Religious freedom on decline, Christians still at work

By January 26, 2009

International (MNN) — Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and now Kyrgyzstan have all passed very restrictive religions laws which all but force the evangelical church into hiding. Unfortunately, the future for the evangelical church in the former Soviet Union doesn't look very bright.

Vice President for Russian Ministries Sergey Rakhuba, who lived under communism, says, "I'm very much concerned that the entire region will develop the same anti-evangelical, anti-mission, anti-western strategy in order to limit the evangelical ministry there. That will definitely make the spread of the Gospel more difficult."

Kazakhstan is also considering strict legislation. While the president has sent the matter to the constitutional courts for consideration, Rakhuba says, "Knowing how things work there they just simply follow each other's example. Most likely Kazakhstan will follow the example of Kyrgyzstan."

The religion laws require 200 or more people in a church to register with the government. If that's not done, it's illegal to meet. In addition, there are restrictions on what can be taught to young people. And, evangelism outside the walls of the church is prohibited without a permit.

Western missionaries haven't been told to leave, but Rakhuba says, "The next step might be that all foreign missionaries who work there a lot may not be allowed to do any work related to church, unless it's approved by local authorities. That's what happening Uzbekistan."

Russian Ministries had planned to start a program in Kyrgyzstan. "Unfortunately, we will have to revise our plans in order to not get locals in trouble now. And, most likely, in the future we will be going underground, like in other places."

According to Rakhuba, these laws won't stop the local church. "It will be harder. It will be more difficult. There will be a lot more risk with it, but I'm sure that ministry will continue, that the truth will prevail anyway, and that God's kingdom will be expanded."

This is why Russian Ministries is focused on training through their "Schools Without Walls" program. The purpose of this program is "to reach, to train and to equip the next generation of national evangelical leaders. This program would perfectly fit in the political environment like this. I would like to ask all the listeners to continue supporting Russian Ministries."

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