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article imageIn Uzbekistan, owning a Bible may cost you $500

By R. C. Camphausen     May 22, 2010 in World
Tashkent - In Uzbekistan, the crackdown on evangelical Christians continues, with church leaders arrested, and Bibles, other literature and computers confiscated.
The Christian Broadcasting Network CBN informed its readers today that the Uzbek government's crackdown on evangelical Christians, which started on May 3, is still ongoing.
It is difficult to imagine that Christian pastors as well as other church leaders active in the central Asian nation of not know know that missionary activity is forbidden by law in the mainly Islamic country, the Christians - both Uzbek and foreigners - do continue to "share the gospel" as they term it.
The crackdown first began in early May after a Muslim mother complained that her son had been baptized. Soon, churches and homes were raided by police, pastors were arrested and jailed, people who owned a Bible in the Uzbek language were fined approximately $500, which amounts to two month worth of salaries for an average Uzbek citizen.
Although the country is mainly Muslim - 88 percent of the population according to the CIA World Fact Book - Christianity does co-exist in the country in the form of the Russian Orthodox Church, with almost 10 percent of the population being a member. However, the government resents interference by evangelical Christians, which has let to raids on the Church of Christ, one of the largest churches in the capital city of Tashkent.
Reading the so-called Persecution Blog, arrested and fined Christians appear to regard themselves as martyrs, with one Christian leader saying about the government: "They're creating more and more pressure to push out all religious influence, especially evangelical Christians and all missionaries that had a chance to work there for the last decade and a half. They were all kicked out."
The law against proselytizing is rather lenient, with a maximum sentence of fifteen days in jail. That may be the reason that the courts more often impose fines, which have been known to be as high as eighty times the minimum wage of about $250 per months - i.e. $20,000.
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