bulletin

Uzbekistan: Pastor Sentenced to Four Years

March 21, 2007

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 421

In 1998 when the US State Department passed its Freedom from
Religious Persecution Act (HR 2431), Uzbekistan had several
Protestant pastors serving long prison sentences with hard labour
on bogus drugs charges. To avoid incurring US sanctions as a
Country of Particular Concern (CPC), Uzbek leaders negotiated with
the US and then released their religious prisoners. Today the
situation is very different. Uzbekistan joined the Shanghai Co-
operation Organisation (SCO) < http://www.sectsco.org/ > in 2001. The
main aim of the SCO is to curb US geo-political power in Central
Asia. SCO members network and co-operate on security and other
issues with a commitment to \'non-interference\'. In 2005 Uzbek
president Islam Karimov forced the US to remove its military bases
from Uzbekistan. In November 2006, after a year of escalating
religious repression, the US State Department added Uzbekistan to
its list of CPCs. On 9 March 2007 Uzbekistan sentenced one of its
leading registered Protestant pastors to four years in a penal
colony after a sham trial. In other words, Uzbekistan doesn\'t care
about the US or CPC status any more.

RLP 416 requested specific prayer for Dmitry Shestakov (37), pastor
of the registered Full Gospel Church in Andijan, who was facing
charges of \'incitement of national, racial and religious enmity\'
and \'illegal manufacture and spread of literature which rouses
dissension between religions\'. The harassment of Pastor Shestakov
is believed to stem from social hostility that stirred after Uzbek
Muslims began converting to Christianity through his ministry.

On 9 March Judge M Tulanov of the Andijan Criminal Court sentenced
Shestakov to four years\' internal exile in one of Uzbekistan\'s
numerous Soviet-era penal colonies where prisoners are used for
slave labour in local industries. Forum 18 (F18)
< http://www.forum18.org > reports there were numerous irregularities
in the prosecution, including forged documents and false claims.
F18 also reports that during the trial Uzbekistan\'s state-run media
ran a smear campaign against Shestakov and the Andijan Full Gospel
Church, claiming that Shestakov abused alcohol and was dependent on
drugs.

In RLP 416 we prayed for God to give Shestakov peace, confidence
and the right words to say in court. His final words to the court
were that despite the tears of his wife and three young daughters
he forgives those who have taken action against him. According to
Compass Direct (CD) < http://compassdirect.org >, the authorities
have been refusing to pass Shestakov\'s heart and blood pressure
medications on to him. Sources report persecution has dramatically
escalated across Uzbekistan in recent weeks and several Protestants
are presently facing criminal charges. This could be the start of a
wave of persecution.

Fortunately, while the US has lost influence in Uzbekistan, this is
not true of \'the One enthroned in heaven\' (Psalm 2). As Christians
we need not be discouraged - just more committed to prayer and
putting our faith and hope in God alone.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* Dmitry, the Shestakov family and the Full Gospel Church in
Andijan; may God keep them safe, supply all their needs, and
comfort and encourage their hearts.

* Protestant Christians Makset Djabbabergenov, Salauat Serikbayev
and the other believers who are on trial in Nukus, and Pastor
Sergei Shandyvayev and the believers of Karshi [Qarshi] who are
being harassed and threatened by Uzbek secret police; may God
give them courage, peace and grace.

* God who is sovereign and provident in all history to bring good
from this suffering, that eyes may be opened, hearts softened
and the believers grow in prayer and faith.

* the gospel message to be spread through the courts and media and
into the prisons, and may the Holy Spirit use it all for the
glory of God.

\'Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the
name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.\' (Psalm 20:7,8) \'It is better to
take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take
refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.\' (Psalm 118:8,9 NIV)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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.