OVERVIEW: Uzbekistan’s new president seems to be leading the country into a time of greater religious freedom. Restrictions on churches and Christian organizations have eased. However, it is still illegal to distribute evangelistic literature in public. There are several Christian denominations in Uzbekistan, and denominational leaders report there is growing unity among the churches. The leaders are focusing on equipping and training a new generation of Christian leaders to serve the church.
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.