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UZBEKISTAN: RELIGION LAW UNDER REVIEW
By Elizabeth Kendal
|Central Asia's Forgotten Gem|
On 19 August 2020 a draft new Religion Law was made available for 'public discussion' on the parliamentary website, which also gave notice that the Law had reached the Oliy Majlis (Legislative Assembly). In June 2020 President Mirziyoyev issued a decree outlining a 'Road Map' for human rights, giving 1 October 2020 as the date for a new Religion Law. But as Forum 18 explains, the decree does not say whether 1 October is the deadline for the draft or for parliamentary approval. Sadly, the draft is deeply disappointing. Virtually all the oppressive measures integral to the 1998 law are retained in the 2020 draft. Despite enshrining the principle of separation of religion and state, the draft law perpetuates the state's repressive interference in religion. All religious activity outside state-approved, registered organisations and without permission from the authorities, remains 'illegal'. Article 11 bans 'any forms of missionary activity and proselytism capable of destroying inter-religious accord and religious tolerance in society'. Religious education and the importation of religious literature remain enmeshed in crippling regulations and vulnerable to repressive, arbitrary prohibitions and confiscations.
|President Shavkat Mirziyoyev|
Currently the Religion Law exists to enable the government to retain control and maintain order: i.e. if radicalised Muslims are going to riot at the sight of a church, then the church must go! Instead, the law's purpose should be to protect the fundamental human rights of every human being; in which case religious totalitarianism, intolerance and violence must go! Though Uzbekistan is no longer part of the long-dead Soviet Union, the Soviet spirit remains embedded in Uzbekistan. For many in government and the security sector, violent repression is the default position. Changing this will require a profound transformation in culture by way of visionary leadership and extensive education which holds out the prospect of a new and better way to live.
For an extended version of this RLPB, providing a little more insight into the politics and religious history of this fascinating region, please see:
Uzbekistan's Religion Law: Currently Under Review,
Religious Liberty Monitoring, 2 Sept 2020
PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL
* intervene in Uzbekistan, to restore the freedom that once existed before the arrival of Islam, when Uzbekistan's Silk Road cities welcomed Christian (Assyrian) missionaries, as well as peoples and trade from East and West; may the Lord God be jealous for this land! (Joel 2:18-29)
* 'send out labourers' into Uzbekistan's dangerous yet fertile fields, for the sake of Uzbekistan's persecuted Church and her 'harassed and helpless' masses; may the Spirit of our merciful and gracious God blow through that land. (Jonah 4:10-11; and Matthew 9:35-38)
* use as his instruments President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, Justice Minister Ruslanbek Davletov and Senator Sodiq Safoyev as they navigate the delicate and treacherous path to freedom and openness; may the Lord grant them vision, clarity, conviction, authority and plenty of support. May they be a collective 'Cyrus' (Isaiah 45:1-13).
'Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the Lord have created it' (Isaiah 45:8 ESV).
* protect and preserve his precious persecuted Church in Uzbekistan; may he grant her leaders wisdom, grace and endurance as they lead the Lord's people through testing times; may their eyes be fixed on Jesus always. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
UZBEKISTAN'S RELIGION LAW UNDER REVIEW
Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, elected December 2016, is leading the state through transformative reform. His desire to engage and trade with both East and West requires religious liberty to be addressed. Consequently, Uzbekistan's repressive, Soviet-inspired 1998 Religion Law is currently under review. Unfortunately, the draft new Religion Law made public on 19 August is deeply disappointing. Instead of eliminating repression, it would perpetuate it. The government is afraid that religious freedom would enable pro-Caliphate fundamentalist Islam to spin out of control. Furthermore, after a century of Soviet and Soviet-style social control, violent repression is for many the default position. But while the government is afraid, it is not alone! Many Uzbeks are excited by Uzbekistan's new openness and growing prosperity. Please pray for Uzbekistan and its persecuted yet growing Church.
She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).