Persecution in Uzbekistan

Population: 23,377,000
Percent Christian: 4.7
Size: 447,000 sq. km.

The Republics of Central Asia usually have Muslim majorities and have only this decade been released from control by the Soviet Union. The new governments tend to include large numbers of ex-Communists who now seem to be driven less by ideology than by maintaining some semblance of their former power. They repress any religious group that challenges them. Christians in both Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have been warned that they will lose their registration if they evangelize among Muslims. Late in 1996, the Uzbekistan secret police launched a renewed crackdown against Christianity in the capital city of Tashkent. In September, they arrested, without warrant, Pastor Dennis Podorozhny and 21 parishioners of the Word of Faith Church for trying to conduct a service in a rented hall. All were required to make written statements about their activities and the pastor was interrogated further and then fined the equivalent of three months’ wages. Then in November, they again arrested Pastor Podorazhny and 84 parishioners meeting at a tennis club. Other Protestant Christians have also been harassed and threatened with imprisonment, fines and death by the secret police for seeking to evangelize the Uzbeks, a nominally Muslim people.