bulletin

Uzbekistan: Pastor on Trial Amidst Mounting Repression

February 16, 2007

Persecution of the Church has escalated in Uzbekistan over recent
years. In November 2006 the US State Department added Uzbekistan to
its list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) for its ongoing,
egregious violations of religious freedom.

Radicalised elements of the Muslim majority are hostile to
Christians, especially converts from Islam. Added to that, the
government uses repressive legislation to persecute the church for
political reasons. Uzbekistan does have a real problem with radical
and militant Islamist groups, in particular Hizb ut Tahrir. But as
it cracks down on militant political Islam, the government also
tends to put Protestants in the same basket as the Islamists,
labelling them all radical, foreign, offshoots of traditional
religion.

During the years of the Soviet Empire the Soviet republics were all
ruled by Soviet-installed pro-Soviet dictators. After Communism
failed and the USSR split apart in 1991 the Baltic states aligned
with the West. Enabled by openness and the maturing of democratic
institutions, a series of \'colour revolutions\' in 2004 then
brought changes to other former-Soviet and Communist states.
However not much changed in Central Asia, until recently. Now the
Soviet-era dictators of Central Asia are being overthrown
(Kyrzygstan, 2005) or are dying (Turkmenistan, 2006). As a result
Uzbekistan\'s President Islam Karimov has become somewhat paranoid
about holding on to power. Imprisonment, abuse and torture of
dissidents is routine and increasing. Christians, who meet together
in growing numbers and whose evangelism and conversions induce
hostile responses from the Muslim majority, unfortunately are seen
as social problems. Also, Protestants in Belarus, Ukraine and
Georgia are known to have been associated with pro-democracy
movements and \'colour revolutions\'. So Karimov does not trust
Protestants.

On 21 January Uzbek secret police arrested Protestant pastor Dmitry
Shestakov (37) from his registered Full Gospel church in Andijan.
He is charged with \'incitement of national, racial and religious
enmity\' and \'illegal manufacture and spread of literature which
arouses dissension between religions\'. When police raided his home
in June 2006 Shestakov refused to give them a list of his church
members. That put him at odds with the National State Security. The
regional prosecutor then accused him of treason, forcing Shestakov
to go into hiding with his wife and three children. After months in
hiding, Shestakov and his family settled in a town close to Andijan
from where they could resume covert ministry to the church. In
October 2006 Shestakov said it was hard not to get depressed.
Nevertheless he stated he did not want to leave Uzbekistan because
he would not abandon the church or his calling to serve Christ
there. According to Forum 18, Pastor Shestakov\'s trial is imminent
and if convicted he could face up to twenty years in prison.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* God to give great wisdom and insight to Uzbekistan\'s pastors,
evangelists and believers, that in serving Christ they will be
\'as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves\'(Matthew 10:16
NIV).

* Pastor Dmitry Shestakov, that he may have great peace and
confidence in our God who is faithful to his promises: \'But when
they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say
it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not
be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through
you.\' \'I am with you always, to the very end of the age.\'
(Matthew 10:19,20; 28:20 NIV)

* God to provide the believers in Uzbekistan with all their
material needs - for most are impoverished; emotional needs -
for most are isolated and afraid; spiritual needs - for they
need more pastors and Bibles and spiritual encouragement.

* God to pour out his Holy Spirit on Uzbekistan so blind eyes will
be opened and hard hearts will be melted by the gospel, the
sword of the Spirit. May the yeast of the Church leaven the
whole nation.

~~~~

SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
-----------------------------------------------------------

PASTOR ON TRIAL AS REPRESSION MOUNTS IN UZBEKISTAN

Persecution has so escalated in Uzbekistan that in November 2006
the US State Department added Uzbekistan to its list of Countries
of Particular Concern (CPC) for its ongoing violations of religious
freedom. Christians are not only persecuted by radicalised local
Muslims, but by the repressive government of President Islam
Karimov which views Islamic militants and Protestants equally as a
serious threat to social harmony and national security. Dmitry
Shestakov (37), pastor of a registered Full Gospel church in
Andijan, refused to give the police a list of church members when
they raided his home in June 2006. He was arrested on 21 January
2007 and stands accused of stirring up inter-religious hatred and
distributing religious extremist literature. His trial is imminent
and he could face up to 20 years in prison. Please pray.

----------------------------------------------------
Previous RLPs may be viewed at
http://www.ea.org.au/rlc/
If you downloaded this message from a website or it
was forwarded to you, you may receive future editions
by sending an empty email to < join-rl-prayer@hub.xc.org >

Please send this RLP to others, with attribution to
World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Religious Liberty
Prayer List < rl-prayer@crossnet.org.au >
----------------------------------------------------

The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.