Christian Persecution On The Rise In Uzbekistan Where Just Owning A Bible Is Illegal
Increasing numbers of Christians in Uzbekistan are being punished simply for the "crime" of having religious literature at home.
The persecution charity Open Doors is asking Christians worldwide to pray for Christians living under the harsh central Asia dictatorship.
One Christian, Stanislav Kim, was sentenced to two years' corrective labour in Urgench for having religious books at home.
He is now under effective house arrest, living at home with restrictions placed on his movements and a fifth of his wages seized by the state.
This is the second time Kim, a Baptist from the north-western Khorezm region, has been found guilty of this offence, according to Open Doors.
Earlier this summer, a Presbyterian Christian in the capital Tashkent was fined for having religious literature at home. The Christian literature was ordered to be handed to the state-backed Muslim Board.
A criminal trial against him for "illegal" use of computers began last month.
In Zarafshan, a city in Central Uzbekistan, a Baptist pastor and his wife were fined for Bibles and Baptist song books seized from their home.
In Surkhandarya, a region in the southeast of the country, four Baptists were also punished when religious literature was discovered and confiscated during an illegal house search. Officials ordered the destruction of two Bibles, as well as other books and CDs. The authorities claimed that one book was banned because it could be used to spread a faith. They also stated that Baptists are banned in the region because they do not have state registration.
"Please pray for the Christians in Uzbekistan," a source told Open Doors. "It's getting more and more difficult to spread the gospel with literature."
Uzbekistan, where the main religion is Islam and just over 300,000 of the 30 million population are Christian, is ranked number 15 on the Open Doors persecution watch list.
The Russian Orthodox Church is tolerated but other denominations are viewed as sects that aim to destroy the political system.
House churches are regularly raided and Christians can be fined for anything from owning a Bible to having a Christian song on their phone.
Those who convert from Islam endure the greatest persecution, Open Doors reports.