. Those who possess religious literature are targeted in particular. Such literature is routinely confiscated when it is found outside the premises of a place of worship that has state permission to exist.
After a police raid in which religious literature was found in the private houses of two Protestants, Shokir Rakhmatullayev and Dmitri Inyushev, in Termez, both men were jailed for five days. On Nov 9, Judge Bakhriddin Ikramov ordered the believers, Rakhmatullayev and Inyushev, to pay 15 percent each of one month’s minimum salary as compensation for the costs of jailing them.
Two members of a state-registered Baptist church in Zarafshan, Pastor Dmitri Butov and his wife Svetlana Butova , were accused of having religious literature. Contrary to Uzbekistan’s laws, they did not receive the verdict for their “offence.” Officials have also illegally frozen the couple’s bank accounts and taken money from them. Officials refuse to answer questions related to the case, which is still under investigation after their appeal. The Butovs are still unable to access to their own money.
Uzbekistan is number 15 on the World Watch List of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. It has one of the harshest dictatorships in Central Asia. The regime will do everything possible to stay in power—all forms of opposition and deviations from the norm are ruthlessly opposed. Christianity is regarded as an alien and destabilizing factor. On top of this, Christian converts from a Muslim background (Muslim Background Believers, MBBs) experience additional pressure from their social and cultural environment. Pray for these bold Christians, for their courage to possess Christian literature so that they and others might know and understand the Bible. Pray for their protection and for provision to pay the fines.
Thank You, Father, that Your Word is going forth in Uzbekistan with power and authority, even in the midst of strong opposition. Thank You for the faithfulness of Your servants there as they continue to boldly share the gospel through the literature they have. For those who have been arrested, we pray that You will provide a dismissing of charges or the resources to pay the fines. As they experience these frightening raids in their homes, we pray for Your peace to surround them and be a healing balm to their wounded souls. We pray for true justice to rule in this nation, and as a new president takes office, we pray for an increase in religious freedom. In the name of Jesus who has set us free to stand firm in the midst of trials. Amen.