Ministries, government concerned over draft bill

By July 20, 2009

Russia (MNN) — Currently, foreigners in Russia only need a visa to teach. A draft bill has been submitted, however, that claims the current policy opens doors for the spread of
"extremist ideology, national and religious hatred." All of this poses a national security threat, according to the bill.

Persuaded by the threats, the Moscow City Duma deputies
approved the creation of the bill last Tuesday which would require a work permit for foreign teachers. This can take months to acquire.    

The cumbersome bureaucracy has an advantage in that no work permit is required. That would be scrapped if the bill is passed.

"These things often get introduced with very little fanfare, and it's only after the fact that we found out about it. This one seems that we had a little bit more 'heads up' than usual, but it will definitely bear watching," said Joel Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association.

Griffith said that, if passed, the new laws could be a hindrance to ministry. "One of the ways that it could impact western missions, obviously, is by restricting the ability to send teachers to seminaries or Bible institutes to assist the Russian churches there. So I'm sure this is a concern to Russian churches, as well."

As yet, the Duma has not taken action on the bill, and SGA is still waiting for more specifics about the actual text of it. 

A second concern cited in the bill is that foreign teachers are under-qualified. However, a statement by the directors of education who will be affected by the bill's passing said that the legislation would be "harmful to the intellectual capital of the country and its international image." Griffith said that many other Russians are concerned as well, including economists. Chair of the commission on science and education of the Moscow City
Duma, Yevgeny Bunimovich, said that the bill is the beginning of an iron curtain as a result of general hysteria: "a belief that we are surrounded by enemies on all sides who are intent on finding a way to destroy us from within." 

On the other hand, Griffith said that such concerns can be legitimate.  "We look at Islamic extremism and some of the problems we have in the United States even with some
of these Islamic schools over here allowing some sort of a Jihadist ideology to slip in under the radar." 

It is when the government is opposed to the Gospel or religion entirely that Christians should be more concerned. "Pray that the legislation would be clear and specific enough to where it would indeed make it difficulty for extremist ideology–things that promote hatred and violence–and at the same time not tighten up restrictions on legitimate churches."

There is no timeline as to when the bill will be considered by the Duma. "If it isn't actually written in the docket, who knows when it could come up. We have to basically just watch the agenda," said Griffith.

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