Russia (MNN) – The bite of new religious restrictions is being felt in Russia, just two months after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the controversial and vaguely-written Anti-Terrorism bill into law. Under it, Christians are falling into the same category as other extremists and being labeled ‘terrorists’.
The Anti-Terrorism Law
Intended to protect, the law is a response to the numerous terrorist attacks Europe and Russia have faced over the past year. Last October, a Russian plane was attacked, and that only reinforced the government’s determination to impose sterner controls. Unfortunately, those controls eventually restrict religious freedoms, too.
The Anti-Terrorism Bill, under the guise of nationalism, prohibits proselytizing, preaching, and praying in areas other than officially registered church buildings. The problem is many churches, forbidden to own property during the Communist era, are unregistered today. When the law went into effect, the work of most of Russia’s evangelical churches became ‘illegal’.
Churches in Russia Face Restrictions
Speaking on the topic, Sergey Rakhuba with Mission Eurasia says, “We’re getting information from all different parts of Russia. And, as you see with this article, there was recently an American pastor, [who] was secretly fined for his activity when he was inviting people to his home for Bible study and for group prayer.”
Rakhuba goes on to say Christian summer camps have been shut down, and a reformed Orthodox priest was arrested in St. Petersburg. Officials accused the summer camps of illegal missionary activity because they had non-Russians helping.
In some ways, worst fears have been realized. Because of the way it’s written, local authorities can interpret the Anti-Terrorism law freely, which means there’s very little legal recourse. In a country where it is illegal to pray with friends in the safety of private homes, what is the Gospel’s future?
Despite the setbacks caused by the Anti-Terrorism law, Mission Eurasia is still working to train up national young leaders in Russia. The Russian Church, under Communism, has a history of endurance due to faithful believers who actually thrived under pressure. “The church in Russia survived Communist persecution when they were driven underground. And that’s as we see in other parts of the world,” Rakhuba explains. Sound familiar? It’s because the concept of being made stronger in faith through trials is found in Psalm 66.
“When they persecute the believers, the churches flourished underground. Getting stronger and more firm, bringing the Gospel to their nation.”
With the looming challenges ahead, Russia’s Church needs help. Prayer is powerful. Mission Eurasia is asking the global Christian community to pray with them for creativity, wisdom and strength.
Pray for Russia’s leaders outside of the church, like President Vladimir Putin. Pray for hearts to soften and be receptive to the Gospel, too.
Remember Russia’s young church leaders. They’re coming of age in a time when oppression and persecution will be the norm. Pray that they’d be strong in their faith, for God’s guidance as they rise up to lead Russia’s church through a trying era.
Mission Eurasia is coming alongside them to teach them how to do that, but they need financial support. John 9:4 says it succinctly: “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” Want to know what they do? Meet Anna. Her story is shared here; hers is an inspiring story of faith and commitment to the Gospel.
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