Imagine a place where your religious faith could only be expressed in places, ways and times that the government mandated...a place where teaching the Bible to fellow Christians or presenting the glorious truths of the gospel to interested unbelievers could land you in jail.
Well, such things are happening in many, many places around the world nowadays and this example is just one. It comes from Uzbekistan and involves Nikolai Zulfikarovin, an "unregistered" Baptist pastor, who has been sentenced to two years correctional labor (and forced to pay the government 20% of his earnings over the the next two years) for "teaching religious doctrines without special religious education and without permission from a central organ of administration of a religious organisation, as well as teaching religion privately."
Prayers are, of course, in order here. And so too are letters in behalf of Pastor Zulfikarovin and the cause of religious freedom. I've sent mine to the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the United States, H.E. Abdulaziz Kamilov. The contact info follows my brief letter.
Dear Mr. Ambassador,
As you know, the United States of America was among the first countries to recognize the independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan back in 1992. Our government did so because it deeply respected your desire to escape the long darkness of Soviet dictatorship and it wanted to help your nation secure justice and freedom for your people. The citizens of our country applauded that move.
However, there is growing concern among Americans over Uzbekistan's increasing repression of religious believers, especially the tightening of laws and procedures that hinder peaceful, reasonable religious activity. A specific case that is profoundly troubling is Pastor Nikolai Zulfikarovin, an "unregistered" Baptist pastor, being sentenced to two years correctional labor and forced to pay the government 20% of his earnings over the the next two years for "teaching religious doctrines without special religious education and without permission from a central organ of administration of a religious organisation, as well as teaching religion privately" (Article 229, part 2 of Uzbekistan's Criminal Code).
I ask you to please intercede in this case or at least pass on to your government the compelling concerns that freedom-loving people in America have about such heavy-handed and unjust persecution of peaceful religious believers.
Thank you for considering my request.
Director, Vital Signs Ministries
Embassy of Uzbekistan
1746 Massachusetts Avenue,
N.W., Washington, D.C.