There are nearly 33 million people in the Uzbek cluster spread across 22 different countries.
Roughly 75% of Uzbeks live in Uzbekistan which was once a thoroughfare for the Silk Road, and, as such, it was a strategic point of conquest for many invaders. The result is a culture with a rich mix of various ethnic groups: Russian, Tajik, Kazak, Karakalpak, Tatar, and Korean to name a few. There are large communities of Uzbeks in other central Asian countries (Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc.) as well as smaller communities in many other nations, including the United States.
Traditionally they are shepherds, but today most either farm (cotton being their principal crop) or live and work in towns and cities. Those living in rural villages have no access to the Gospel; however, those living in cities and larger towns are more likely to have access to the gospel message. Despite increasing scrutiny and harassment, the Church continues to grow, mainly in urban areas, where about one-third of Uzbeks reside.
The Uzbek mountain men love to play buzkashi, a wild polo-like game with two teams on horseback. The game, which uses the headless carcass of a goat or calf as the “ball,” can be very violent and go on for several days. The object of the game is to pick up the “ball” and carry it to a goal that may be as far as two miles away.
The Uzbeks are a creative people, they love poetry, music and playing unique instruments, such as the Sato, a two-stringed fretted lute. Uzbek culture is preserved through folk dances and traditional handcrafts like metal working, wood carving, leather craft and wall or textile painting. The women are expert weavers and are known to weave brightly colored rugs.
Most Uzbeks would call themselves Sunni Muslims. Most, however, are not orthodox Muslims and intermingle traditional beliefs with Islamic practices. Many are practicing Sufis, a mystical branch of Islam. Less than 1% of Uzbeks are Christian, and Uzbekistan is one of the top twenty most persecuted nations in the world. Islamic fundamentalists have called for stricter adherence to Islam; fear of the instability created by Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism has led to the government’s attempt to limit religious practices in support of a more moderate form of Islam. In spite of these uncertainties, Christians have been praying for, investing in, and working for disciple-making among the Uzbek people, many of whom have been very responsive in recent years.
WAYS TO PRAY:
Pray for safety, growth, and spiritual maturity for those in underground house churches.
Pray that religious freedom will soon become a reality for the Uzbek people
Pray for the Eastern Orthodox Christians in Uzbekistan, that they would be bold in their faith and courageously share the Gospel with their neighbors
Pray for the protection of the Eastern Orthodox Christians.
Information for this post was sourced from Joshua Project and Prayercast.