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CHURCH

They have the unique ability to see new God-given opportunities in the midst of what is taking place.” “The door for evangelism in Russia is still open, but it is only slightly ajar,” Rakhuba stated. “Therefore, we must continue to actively share the gospel in Russia and the other countries of Eurasia where we are deeply involved while there is still opportunity. “[It’s] the most draconian anti-religion bill to be proposed in Russia since Nikita Khrushchev promised to eliminate Christianity in the Soviet Union. For years we have watched as huge changes take place in Russia under the increasingly dictatorial rule of President Putin and his administration. Freedom of religion represents a threat to the current political agenda in Russia. Today, few—if any—foreign Christian mission groups have an official presence in Russia, having been pushed out by anti-evangelical regulations.” He concluded: “Please pray for Russia and its people— especially believers—as well as for its political and spiritual leaders. Please pray for those who have been called to serve in God’s mission fields at this difficult time throughout this vast and long-suffering nation.” World Watch Monitor (www.worldwatchmonitor. org) reports that on July 7, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill referred to by one Christian organization as an “anti-missionary bill.” The new law, known more commonly as the “Yarovaya” law (the name of one of its authors), which will come into effect on July 20, was formally introduced as an “antiterrorism” measure, allowing the government to monitor extremist groups. However, World Watch Monitor says its biggest impact may be upon Russia’s Christians, particularly missionaries, who will need a permit, and the so-called “house churches,” which will soon be deemed illegal, as religious activity will only be allowed to take place inside registered buildings, such as churches. Maximum fines amount to the equivalent of $780 for individuals or $15,000 for organizations. In a media advisory, in which it collated Christian leaders’ reactions to the new law, World Watch Monitor says the law is unlikely to affect the Russian Orthodox Church, to which, according to the Christian Post, 70 percent of Russians (and 90 percent of ethnic Russians) subscribe, but it will affect all other evangelical groups and denominations, including Protestants (one percent of the population), Seventh-day Adventists, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Edward Snowden, US whistle-blower granted asylum in Russia, wrote this on Twitter(@Snowden): “#Putin has signed a repressive new law that violates not only human rights, but common sense. Dark day for #Russia.”

HOW THE CHURCH RESPONDED An open letter from the Baptist Council of Churches:

The authors of the bill did not ask for the views of those “who are the most affected by the new amendments.” Instead, the law violates the constitutional right “freely to choose, hold, and disseminate religious and other beliefs.” [It will] create conditions for the repression of all Christians … Any person who mentions their religious views or reflections out loud or puts them in writing, without the relevant documents, could be accused of ‘illegal missionary activity’ and subjected to a heavy fine.”

Sergei Ryakhovsky, head of the Protestant Churches of Russia:

“The obligation on every believer to have a special permit to spread his or her beliefs, as well as hand out religious literature and material outside of places of worship and used structures is not only absurd and offensive, but also creates the basis for mass persecution of believers for violating these provisions. Soviet history shows us how many people of different faiths have been persecuted for spreading the Word of God. This law brings us back to a shameful past.”

Joel Griffith of the Slavic Gospel Association:

“I understand from one source that this package of bills was actually drafted in April and it’s been back and forth through a few committees here and there so I’m imagining this has probably been well discussed behind the scenes … It’s been signed into law, now it’s all going to depend on how this gets interpreted down the food chain within the Russian Federation … There are potentially very wide-sweeping ramifications to this law. It just depends on, again, how it is going to be enforced and that is a very huge question mark … Our whole ethos and purpose is to serve the church. And the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists is registered with them. And our sole purpose for existence is serving those churches.”

Jake Roudkovski, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary professor:

“Baptist churches in Russia will survive … [It] is nothing new to them … [But it] will significantly undercut all of the missionary activities [though it] will not stop [missions and evangelism] altogether.” www.mychristiandaily.com.au | 9

The Christian Pulse August/September 2016  

Welcome to the latest issue of The Christian Pulse, the magazine for www.mychristiandaily.com. This issue we feature 'How Not to Sacrifice Y...