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More religious freedom questions surface in Russia

By April 6, 2012

Russia (MNN) — Russians may have even less religious freedom if the political signs are any indication.

Forum 18 News outlines some of the issues facing the church. New amendments in Kostroma Region could ban and punish "propaganda of religious sects among minors." An official order in Arkhangelsk Region bans Jehovah's Witnesses from renting municipally-owned property. A deputy Education Minister in Bashkortostan warned educational leaders — using FSB security service information — against "destructive religions" such as Protestants and Jehovah's Witnesses. The Health Department of Kurgan Region warned health institutions that Baptist leaders intend to "use the technology of hidden influence on the psychic state of citizens to increase the number of parishioners through the involvement of specialist doctors in the area of psychology and psychiatry."

The wording isn't direct enough to understand what's specifically being targeted, but it is concerning. The good news is: Forum 18 reports most of these written proposals have been revoked.

Joel Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association says while that is good news, "These are sort of disturbing things that seem to be arising in different spots across Russia and are raising concerns. It really remains to be seen just how this is all going shake down, but it certainly is a disturbing thing that it's being tried on a regional basis."

Russia and many of the former Soviet bloc nations have been the targets of terrorism. They have reacted. Griffith says, "When they come up with these anti-extremist laws that are intended to crack down on stuff like this, it seems like it ends up drawing more people into the net than it ought to."

Despite the increasing pressure on the evangelical church, Griffith says, "The main tact I think they're taking is that they're just going on ahead with their ministries. They're not letting themselves be intimidated. They do what they always do when they're confronted with things like this. The first thing they do is go to the Lord in prayer, and they keep on proclaiming the Gospel."

While those who lived during the days of the Soviet Union understand oppression, times have changed. Griffith says, "You've got an entire generation of young people coming up who don't have any memory of what life was like under atheistic communism — some of the persecution and oppression. How will they react?"

Griffith is encouraging Christians to pray. "We certainly need to pray for young people, not only that they would be strengthened and grounded in their faith, but that they would not be dissuaded or discouraged by any pressure that comes their way."

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