Russia (MNN) — Religious freedom took another hit in Russia last week. One of the last remaining local Christian radio stations was shuttered by authorities.
Dan Johnson with New Life Radio Moscow says their Norilsk FM affiliate, located in Siberia, was the target. "This is the third radio affiliate we've had that's been shut down by the government under a variety of pretexts. The station in Norilsk was one of the few existing FM stations across the country."
Johnson says this isn't an isolated case. "We're just noticing a general decline in the ability of Christians to have access to the mass media in Russia. And for those existing Christian radio stations that are operating, they're facing all kinds of harassment by federal authorities."
New Life Radio is a satellite service designed to provide Christian radio programming to locally-owned radio station owners–stations that can't afford to hire radio staff.
Johnson says, "If local Christians could find a way to get access to a local radio channel, we would provide the equipment for them to get the signal into the town and retransmit it and then to use that as a tool for the local churches to attract listeners."
Pastor Mikail Dolgikh was able to do that in Norilsk. In fact, he was able to house the station at his regular job at the state-owned telecommunications building. Johnson says they started broadcasting in 2007. "The local security services were responsible for Mikail being fired at the state telecom building. So when Mikail got fired, they were forced to move the studio outside of that building."
Since they were off the air, authorities shut the station down.
Johnson says he now has to reapply for a license, but he isn't very hopeful he'll be granted a new license. "It's part of the spiritual warfare in Russia these days. All I can think is that Mikail probably lost his job because of his service to the Lord."
HCJB Global was responsible for helping to establish New Life Radio-Moscow and others when the Iron Curtain fell in the former Soviet Union. HCJB President and CEO Wayne Pederson says, "HCJB Global and others planted dozens of terrestrial community FM stations across Russia. As far as I know, there's only one such radio station left in Siberia, up in Tomsk, that's still broadcasting the Gospel. All of the others have been shut down by the political climate."
HCJB Global is still involved in radio, but through satellite. "The satellite that was launched is still sending programs direct to homes, schools, churches, prisons, and retirement homes, all across the 11 time zones of the former Soviet Union."
Pederson says HCJB is also featuring other programming. "We're streaming the same format on the internet. The use of internet streaming is growing, especially among the youth and especially among the major cities of Russia."
Christian radio in Russia isn't being abandoned, says Pederson. "We have received some grants to help our partners there in Russia to build a Web site and to stream their internet programming. We can continue to help them, even to help Dan Johnson at New Life Radio in Moscow."
Johnson says missionary media is something Christians need to invest in. "Russians love media, but there's practically no Christian content on the media. So we as Christians can best help the Russian church in the area of media by supporting ministries like New Life Radio, that simply gives them a tool to reach their own people through radio."
If you'd like to help New Life Radio, go http://www.CRFR.org. You can also listen to http://www.NLRadio.net. It costs $15,000 a month to keep the network running. HCJB Global is also helping. You can support their work at http://www.HCJB.org.