“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
HAS RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION RETURNED?
Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin put his signature on a package of laws touted as being in the interests of protecting the country from terrorism. The Western media gave little-to-no coverage of this event, because the “front end” of the laws deal with telecommunications companies, encryption keys, lowering the age that a person accused of terrorism can be prosecuted, etc.
However, on the tail end of the package is a shocking, unconstitutional, and highly restrictive list of regulations against missionaries (foreign or otherwise), evangelism, religious meetings in homes, sharing faith anywhere except on registered church premises, and meeting in unauthorized/unregistered facilities for religious purposes.
Here are some links to articles describing the restrictions in more detail:
These laws allegedly went into effect on July 20, 2016.
It’s been hard to sort out the bottom line amidst all the speculation as to how (or if) these laws will be enforced.
But from my current perspective, it seems to me the Iron Curtain is beginning its decent to the floor of the stage once again.
When I asked one pastor in the Samara Region what his church’s response would be, he replied, “Just keep on preaching the Gospel any possible way!”
Another friend, who is now a Russian ex-pat, explained that with elections looming closer in Russia, Putin is focused on weeding out dissidents, which have been known to infiltrate under the guise of missionary/humanitarian work. That’s an interesting perspective. It seems to me that the laws are targeting protestants and other so-called “cults” that might appear to be threatening the authority of the Orthodox church.
I’ll keep this page updated as I learn and experience more.
PROOF that it’s true
In case you doubt that this is really happening, here is a link from a reliable source, Russian Life magazine and blog.
UPDATE after my 2017 visit:
Although the specifics of the new restrictions on foreign or unlicensed evangelism are still mysterious, I elected to exercise an abundance of caution when visiting churches, small groups, etc. and check with the pastor before doing any public speaking. I did learn that if one traveled to Russia on a “humanitarian” visa, then that status would cover any religious activity (good to know for future plans…). Probably needless to say at this point, but I had no issues with law enforcement (and truthfully, gave them no reason to question my activities.)