Uzbekistan

World Watch ranking: 25
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Leader
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev

How many Christians?
352,000 (1%)

Main threats
  • Dictatorial paranoia
  • Islamic oppression

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How many Christians are there in Uzbekistan?

Christians in Uzbekistan number around 352,000, which is just one per cent of the country’s 34.8 million population.

How are Christians persecuted in Uzbekistan?

Uzbekistan's authoritarian regime continues to stifle Christian freedom, with some believers viewed as 'extremists' and spies trying to destroy the government. 

Whilst officially registered churches (e.g. Russian Orthodox Church) experience less scrutiny – that’s because they don’t engage with the Uzbek population and so are seen as less of a threat – non-traditional churches are particularly prone to police raids, threats, arrests and fines. This particularly applies to unregistered Baptist, Evangelical and Pentecostal groups. Meanwhile, indigenous believers who leave their Muslim background to follow Jesus can also face severe pressure for their faith from their families and local communities.

There was some hope for an improvement in the treatment of religious minorities after the death of President Islam Karimov in 2016. But it appears that Uzbekistan may be going downhill again, as restrictions on religious freedom have continued to be enforced. This is reflected in an incident that took place in April 2023, when police forced their way into an Easter celebration in Qarshi, beating several people (including members of the church’s deaf community) and arresting ten men. 

Meet 'Aziz'

“After my conversion to Christianity, my brother wanted to have nothing to do with me.”AZIZ, BELIEVER FROM MUSLIM BACKGROUND

What’s life like for Christians in Uzbekistan?

In Uzbekistan, choosing to leave the religion you were brought up with to become a Christian is very risk – as Aziz* and his nephew know all too well. 

When Aziz made the courageous decision to follow Jesus, his eldest brother was furious. “He came to my house in the middle of the night, while my wife, children and I were sleeping,” he recalls. “He drove straight into our house with a small truck.”

For 20 years, the two of them didn’t speak, until his nephew (his brother’s son) and his family got in touch because they had become Christians. Not long after, Aziz got a call from his brother. “If my son is in your house, I will set your house on fire, with everything and everyone in it!” His nephew’s family fled, but the father found them and tried to kill his son. He didn’t succeed but he left him terribly beaten.

Not long after, Aziz’s brother became seriously ill. “I visited him and asked if I could pray for him,” he shares. “For the very first time, I was able to tell him about the gospel… His heart is becoming softer and softer, and he is in contact again both with his son and me.”

*Name changed for security reasons

How can I help Christians in Central Asia?

Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Uzbekistan. Your prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.

Open Doors strengthens persecuted Christians in Central Asia by providing Bibles and Christian literature, biblical and vocational training, medical and social care, socio-economic development projects, and children's, youth and women's ministries.

please pray

Heavenly Father, You know the price that many believers in Uzbekistan pay for following You. May they know deeply today that You see their pain and You honour their sacrifice. Protect church gatherings from raids, watch over those who are under surveillance, and soften the hearts of those who persecute Your people. Heal those who are carrying pain, and may the comfort they receive from You overflow to those around them, including those who don't yet know You. Amen.

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