Russia (MNN) — Russia, a nation that had a brief respite from terror, is once again being awakened to its peril.
Monday’s railway explosion in St. Petersburg made people nervous, and yesterday’s discovery of new explosives in an apartment building didn’t help. Mission Eurasia’s President Sergey Rakhuba says these incidents are happening with enough frequency that “people are wondering, ‘What’s next? Why isn’t the government protecting us?’ So there are lots of concerns because of this.” And yet even as the questions hang in the air, he says people are growing numb to the violence.
There’s a long history of transit attacks in Russia, including bombings in the Moscow metro in 2004 and 2010, at Moscow’s airport in 2011, and in 2013 at a train station in Volgograd. The St. Petersburg metro has been through two other attacks and the railway system has been hit three times.
Rakhuba explains, “It’s always been linked, since Vladimir Putin came into power, to the North Caucuses-based groups of radical Islamists — linked to Chechens, to Dagestan, to all those who were fighting for their presence in the Muslim-predominant areas of the Northern Caucasus.” That includes a huge population of Central Asian immigrants who can be susceptible to radicalization, and citizens reportedly returning home after fighting for the Islamic State. However, “This time in St. Petersburg, it was linked somehow to Kyrgyzstan, so this getting more broad in terms of geography to Russia, so the government is concerned.”
In an effort to clamp down on the risk factors, “The Russian government created all kinds of anti-terrorist laws, all kinds of regulations, but they mostly target the most peaceful people, like evangelical churches.” Scrutiny is expected to be intense.
Rakhuba adds, “Continue praying so that God gives wisdom to the church leaders who currently are looking for solutions, trying to appeal to the Russian government to distinguish evangelical churches (and other Christian groups that are different than the Russian Orthodox Church) from terrorists.”
Mission Eurasia is working with and through the evangelical Church in Russia, equipping their young leaders through programs like School Without Walls. It’s a program focused on Next Gen biblical training, leadership skills, and practical ministry experience. In turn, these passionate young Christian leaders are impacting more than 1.6 million people annually for Christ by ministering to refugees, planting churches, leading evangelistic outreaches, organizing summer Bible camps for children, and distributing aid goods and Scripture to those in need.
New anti-terror regulations have proven to be a challenge; however, “The leaders of the evangelical church in Russia say, ‘We have not forgotten how much we were persecuted under the Soviet regime. It seems like the persecution is coming back, but we are not stopping sharing the Gospel.’” In fact, they’re stepping up to the Next Gen and saying, “‘We remember how to do this. We were faithfully sharing the Gospel even when we were underground, back when the Soviet regime was in power.’”
As much as Russia is awakened to its terror menace, so too, is the Church waking to an urgent summons. “We need so much help now to equip our young generation, to continue faithfully bringing the Gospel to our society, to our communities, because we believe that only the Gospel has the power to transform people’s hearts.”