Russia’s hope amid religious restrictions

By September 15, 2016

Russia (MNN) — It’s been nearly two months since Russia’s Anti-Terrorism law took effect on July 20, 2016. And despite the Christian persecution, there’s hope.

Hope Despite Persecution

(Image courtesy of Slavic Gospel Association)

(Image courtesy of Slavic Gospel Association)

Bret Laird of the Slavic Gospel Association explains, “The [Anti-Terrorism] law is written fairly vaguely, and so it’s really open to the interpretation of local officials. And, we’ve had both [good and bad] examples.”

“To give you a really encouraging example, there’s a group of churches in a certain area of Russia that just received government approval to hold a major public outreach event right in the city square.”

Since the Anti-Terrorism law is enforced based on local official’s interpretations, degrees of religious freedom vary from region to region. And this means, in a sense, Russia’s Christians can face both more and less religious freedom than other Western Christians.

For example, if Christians refuse business services for a same-sex wedding in the United States, they can be fined up to $80,000 in the state of Illinois. Yet, in Russia, the maximum fine for being in contempt of the Anti-Terrorism law is $7,000.

Hope in Christ

And despite freedom, or the lack of, it’s good to remember man’s law doesn’t trump God’s power or His redemptive plan.

“The advancement of the Gospel doesn’t depend on anything any human ruler can do. The Church has thrived in eras of intense persecution, in eras of intense legal restrictions, as well in eras of freedom,” Laird says.

“So, whenever I think about this particular issue, I’m reminded of Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 2:9, in which, even though he was imprisoned, he made this crucial phrase. He says, ‘But the word of God is not imprisoned.’

Want proof?

Laird says God has been opening some great doors to ministry in Russia that SGA has never before had. SGA is beginning to reach isolated villages, accessible only by plane.

SGA is reaching people groups who have more than likely never heard the Gospel. And this is just one of the exciting things happening. But, there’s also another door being opened by Russia’s religious restrictions.

Would You Be Persecuted?

While Russian Christians face terrible and the praiseworthy situations, it begs a question for global believers.

If you were living under Russia’s Anti-Terrorism law, would it affect you? Is the Gospel a living part of your life shared with others, both inside and outside of the church?

After all, people can only face religious persecution for actively living out their faith. Could it be some of us find ourselves free from religious persecution, not because we are free, but because we restrict ourselves from sharing the Gospel?

(Photo Courtesy SGA)

(Photo courtesy of SGA)

In this sense, the restrictions and persecutions Russian Christians face should drive us to prayer, self-reflection, and serve as a reminder to share the Gospel as much as possible.

So please join SGA and countless others in praying for Christians living under Russia’s religious restrictions and for SGA’s work in the county.

Pray for…

– The Gospel’s perseverance in Russia.
– Russian Christians’ safety, strength, and perseverance in their faith.
– The new generation of Russian believers to be faithful to the Gospel and Christ.
– SGA’s president, Bob Provost, who is recovering from heart surgery.

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