Azamat became a Christian in the early days of Uzbekistan’s independence, soon after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, when, he says, the country “was a much freer place than it is now”.

He embraced his new faith, setting up a network of house churches, and finding teachers for Sunday schools. But the state soon noticed, and its interest led to an abduction that he describes as “the longest seven minutes of my life”.

Azamat, now in his 40s with a wife and two children, talks about how the heady days of his new-found faith turned into a long-running battle to keep the church running under severe oppression from the Uzbek authorities.

“I was born a Muslim, but I had some Christian friends. They had converted to Christianity. At first, they had been like me, drank and smoked, but they changed.

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