Uzbekistan Police Bans Bibles In Crucial Region

at least a part of the former Soviet republic, said reports monitored by BosNewsLife on Friday, August 23.

The Keston News Service (KNS), which closely follows religious persecution, said police officers raided a flat near the town of Nukus on August 9 where thirteen Protestants had gathered for a meeting.

"The police seized religious literature, including a Bible, without showing a search warrant. The policemen also stated that Uzbek citizens were not allowed to have Bibles," KNS reported.

This incident reportedly took place in Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan, where analysts say authorities have adopted a harsh attitude towards Protestant Christians.

BAPTIST CHURCH CLOSED

Earlier in July a Baptist church for the deaf in the town of Beruni in Karakalpakstan was closed down.

KNS, which has close ties to church sources in the region, said police officers took the names of those present and that the Christians were "summoned" to appear for a local court where they were fined for "breaking the law on religious organizations."

The police chief in Khodzhali, a suburb of Nukus, was quoted as saying that the policemen's actions were within the law because meetings of unregistered religious associations are prohibited.

However Police chief Dzhurabek Ametov denied that Bibles were among the seized religious literature. "I do not believe there was a Bible among the confiscated literature".

PROTESTANTS CAN APPEAL

In a reaction, the chairman of the Uzbek Committee for Religious Affairs, Shoazim Minovarov told KNS that "if a Bible really was confiscated from the Protestants, they can appeal" to the Committee and added that "the Bible will be returned to them".

However the situation on the ground appears differently, as other groups have also experienced growing pressure from local authorities.

It comes at a time when it is nearly impossible for communities to register in, mainly Islamic, Uzbekistan, and many Protestant leaders have reportedly been subjected to fines in the country of nearly 24 million people.

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