BACKGROUND: Uzbekistan’s economy is based on cotton, so much so that schools close during the cotton harvest so children can help their parents in the fields. The country’s authoritarian government systematically tortures prisoners. Uzbekistan is landlocked and shares borders with several Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: Most Uzbeks in this former Soviet republic practice Sunni Islam.
PERSECUTOR: The government fines Christian converts from Islam, and families often reject family members who become Christians.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN UZBEKISTAN: When someone becomes a Christian, persecution begins immediately. Christians are thought of as extremists. They face massive fines and detention for “illegal religious gatherings.” Orthodox churches meet openly and legally, but most evangelical Christians meet in unregistered groups. Uzbekistan once routinely imprisoned Christians, but the government now favors short detentions and substantial fines for economic reasons.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: Bibles are difficult to obtain. Some Christians don’t even want a printed copy because of the risk involved in owning one. Even those discovered with a digital Bible on their smartphone are immediately arrested and interrogated.
VOM WORK: VOM distributes Christian literature and provides pastors and evangelists with transportation for use in ministry work.