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Uzbek authorities deny Protestant church applications, incite fear

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan — The Uzbekistan government reportedly has denied Protestant churches’ applications to exist, with some leaders saying police have demanded that members denounce their faith.

According to local sources, applying for permission to exist may result in fines, torture and other punishment. Some Protestant churches are afraid to apply or to give authorities information about members. Some have applied and been denied repeatedly. Others have delayed applying to see if churches will be punished for exercising freedom of religion and belief. A source from one church stated the church had been fined.

The registration process requires multiple documents from different state agencies and is complex, arduous and expensive. The process also provides opportunities for officials to extort bribes.

The Uzbek parliament has promised a new religion law that would loosen registration requirements. However, a recent draft of the law retains almost all existing state controls. The law violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes freedom of religion and belief.

Uzbekistan is No. 21 on Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List of places where it is most difficult to be a Christian. (Forum 18)

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