UZBEKISTAN: Disabled Christian prevented from attending church

Uzbekistan MapGafur Yusupov, who lives in a home for people with disabilities in Fergana in eastern Uzbekistan, has been banned from attending his Baptist Church.

Gafur, who has no legs, lives in Sakhovat Uyi (Grace Home) in the city of Fergana. The director of Grace Home, Tahir Gazier, has also confiscated all his Christian books and audio tapes. Mr. Gazier accused Gafur of distributing religious literature in the home and has been banned him from having any contact with his fellow believers.

Over the last few years, church members would take Yusupov to Sunday services in a wheel-chair. Now he is even banned from coming to the gates of the home to talk to church members who try to visit him. When they complained about this, the administration of the home told the Baptists to talk to the National Security Service (NSS) secret police.

Asked by Forum 18 News Service by what authority the home did this, its director Tahir Gaziev replied: “We have asked the Baptists to show us an official document that says they are allowed to invite people to their meetings. Only after they show us such a document will we allow him [Yusupov] to attend.” When Forum 18 asked why Yusupov is not allowed to decide this himself, Gaziev put the phone down.

The congregation Gafur belongs to is part of the Baptist Council of Churches. Their congregations refuse to register with the state, arguing that registration represents unacceptable state interference in their activity. They also point out that Uzbekistan’s Constitution guarantees them the right to practice their faith freely.

The Baptist church in Fergana was raided by police last year when ten officials videoed the 40 people present. Its pastor, Eduard Kim, was fined nine month’s wages for organising an “illegal gathering”. (Forum 18)