Russia (MNN) — On July 20, Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, will either sign into law a bill that could devastate the religious freedoms of Russian evangelical churches, or, he could save them.
In efforts to prevent terrorism, the bill would ban proselytizing, preaching, and praying in areas other than officially registered and recognized church buildings. This is the less harsh version of the bill that’s been pushed through parliament and upper chamber.
In all, the bill seems to be well-meaning. After all, the threat of ISIS comes out of a twisted ideology, to some extent based in the Islamic religion. It would seem an effective way to squash the possibility of others converting to such an ideology by crushing the possibility of it ever being shared in the first place. Still, it seems an extreme response.
The bill, coining the name, Yarovaya Law, is actually a response to last October when a Russian plane, carrying passengers over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, was bombed and killed all passengers, a total of 224 people. ISIS had claimed the attack as its own.
But, if this anti-terrorism bill is not amended before being signed into law, the already mention parts of this bill could be very damaging for churches. Slavic Gospel Association’s President, Bob Provost explains why.
“The difference in this wording is that all religious activity is restricted to a building that’s registered as a church. Ninety-percent of all evangelical churches in Russia, dating back to the communist days, when a church wasn’t allowed to own property, and so all the church buildings were registered in the name of one of the member families,” Provost says. “And that hasn’t been changed much. And so 90-percent of the evangelical church buildings in Russia today are not registered in the name of a church.”
In other words, if the bill is signed into law as-is, 90-percent of these evangelical churches won’t even be able to hold a service without being in contempt of the law. The same would go for ministries, such as SGA, and all others working to further the Great Commission. But, there’s hope.
President Putin has the final authority to amend this bill and save what so many have worked so long and hard for: religious freedom. He could easily become the Russian churches’ hero by sparing them this blow. For this reason, SGA is asking for prayer.
“From our standpoint, we want to ask God’s people, from all over the globe, please start praying right now,” Provost asks. “That God will intervene, that God will move in the heart of Mr. Putin and cause him to not sign this law, so that the Gospel can continue to go forth all across Russia.”
And even if Putin signs this bill into law to protect the Russian people in the only way he may know how, pray for the Gospel to continue to be heard, for lives to continue to be changed, and for Putin to see that the word of God is anything but terrorism. It is a redeeming love story written for all person, including Putin himself.