New president may or may not mean more religious restrictions in Russia

By May 7, 2008

Russia (MNN) — It's been eight years since Russia has had a new president, but today Dmitry Medvedev takes over that position. At the same time, outgoing President Vladimir Putin will be named Prime Minister. Many predict more tightening of religious freedoms, but some are hoping the Kremlin will soften its policies of quashing dissent and exerting state control over the economy and religious freedom.

Speaking from Moscow, Russian Ministries' Paul Tokarchouk, has an opinion about what Medvedev will do as it relates to the constitution and religious freedom. "I think the new president, Mr. Medvedev, will be more open to keep the law and keep those regulations that are already in the law and keep those regulations that are already in the constitution."

That doesn't mean Russia will become more permissive when it comes to foreign non-governmental organizations or foreign missionaries. "They will be more careful for opening new NGO's, and they will be more careful for those who already exist. And they will be trying to control NGO's as we have already had those cases in Russia," says Tokarchouk.

Russia has already closed foreign NGO's and has threatened national NGO's who receive money from outside Russia. Tokarchouk explains that the government has a pessimistic view of evangelical NGO's. "They consider as a threat, foreign Christians who would help strengthen the evangelical church and the evangelical church becomes strong and more influential and that is the threat that they see in this relationship."

Many believe the Next Generation church leaders can help change that. Tokarchouk says, "The number one need is for dedicated, trained, influential people from this young generation who would be willing to take the Gospel to their peers, to their society and who would be relevant."

That's why Russian Ministries continues its Schools Without Walls program in Russia. Tokarchouk says with the proper training, these young people will not only be able to share the Gospel but help with social issues, provide wisdom in local government and provide answers for difficult questions.

However, key to this is seeing more young people turn to Christ. Tokarchouk says they're answering that problem through their summer camping ministry for kids. "That is one of the most effective ways to reach youth for Christ, through summer camps. Our prayer is that God would use young generation leaders who have already been trained through Schools Without Walls, that they would reach thousands and thousands of kids."

This year Russian Ministries hopes to have more than 5,000 kids attend camp all across Russia. However, funding is need to help scholarship even more kids. $50 can provide funding needed to pay for camp for one child.

Pray for the funding for camps and the training that's already under way.

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