Russia (MNN) — Earlier this week, Russian Christians were uncertain what the destruction of the Holy Trinity Church would mean for religious freedom in the former Soviet Union nation.
"It was the first time since the Lenin-Stalin revolution where a church was vandalized and destroyed," said Wade Kusack with Russian Ministries. In light of recent events, it appears dawn is breaking over a dark horizon in Russia and the future looks oppressive.
"It's a signal," Kusack said. "This is a clear sign for all other groups who hate Protestants all over Russia."
The Holy Trinity Church congregation still met with their pastor on Sunday, worshipping God near the ruins of their former church. Two days later, government officials held the pastor in police custody for three hours, interrogating him about the "illegal meeting" he held with church members.
"Illegal meetings are prohibited by law and may be punished by up to four years in prison or huge fines, up to $15,000," reported Kusack. "He was [also] threatened."
Police used intimidation tactics, telling the pastor that if believers met again, more people would be arrested and he could face prison-time. The officials used a recent law as the basis of their threats, which states that no "open-air meetings" may be held without the government's permission.
"They think the property doesn't belong to the church anymore," explained Kusack. "The building's destroyed, and [in their view] the church cannot gather over there any longer. They just kicked [Christians] out.
"They kicked them into the street and said, 'We don't know you, we don't like you.'"
How do Russian Christians react?
"They stated that they will go and worship regardless," Kusack said. "We will see what is going to happen next Sunday.
"Authorities have no regrets about what happened, and I think they'll be more harsh with Christians."
Ask God to protect believers facing threats and persecution.
According to Kusack, the Holy Trinity Church situation sums up the government's new stance toward churches throughout Russia. Authorities demand that churches leave certain areas, but when they try to relocate, officials deny their applications.
"They're trying to push churches far away from big cities like Moscow," Kusack stated.
The church is trying to find justice through the Russian courts by appealing their case, Kusack said, but he isn't optimistic about the results. Pray for the persecutors of Russian Christians, and pray for Russian authorities. Above all else, pray for peace in Russia.
"Right now, the situation is getting worse and worse, and tensions are rising in the society," said Kusack. "Russia needs peace right now."
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