Russia (MNN) — Armed gunmen stormed into a Christian conference near Moscow, Russia. They pulled men, women, and children to the ground and kicked several pastors. The attendees thought terrorists were attacking them.
In reality, these were officers from the Russian Federal Security Service. Floyd Brobbel with the Voice of the Martyrs Canada says, “The leaders of this conference said they set up everything legally. And everything was good to go. There shouldn’t have been a problem or a backlash like they were facing from these security forces. But it seems to me that there’s some confusion. Earlier in the year, new amendments were made to the religious legislation. And this legislation, it’s a bit difficult to understand.”
These new laws target extremist religious groups or the financing of terrorism. Brobbel says, “So part of that makes sense, right? You don’t want groups financing terrorism. But what does it mean to be involved in an extremist religion?”
The legislation also targets “undesirable foreigners,” saying they cannot lead a religious group. This designation also leads to confusion. Brobbel says, “Those religious leaders trained overseas have to be recertified and retrained in Russia. Churches must register with governments on a yearly basis.”
Since the laws are written so vaguely, security forces often interpret them as they go. Different groups often receive different treatments in Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church has very little trouble. Evangelical or Protestant Christians face more discrimination. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have faced more persecution than any other religious group in Russia. Brobbel says, “This kind of bias comes from the government down.”
Ask God to comfort the Russian Christians who face harassment or violence. Brobbel says, “Pray they will continue to be salt and light, continue to speak the truth, continue to love their neighbor, and continue to boldly proclaim the Gospel.”
The header photo shows members of the Russian Federal Security Service on a mission in 2010. (Photo courtesy of RIA Novosti archive, image #835340 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)