March 22, 2012
Uzbekistan was ranked on the Open Doors 2012 persecution watch list as the world's No. 7 worst persecutor of Christians, and according to Mission Network News, it has been living up to its ranking so far this year. During the last few months, basic religious rights have been defied multiple times. Last month, police raided an unregistered church, confiscating church property and fining the pastor more than $3,000 -- a cost of 100 times the minimum monthly wage. Just a few days before the church raid, police raided a Christian woman's home, fining her 20 times the minimum monthly wage and handing over her Christian books to the regional Muslim Board. A few weeks later, a Baptist church was also raided and will be fined. The increasing number of raids and fines -- routinely used by authorities to confiscate religious material -- has many concerned. "It really does seem like Uzbekistan is beginning to step up its campaign against unregistered churches and groups of any kind," said Joel Griffin of the Slavic Gospel Association. He said it could be an indication of even worse persecution to come; already, numerous pastors have been arrested across central Asia.