By BosNewsLife News Center
TASHKENT/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– Supporters of a Baptist house church Christian in Uzbekistan have asked for prayers amid concerns she faces up to three years imprisonment on charges of “illegally teaching religion”, BosNewsLife learned Monday, July 23.
Yelena Kim’s congregation was raided by about a dozen police and government officials in April during a Sunday service, rights activists said at the time.
Officers reportedly charged with wrongdoing Yelena though she was not present when the raid occurred, Christians said.
She has been accused of “violating the procedure for teaching religious doctrine,” a charge which carries a maximum three year prison term, according to rights group Forum 18, which closely followed the case.
Officials also drew up records against her husband, Eduard Kim, and church member Losif Skaev, Forum 18 and Christians explained.
The Kims reportedly received fines in previous cases against them for similar allegations.
Officers returned to the house church in June with a search warrant and ordered church members to leave while they searched the premises, seizing printed materials, music, disks, a photocopier and Bibles, Christians said.
While the raid was ongoing, church members were seen praying and singing outside, prompting angry police to threaten them with charges and filming them.
Devoted Christian Losif’s home was also searched and 150 Bibles were confiscated along with some of his personal property and his passport, said rights activists.
In a statement rights group Voice of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC), which supports the house church with advocacy, said it was important that Christians around the world “pray that Yelena will be acquitted and that the persecution of this house church will cease.”
VOMC said it had asked Christians to also pray that “the property that was seized will be returned and that the Bibles will be put into the hands of those hungry for God’s Word.”
Referring to Bible verse Matthews 5:14-16, VOMC said it hopes that Christians will “Pray that this church’s passion for Christ will be the light that draws others to Jesus.”
It comes amid international concerns about President Islam Karimov’s perceived autocratic style towards groups and individuals deemed dangerous for the former Soviet state.
Critics say Karimov takes a ruthlessly harsh approach to all forms of opposition. Western observers who monitored parliamentary elections in 2004 condemned them as having failed to meet international standards and noted that all candidates supported the president.