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Published on 07 January, 2011

Not so free in former Soviet Union

Russia (MNN) — Russian officials are stepping up their efforts to quash opposition. According to reports, Russian police Thursday arrested more than a dozen people who were demonstrating the ongoing standoff between the Kremlin and its critics.

The demonstrators were protesting against the 15-day jail term imposed on former deputy premier Boris Nemzov, who was arrested with other protesters a week earlier.

Meanwhile, Russian parliamentary deputies are telling their American colleagues to quit criticizing Russia. U.S. Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman condemn the arrests, which brought the response.

President of Russian Ministries Sergey Rakhuba says this is a step away from democracy and freedom. "It's all somehow going impact the evangelical movement. Somehow, it's going to impact the people who live there."

Rakhuba says it's not just Russia. Belarus recently held presidential elections. He says seven candidates were arrested prior to the election. Obviously, President Alexander Lukashenko won his fourth term.

While the political turmoil continues, Rakhuba says their trained Next Generation Church leaders are reaching out with the Gospel–especially today. "While we're talking now on Orthodox Christmas in Russia, there are hundreds and thousands of people mobilized by Russian Ministries [who are] using Christmas as an opportunity for evangelism."

He says they are ministering to families and children in need "living in arctic Siberia, somewhere in those poor villages, or orphanages, or the people who got caught in the war in the Caucuses. Our teams come to these people with a Gift of Hope."

Gift boxes were purchased for "Project Hope, the Great Gift Exchange" in partnership with the church in the former Soviet Union. And there's more to the boxes than just Christmas presents, says Rakhuba. "They'll also get a New Testament, specially printed for this purpose, that tells them the story of the greatest gift of all — Jesus Christ."

While the Russian Christmas celebration continues for the next three days, the need to train more young people in evangelism also continues. Many more people need Christ, says Rakhuba, and young people are the key.

Russian Ministries School Without Walls Program provides training. There, young people learn how to lead people to Christ by "communicating the Gospel in a new and contemporary way, reaching out to all those who are in need and those who are searching for an eternal answer."

It costs just $40 a month to support the training of one young person, which Rukhuba says is the future of this region.

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