Uzbekistan: Government Clamps Down on Religious Freedom - Pastor Seeks Refugee Status
Pastor Urgently Needs Refugee Status
( EMAILWIRE.COM, September 18, 2006 ) Houston, TX - Sergey Khripunov a citizen of Uzbekistan who serves as a pastor overseeing five churches and is Church Leadership Development International’s (CLDI) key ministry contact in Central Asia, was illegally deported from his own country on September 5th with his wife and two children. Sergey and his family are now in Moscow seeking refugee status with UNHCR and refugee admissions to the United States under the Lautenberg Program at the US Embassy in Moscow.
It is normally at least a one year approval process to be granted refugee status under the Lautenberg Program. Pastor Khripunov’s case is urgent because the Russian Immigration Office will not extend his Russian visa which expires on September 29th. The Russian authorities maintain that the Uzbekistan government illegally deported Pastor Khripunov and that he must return to Uzbekistan. However, the Uzbekistan government made it clear to Pastor Khripunov that if he ever returns to Uzbekistan he will be imprisoned immediately.
Religious freedom and human rights continue to deteriorate in Uzbekistan under the dictatorship of Islom Karimov. In the past 3 years the Uzbekistan government has not allowed one new Christian church to register while over 1,600 new Moslem mosques have been allowed to register with the government. In the last 2 years, Rev. Sergey Khripunov has been arrested four times in addition to multiple incidents of interrogation and threats for conducting ministry. Incidents of beatings, arrests, confiscation of property, interrogations, threats, and fines are rapidly increasing on the part of the government against Christians in Uzbekistan.
In the capital city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan on July 28th of this year, the Department of Religious Affairs initiated a meeting of leaders of different religious denominations. They announced amendments in Criminal and Administrative Codes and punishments for violations.
Pastors were directed to explain to their congregations the meaning and implications of these amendments. In particular, pastors were told to convince people to stop preaching the Gospel outside the churches. If any of the church members are caught witnessing or preaching, this person and his pastor will both be fined. Amount of fine is from 200 to 600 times the minimal salaries (which means from $2000 to $6000 with minimal salary of $10 a month). In case of repeated violation this person and his pastor will be condemned for 3 to 8 years of imprisonment.
You Can Help
You can help expedite Sergey’s case by contacting your Congressmen and Senators. Request your elected officials to ask the State Department to look into Pastor Sergey Khripunov’s case and to help expedite the process. Links to a sample letter and contact information of your elected officials are available on CLDI’s website: www.cldi.org
Both World Relief and the Institute for Religion and Democracy have been diligently working to create awareness for Sergey’s case. Contact CLDI’s office to learn more about how you can help Sergey and other pastors.
Church Leadership Development International, CLDI, equips pastors in EurAsia and India with training and resources to strengthen and multiply their churches. Contact us to learn more about how you can be involved in our ministry of equipping pastors.
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