October 22, 2010
On Christian Organizations in Uzbekistan
On Christian Organizations in Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan is a sovereign democratic state of secular nature. This proposition is enshrined in the main law of the state – the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which states: “Religious organizations and associations shall be separated from the state and equal before law. The state shall not interfere with the activity of religious associations” (Article 61).
The country has adopted a Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations”, which provides equal legal conditions for coexistence of various religious confessions.
Proceeding from requirements of the Vienna Declaration, guarantees of the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan and with an aim of ensuring interethnic accord and inter-confessional solidarity one of the main priorities in reforming our society became ensuring and protecting rights and freedoms of citizens, enshrined in our Constitution, and their equality before law irrespective of race, sex, nationality, language, social origin, creed, religion, personal and social status.
At the moment, there are 2226 religious organization of 16 various confessions in Uzbekistan. Of them Muslim organizations comprise 2051, Christian organizations –159, Jewish communes – 8, Baha’i communes – 6, society of Krishna –1 and Buddhist temple – 1.
The state registration of religious organizations is carried out in accordance with a Resolution by the Cabinet of Ministers of Uzbekistan “On the Procedure of State Registration of Religious Organizations in the Republic of Uzbekistan” dated June 20, 1998. According to provisions of registration of religious organizations envisaged in this Resolution, there are no limitations in the number of religious organizations or terms of their activities.
It is also necessary to note that Part 3 of Article 5 of the Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations” bans actions directed to converting believers of any confession into another confession (proselytism), and any other missionary activity.
Despite dominance of Muslim organizations, other confessions, including Christian ones, do not have any restrictions on their activity in the country.
Testament to this is the fact that while prior May 1, 1998 there were 132 Christian religious organizations and one Bible Society registered in Uzbekistan, today their number has increased to 159 (including 2 educational institutions – Orthodox and Protestant seminaries).
Along with religious holidays of other confessions, Christian Easter and Christmas are ever-widely celebrated from year to year in the country. Christians of Uzbekistan are provided with the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the holy places in Russia, Greece and Israel. During the years of Independence the Bible Society of Uzbekistan translated and published in the Uzbek language 16 books of the Old and the whole New Covenants.
Dozens of churches and prayer houses have been built or renovated in the country during the years of Independence. Among them – the Orthodox churches in Tashkent, Samarkand and Navoi, Catholic church in Tashkent, Armenian Apostolic Church in Samarkand.
Many activities are carried out in Uzbekistan according to which we can verify that the country not only in words but in action is complying with its international obligations in the sphere of religious freedom.
For instance, in 1995 the Muslim-Christian conference entitled “Living Together in Harmony” was held in Tashkent. The representatives of the World Council of Churches and a number of foreign churches attended the forum.
In 2000 there was held a major international conference “World religions on the path of culture and peace” in Tashkent attended by the delegations of world’s leading religious organizations.
Important dates related to the activities of Christian organizations were widely celebrated in the country.
Particularly, in November 1996 there were held celebrations devoted to 125 anniversary of the Tashkent and Central Asian Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church. In celebration of this date the late Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II came to Central Asia for the first time in the history of the Church.
In December the same year, the Evangelical-Lutheran congregation celebrated 100-year anniversary of the only Central Asian Lutheran Church.
In 2001 the Tashkent and Central Asian diocese celebrated its 130-year anniversary.
In 2002 the Roman Catholic Church celebrated 100 years of the revival of Catholicism in Central Asia.
In October 2003 Samarkand hosted the events to mark the 100-year anniversary of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
For the complete coverage of the Republic’s religious life a number of newspapers and magazines are being issued, including such Christian publications as the “The Word of Life” newspaper, “East from Above” Journal, etc.
For the close cooperation with religious organizations, assisting in the activity of various confessions, joint development of proposals and measures for interreligious and interethnic peace and accord in society, development of interfaith dialogue culture there has been created a Council for confessions under the Committee on Religious Affairs.
It consists of the heads of Board of Muslims of Uzbekistan, Tashkent and Central Asian Diocese of the ROC, the Roman Catholic Church, the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, Center of Full Gospel Churches, Evangelical Lutheran Church, and Jewish community of Tashkent.
The issues of ensuring the compliance with the Law of the Republic, rights of the religious organizations and believers, as well as other vital issues are openly and actively discussed at the meetings held by the Council for confessions.
Experts in the country and abroad have concluded that today the population of Uzbekistan practicing a particular religion is provided with a required number of religious organizations and granted every opportunity to perform religious rites.
On Reaction and Comments of Official and Analytical Circles of France to the Press-release “On Christian Organizations in Uzbekistan”
Uzbekistan is a secular, multiethnic and multiconfessional state, where a great deal of work is carried out to ensure religious freedom and tolerance among the population.
At present there are 2226 religious organizations of 16 various confessions in Uzbekistan. Of them Muslim organizations comprise 2051, Christian organizations –159, Jewish communes – 8, Baha’i communes – 6, society of Krishna –1 and Buddhist temple – 1.
Reports related to ensuring religious freedoms always raise a heightened interest of the international community. It is for that reason a report “On Christian Organizations in Uzbekistan,” disseminated by the Press Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, has triggered a certain resonance.
Religious, political, diplomatic, expert and academic circles from many countries have expressed their views on the matter. Most active among them were representative of France.
Thus, Jan Batist Deco, a servant of “Sainte-Gerve” Parisian Catholic Church, noting that religious freedom is one of the basic freedoms in the modern civilized states, stressed: “The example of Uzbekistan, providing equal legal rights for harmonious coexistence of various religious confessions, demonstrates the presence of another important component of democratic development, i.e. free thinking in society”. He positively assessed existence in the country a large number of Christian and other religious organizations. “The stated growth of the number of Christian and other religious organizations in your multiethnic state represents a rare example of tolerance and respect”, – said Jan Batist Deco.
According to him, “countrywide celebration of non-Muslim holidays in the country and provision of opportunities for making Christian pilgrimages is evidence of a principled consistence of a secular policy by President Islam Karimov to ensure the universal inter-religious accord in the country”.
Bartholomew Gurmon, an expert of the French Institute of Strategic Studies thinks that the disseminated report on Christian organizations in Uzbekistan was quite useful, “considering the examination of this issue in light of the dominance of other religion in society and situation with regard to Christianity in Central Asian countries”.
“It is encouraging that during the years of independence, the existing churches are carefully preserved and more others were built. This indicates that the implementation by the republic of its international obligations in the sphere of freedom of religion”, - stressed Bartholomew Gurmon.
In turn, Head of the Military Industry Department of the Ministry of Defense of France Olivier Bekaert said that he read the information about Christian organizations in Uzbekistan with a special interest. “It is noteworthy that tolerance and respect for the various representatives of religions and faiths is an integral part of the historical and spiritual wealth of the Uzbek society” - he said.
Olivier Bekaert finds that religions should find common features that unite them rather than seek contradictions to each other. “In this regard, in individual countries, the majority of misunderstandings and conflicts arise on the grounds of lack of respect for the culture and customs of other religions.
In this case, you should also avoid instrumentalization of religion for achieving a particular purpose” - he believes. Olivier Bekaert said that it is very important that the Constitution of Uzbekistan secures the judicial guarantees which provide international harmony and inter-religious solidarity in society, as well as the rights and freedom of citizens and their equality regardless of race, nationality, creed and religion.
Press Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan