Christians in Uzbekistan Destroy Personal Bibles in Attempts to Avoid Punishment
UZBEKISTAN: Pensioners Owning Koran and Bibles Fined over Two Years Pension
Uzbekistan is once again persecuting Baptists and owners of religious literature. Baptists continue to be oppressed due to their conscientious objection to register with the state. Meanwhile, owners of any religious literature are at the mercy of government officials. Literature is confiscated at any time, often illegally and in conflict with Uzbekistan’s laws of investigative procedure. The situation has gotten so bad that “individuals have reluctantly destroyed their own Christian books, including Bibles.”
By Felix Corley
07/19/2013 Uzbekistan (Forum 18) –Many followers of a variety of beliefs are afraid to keep religious literature in their homes, a cross-section of people have told Forum 18. Baptists, for example, told Forum 18 on 15 June that “Church members have repeatedly been warned recently that keeping a Bible at home is allowed, but reading it can only be done at specially designated places for carrying out religious rituals”.
Such warnings are set out in “expert analyses” of confiscated literature by the government’s Religious Affairs Committee, and presented to courts to justify confiscations and fines on owners. “Expert analyses” are routinely used to justify confiscations and prosecutions relating to books and other literature (see eg. F18News 20 May 2009http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=1298).
Officials often ignore published law in carrying out raids, prosecutions, and punishments against people who keep religious literature without state permission in their homes. “You won’t find this in any law”, another Protestant – who asked not to be identified for fear of state reprisals – pointed out to Forum 18 from Tashkent on 16 July.
Pressured to destroy their own sacred texts
Many Christians have hidden their religious literature, the Protestant noted. Other Christians have taken all the books they have to state-registered places of worship.
The state’s pressure is so strong that some believers think they have no choice but to destroy their own sacred texts. For example, the Protestant also cited with distress cases where individuals have reluctantly destroyed their own Christian books, including Bibles. “I personally know of three such cases,” the Protestant told Forum 18. “Many other Christians said to me they can’t bring themselves to destroy their Bibles.”
Studying sacred texts with others and praying together with them in a private home can lead to severe punishments. This is especially so for Muslims, who face long jail sentences for this “offence” (see eg. F18News 25 June 2013http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1851). Followers of other faiths, such as Christianity, are typically given large fines for this “offence” (see eg. 17 December 2012 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1783). In recent case, one Protestant was given one and half years of corrective labour, after being convicted under criminal charges of the “illegal production, storage, import or distribution of religious literature” (see F18News 21 May 2013http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1838).
Denials of access to sacred texts and the possibility of openly praying with others does not stop if someone is jailed. Prisoners of conscience and ordinary prisoners have both experienced being banned from praying openly or reading religious literature such as the Koran or Bible (see F18News 7 May 2013 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1832).