How many Christians are there in Uzbekistan?
There are only 349,000 Christians in Uzbekistan – a tiny minority in a country of 32.8 million people. They make up just 1.1 per cent of the total population, the majority of whom are Muslims.
Why are Christians persecuted in Uzbekistan?
No religious activities beyond state-run and state-controlled institutions are allowed.
Christians are viewed as a threat to the government, and Protestants in particular are frequently branded as 'extremists' because they practise their faith outside state-sanctioned structures. They are seen as followers of an alien sect that aims to destroy the current political system. For this reason, the state believes they need to be not only controlled, but if necessary, eradicated.
The general Islamic culture makes life for converts to Christianity particularly difficult.
Meet Pastor Oleg*
“We decided that we would do our best in what God gave us as commandments, and, in everything, trust Him.”Pastor Oleg, Church Leader
What’s life like for Christians in Uzbekistan?
Christians face persecution from the state through the police, secret services and local authorities monitoring religious activities by various means (bugging homes, tapping phones, infiltrating groups etc.) and attending church services. Christians in unregistered churches suffer repeatedly from police raids, threats, arrests and fines.
The Islamic culture in Uzbekistan means believers from Muslim backgrounds bear the brunt of the persecution; they experience pressure and occasionally physical violence from their families and communities to force them to return to their former faith.
Despite all this, the number of Uzbek believers is growing. Some of the Uzbek Christians have developed a vision to reach out to the Uzbek people in Afghanistan and Turkmenistan and are active in those areas too. Many of the Uzbek Christians have faced opposition from the moment they left Islam, but persevere in their faith in spite of their hardships.
Pastor Oleg leads a church in Uzbekistan that is mainly made up of believers from Muslim backgrounds. He says, “We try to be very careful – we don’t meet in groups of more than three or four. We can see that the persecution is growing day by day and we are learning to live in the midst of it… Sometimes I feel so tired of all this pressure. As a Christian pastor in a Muslim country, I feel even more pressure than others. That’s because of responsibility for myself, for my family (my wife and three children) and also the responsibility for the members of my church. Sometimes this burden seems too heavy.”
Open Doors partners were able to offer Pastor Oleg and others a retreat in another part of Central Asia, in order to temporarily get away from the pressures of life as a church leader and be restored and refreshed.
How can I help Christians in Uzbekistan
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Uzbekistan. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors strengthens the persecuted church in Central Asia with Christian literature, training, medical care, relief aid and social-economic development projects.
*Name changed for security reasons
Lord Jesus, thank You for the courage and vision of our persecuted church family in Uzbekistan. Protect believers from those who are trying to harm them - please provide safe places for them to meet, and soften the hearts of those who regulate religious activities, that there would be more religious freedom in the country. Amen.