Washington, DC (BWA)--The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and the European Baptist Federation (EBF) conducted a joint human rights visit to Uzbekistan from September 8-12 to promote religious freedom in Uzbekistan and to strengthen the relationship between the Baptist Union of Uzbekistan and the larger Baptist family.
The Central Asian country, a republic of the former Soviet Union, has had a checkered human rights record despite being a signatory to several United Nations treaties and charters, including the International Convention of Cultural and Political Rights, a multilateral treaty adopted by the UN General Assembly. Signers of the treaty agree to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights, and rights to due process and a fair trial.
Religious freedom concerns in Uzbekistan include a law against proselytism, tough conditions and the long process required for churches to be registered, and actions against congregations and individual Christians by state authorities.
Religious liberty violations reported to the BWA/EBF team included the detention of a Sunday School teacher at Third Baptist Church of Tashkent, and the April 2011 police raid of Second Baptist Church of Tashkent for allegedly running an unauthorized Bible School and for illegally printing and selling Christian literature. An estimated 53,000 books and brochures, along with computers and a printer, were confiscated in the raid.
The Baptist delegation, comprising Raimundo Barreto, BWA Director for the Division of Freedom and Justice, Christer Daelander, EBF Religious Freedom Representative, and Pavlo Unguryan, a Baptist youth leader from Ukraine and a member of the Parliament of Ukraine, met with Baptist leaders and pastors; leaders from the Orthodox Church in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kirgizstan and Tajikistan; leaders of the Pentecostal church; and leaders of the Bible Society.
Meetings were also held with Juriy Savchenko, the ambassador of Ukraine to Uzbekistan, Behzod Kadyrov, chief expert of the State Committee of Religious Affairs, as well as with the project coordinator for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The Baptist delegation raised issues of concern on religious freedom in Uzbekistan
Baptists in Uzbekistan are primarily Russian speakers who are a small ethnic minority in the Muslim majority country. The Baptist union comprises 20 registered and 30 unregistered congregations with a total of 5,500 members.