Baptist beaten, jailed in Uzbekistan

Baptist beaten, jailed in Uzbekistan

Eron Henry/Klaus Rösler - April 22, 2008

S a m a r k a n d - A Baptist in the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan was beaten and jailed on April 3 after police raided a house-church meeting in the city of Samarkand. Bobur and other members of the congregation “were severely beaten”, according to BosNewsLife, a religious news service. All, except Bobur, who faces possible religious violation charges, were released. “Christianity is illegal in Uzbekistan and he is facing the possibility of several years in prison for practicing his faith,” said Larry Maddox in an email received by the Baptist World Alliance and the European Baptist Federation (EBF). Maddox, who at the time was teaching temporarily in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, said that Bobur “was scheduled to attend my classes in Kiev.” EBF-General Secretary Tony Peck (Prague) sent a prayer request for Bobur to all EBF member unions.

The Barnabas Fund, which reports on persecution of Christians, reported that “police confiscated all books, notebooks and a laptop which they found in the house.” Uzbekistan has a history of clamping down on Christianity in the Muslim-majority country which gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. According to Forum 18, a religious news service based in Oslo, Norway in February of this year “a Baptist in the eastern city of Fergana: Eduard, was fined the equivalent of nine months average wages, after a raid by 10 state officials on his house where about 40 local Baptists were meeting for Sunday morning worship.” He was charged and convicted for holding “illegal religious meetings in his house.”

Six Baptist Christians were detained, fined and their Bibles and hymnals burned after police raided a house church where they met in August 2006. Freedom of religious expression and association is officially protected under the Uzbekistan constitution, but religious groups complain that the country’s religious law is harsh and does not conform to the constitution or international standards of human rights and religious freedom.

Non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as the Council of the European Union and the United States Department of State, have repeatedly cited Uzbekistan for its human rights violations. Reports from these bodies maintain that the violations are most often committed against independent groups and civic organisations, including members of religious communities; and include torture, arbitrary arrests, and various restrictions of freedoms.

90% of Uzbekistan’s 25 million inhabitants are Muslims and 4,7% are Christians. The Baptist Union of Uzbekistan consists of 37 congregations with 3.800 members.