Last week, I learned that the Russian Duma was considering legislation on anti-terrorism that would severely curtail religious activity. The organization, Barnabas Aid reported that President Putin signed the law on July 3.
Last week we reported that President Vladimir Putin had until 20 July to decide whether to enact an anti-terror bill into law – which, despite protests from churches, includes many clauses that are strongly anti-Christian. In fact the bill, which is primarily aimed at anti-terrorist activities, was signed into law by President Putin on Sunday 3 July. Protestant Christians in Russia fear that the new law will be chiefly enforced as a weapon against them and not used against the Orthodox Church, which Mr Putin has favoured in the past.
The new law will require any sharing of the Christian faith – even a casual conversation – to have prior authorisation from the state. This includes something as basic as an emailed invitation for a friend to attend church. Even in a private home, worship and prayer will only be allowed if there are no unbelievers present. Churches will also be held accountable for the activities of their members. So if, for example, a church member mentions their faith in conversation with a work colleague, not only the church member but also the church itself could be punished, with individuals facing fines of up to 50,000 roubles (£580; USD770; €700). There are also restrictions on the extent to which churches can have contact with foreigners; for example, any non-Russian citizen attending a church service would be required to have a work visa or face a fine and expulsion from Russia.
Christianity Today reported the news in this article, “Russia’s Newest Law: No Evangelizing Outside of Church.” Mission Network News offered their view in an article, “Big Brother passes bill in Russia.”
How will this affect the pastors I know in Russia–Vanya, Sasha, Sandzhik? How will this affect the missionaries our church supports in Russia? How will this affect my missionary friends who invest, train, and mentor Russian pastors? How will this affect my future ministry in the country? How will this affect the Christ followers in Russia? Will the church be stamped out? Or will it flourish and grow even though it is driven underground?
I admit that I have more questions than I have answers right now. As several articles explain, a lot depends on how the law is enforced. If nothing else, we need to pray even more fervently for the Christ followers and global servants in Russia.