Romania (MNN) — Religious laws have been brought into play
in Moldova since 2004, and it appears that the ideology is finally crossing the
borders into Romania.
Patrick Klein with Vision Beyond Borders just returned from a
mission trip to the Roma in Romania. He
says their ministry partners have told them that in the south part of the country, "The
Orthodox Church has been hiring thugs to attack pastors. Then also, we've heard
that there's legislation in front of the Romanian government right now to close
down any church that's under 300 members."
The type of legislation pending before Parliament bears some
similarities to bills introduced in Moldova within the last seven years. However, there has not been a lot of coverage.
Klein says if they go through without opposition, "It would mean that there's a lot of little
churches that would be closed down that would no longer be able to operate.
There's a lot of pressure from the Orthodox Church because they see the
opposition from the Bible-believing churches."
If Moldova is the pattern followed by Romania, the future for smaller churches
will be difficult. Registration in
Moldova is required by law but has not always been easily available to smaller
religious organizations. In fact,
according to Voice of the Martyrs Canada, religious groups that apply for
registration are often denied.
Additionally, unregistered religious groups cannot own, buy,
or sell property, are not permitted to invite foreign citizens to the country,
cannot officially hire personnel, and are not allowed to hold a bank
Registration–or the lack thereof–effectively ties the hands
of traditional mission groups. If the smaller churches can't share the
Gospel, there's a bigger problem on the horizon, warns Klein: false teaching. "We were talking to these religious leaders
and we said, ‘If you have no assurance of salvation, how can you lead people in
the church themselves? You're the one they look up to.' These men looked at us dumbfounded, then said,
‘Nobody knows if they're saved or not.'"
For now, the window remains open in Romania, and Vision
Beyond Borders will work as quickly as possible. "As our teams go in, I want to
see us reach out more and more, getting the Gospel out to more and more people
to help strengthen these smaller congregations. I hope to see them grow. If this legislation passes, that any church under 300 would be shut down, let's do
what we can to build up these congregations."
In the meantime, Klein urges prayer that God would prepare
the Church for what's likely coming. "We could pray that this legislation would
not be allowed to be pushed through, praying
for the Romanian church to be strong, that we're standing with them, and we're
committed to keep getting the Gospel in and trying to reach these people."