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04/08/2022 Uzbekistan (International Christian Concern) – Father Ariel Toncovich of Samarkand’s church of John the Baptist and priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word arranged for dozens of Christian Uzbek and Tajik youth to meet in Uzbekistan late last month. This is the second of three meetings arranged by the diocese, the first being earlier this year in January and the last planned for this coming summer. The aim of the gatherings is to fellowship with the young Christians, giving them a space to speak their minds and beliefs with church leaders. The hope is to better understand the spiritual needs of the young believers and involve them more in shaping the burgeoning Christian community.

Father Toncovich also used the gathering to unveil the restoration of the parish, complete with the football, volleyball, and basketball courts refurbished to create a more welcoming environment. “This is very important for us. It is an opportunity to form the Catholics of the future and the Church we dream of for Central Asia,” Father Toncovich explained.  “We told the participants what it means to be a Catholic: the theme of the meeting was ‘What does God want from the young people of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan?… They asked very interesting questions: rather than talking, we priests listened to their spiritual and cultural needs, which are so many because the Central Asian church is a young church and, just like children who need food to grow up, the Catholics of these countries have a need for human, spiritual and cultural food.”

The Catholic community of Uzbekistan is very small. There are approximately 5,000 believers, but the numbers are slowly and steadily growing. With church leaders encouraging the youth to take a more active role in the majority Muslim nation, the community may see more energy and expansion. We pray for their continued enthusiasm.