Russia (MNN) — A new law in Russia will punish non-governmental organizations for receiving funding from abroad. The bill cleared the upper house of parliament and was signed into law last week by President Vladimir Putin. Foreign government leaders and Russian activists are concerned. Under the bill, if an NGO receives funding from abroad, they have to register as "foreign agents."
President of Russian Ministries Sergey Rakhuba says while the law is specifically targeting those involved in political activities, "We see that there is an effort to control protests. But I know from experience that many local authorities will interpret that in order to control religious activity."
While government leaders say the law applies to NGOs engaging in political activities, opponents say it is a Kremlin attempt to silence critics.
Rakhuba's response to this new law isn't from a religious persecution angle. "We're not saying that this law was aiming at evangelical or mission organizations, but since they are under the category of non-governmental organizations, definitely local authorities can interpret it as a signal to control specifically religious activities."
The term "foreign agents" will push many Russians away, especially organizations that would use outside funding to provide aid, resources, and the Gospel.
Rakhuba says Christian NGOs will be affected. "Most of those who receive support from foreign donors will be very much restricted. And, unfortunately, they will need to be more creative. Many of them will ignore (the law) and go back to receiving support underground."
"But, I don't think it will stop mission work," says Rakhuba.
One of the oldest NGOs in Russia says not only will they ignore the law, they'll challenge it in court. Rakhuba says, "Of course this law needs to be challenged. It needs to be challenged, not a by a few in Russia, but I think the foreign community, the human rights networks, need to address this issue and create some pressure. This law needs to be revised."
Will Russian Ministries curtail their work? Rakhuba says there's no need for them to do that. They need to continue reaching the lost through young church leaders. "True change will come when the Gospel will reach thousands and millions of Russian citizens." That's when these types of laws will end.
In the meantime, ironically, Russian Ministries needs your support. "The need in Russia, training next generation leaders, is bigger than ever before. And we still need support to provide resources for these young people." The funding covers Bibles, other Christian literature, and training and more.