FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) -- The Baptist World Alliance and the European Baptist Federation conducted a joint human-rights visit to Uzbekistan Sept. 8-12. The purposes were to promote religious freedom in Uzbekistan and strengthen the relationship between the Baptist Union of Uzbekistan and the larger Baptist family.
Religious freedom concerns in Uzbekistan include a law against proselytism, tough conditions and the long process required for churches to be registered, and actions against congregations and individual Christians by state authorities.
Religious liberty violations reported to the BWA/EBF team included the detention of a Sunday school teacher at Third Baptist Church of Tashkent, and the April 2011 police raid of Second Baptist Church of Tashkent for allegedly running an unauthorized Bible school and illegally printing and selling Christian literature. An estimated 53,000 books and brochures, along with computers and a printer, were confiscated in the raid.
The Baptist delegation was comprised of Raimundo Barreto, BWA director for freedom and justice, Christer Daelander, EBF religious freedom representative, and Pavlo Unguryan, a Baptist youth leader from Ukraine and a member of the Parliament of Ukraine. They met with Baptist leaders and pastors, as well as leaders from the Orthodox Church in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kirgizstan and Tajikistan; the Pentecostal church and the Bible Society.
Meetings were also held with Juriy Savchenko, the ambassador of Ukraine to Uzbekistan, Behzod Kadyrov, chief expert of the State Committee of Religious Affairs, as well as with the project coordinator for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The Baptist delegation raised issues of concern on religious freedom in Uzbekistan
Baptists in Uzbekistan are primarily Russian speakers who are a small ethnic minority in the Muslim majority country. The Baptist union comprises 20 registered and 30 unregistered congregations with a total of 5,500 members.