Russia (MNN/VOMC) — Evangelical believers in Russia were forced to pay what is being called a “tax on faithfulness” in 2022, and this year that price is expected to increase.
The one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is tomorrow. Some Christian denominations in Russia have been silent regarding the war in Ukraine. Now, The Voice of the Martyrs Canada reports that throughout the country, basic Christian activities have been investigated and punished as crimes.
“Believers paid fines, appealed their decisions, and in most cases lost their appeals,” says Dr. Hyun Sook Foley from their sister ministry, The Voice of the Martyrs Korea (VOMK). “It is a trend that The Voice of the Martyrs Korea is monitoring closely as 2023 begins.”
The report from VOMK gives several examples. In one case, Stefan Valery was convicted on November 8th. The charges centred around the “missionary activities” he conducted, along with his sharing of a publication titled, Do You Believe? – even though that document was legally printed by a registered media company.
The activities he was convicted of include holding worship services, organizing concerts, and speaking with people who were not members of his church.
Similar charges were also laid against Vladimir Popov in Armavir and Vladimir Kharchenko in Sochi, who were likewise charged with conducting missionary activities in 2021. In February 2022, Stepan Prokopovich was questioned about the activities of his church in Ulyanovsk, including its relations with those belonging to other faith groups.
Ultimately, the court instituted a ban on all activities of his church.
These cases represent just a few of the many believers who were investigated and convicted for alleged violation of the federal law on “Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations.” In each case, the Christians faced fines of 5,000 rubles (about $95 CAD) and, in some instances, were ordered to cease all church activities.
The law that was used to justify the charges, along with the Russian Constitution, specifically forbids restrictions on the freedom of conscience, religion or religious association – including the teaching and disseminating of religious beliefs.
The practise of religious freedom, while severely restricted under the USSR, significantly improved in the years that followed. However, in recent years, the government has begun to oppress various religious groups under the guise of combatting extremism.
A list of previously published reports addressing the suppression of Christianity in Russia can be reviewed at VOMCanada.com/russia-reports.
Prayerfully uphold Christian ministries in Russia that are encountering increased oppression from governing officials, asking God to provide all those affiliated with these ministries spiritual guidance, strength and perseverance.
Pray that Russia’s governmental leaders would realize the need to value and uphold freedom of religion for people of all faiths, and thus cease their harassment against the country’s various religious groups.
May the Lord work powerfully in the hearts of those in Russia who oppose the message of the Gospel, leading them to eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Header photo courtesy of Pavel Neznanov via Unsplash.