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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #20

UZBEKISTAN

Country rank

21

Persecution score

71.30

Last year’s rank

18

Region

Asia

Persecution Type

Dictatorial paranoia (Strong), Islamic oppression (Strong)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

33,236,000

Christians

345,000 (1.0%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Islam

Government

Presidential Republic (Highly authoritarian)

Leader

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev

In cooperation with local partners and churches, Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Central Asia through:
• Literature distribution
• Biblical and vocational training
• Socio-economic development
• Women’s ministry
• Medical ministry

ABOUT UZBEKISTAN

What does persecution look like in Uzbekistan?

Church leaders, most of whom are men, are often subject to persecution at the hands of the authorities. Typically, they are fined, detained, denied exit visas to leave the country or put under house arrest. Reasons for fines include holding illegal meetings, possessing Christian literature or even having songs on a smartphone.

Outside the church, Christian men can be overlooked for promotion in the workplace, and businessmen who follow Jesus can face intense surveillance by the authorities and obstruction from local Muslims. The financial hardship caused by persecution can be crippling for families, who rely on men to put food on the table.

Converts to the Christian faith are also vulnerable to abuse in the workplace. Compulsory military service can expose Christian men to further harassment and hostility. 

What has changed this year?

Although Uzbekistan has dropped three places from last year’s World Watch List ranking, life as a Christian in the country remains hugely challenging. Believers continue to face enormous pressure from families and communities, and imposing government restrictions greatly affect church life and witness. However, there were fewer reports of violent incidents compared with last year. 
It is unclear yet whether President Mirziyoyev, who came to power in 2016 after the death of long-time leader Islam Karimov, will bring in any policy changes that will affect Christians.  

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

The decision to leave Islam and follow Jesus can be an enormously costly one, paving the way for harassment and intimidation from family, friends and the local community. The risk is heightened for many women who, given societal expectations around submission, are effectively not allowed to choose their own religion. Church leaders are also targeted for persecution; they can be fined, detained or put under house arrest for their involvement in Christian activities.  \

How can I help Christian in Uzbekistan

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Uzbekistan?

Open Doors strengthens the persecuted church in Central Asia with Christian literature, biblical and vocational training, and socio-economic development projects. We also provide immediate aid to Central Asian believers when they are placed in prison, excluded from families and communities, and deprived of livelihood and employment because of their faith in Christ.  

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in North Korea, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

– Pray the new leadership of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev will bring welcome changes for the country’s Christian population.
– Pray the Holy Spirit will encourage, equip and empower believers facing pressure and persecution.
– Request ongoing protection and nourishment of church leaders in Uzbekistan, who can come under immense pressure in their roles. 

 

A PRAYER FOR UZBEKISTAN

Heavenly Father, we are acutely aware that to live as a Christian in Uzbekistan can carry enormous challenges and even danger. Encourage, equip and empower believers in the face of pressure and persecution, and may all hostility against them soften. Grant leaders wisdom and discernment as they navigate state restrictions, and keep them in good health and spirits. Keep and protect Your children. Amen.