USA (MNN) — Christians from all over the former Soviet Union were in Washington, D.C. Wednesday for a briefing on Religious Freedom issues in that part of the world. It was hosted by Russian Ministries and their partnering organizations.
President of Russian Ministries Sergey Rakhuba says 90 people attended: more than anticipated. "It shows that a lot more people–many different leaders, even people from the State Departmen–are very much interested in discussing the issue of religious freedom in the former Soviet Union."
Some of the leading evangelical Christians in the region made presentations. "We brought some experts from Russia and Belarus, and we read some reports from Uzbekistan about all the freedoms that have been stripped from people there," says Rakhuba.
It's like going back to the days of the cold war, he says. "Evangelical churches are not allowed to do anything outside of their homes, even inside their homes. If they gather together for prayer meetings they are punished and are penalized. Many pastors have already been thrown into prison there."
While it's reminiscent of the days of communism, Rakhuba says, "This is a new wave of persecution that's based on radical Islamism, on nationalism, and even mainline churches like the Orthodox church…is the reason for persecution of local believers in Russia and Ukraine or other Slavic countries."
The information presented will help create a policy guide for Christians in the region to help fight laws that are meant to fight terrorism. "Based on those laws, evangelical Christians–for their most humble actions–are punished just for having prayer in their own home. So, we'd like to create some policies and to encourage governments to change it."
Rakhuba is hoping politicians will use the policies to help press for those changes so the Gospel can be shared freely.