Christians in Russia Under Attack From Putin’s Law Banning Evangelism Outside of Churches

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(Photo: Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin/via Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a religious service at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Savior at Valaam Monastery, Russia, July 11, 2016.

(Photo: Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin/via Reuters)
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a religious service at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Savior at Valaam Monastery, Russia, July 11, 2016.

Source: The Christian Post

BY BRANDON SHOWALTER , CP CONTRIBUTOR

Russia’s so-called “anti-extremism” law that restricts evangelism and missionary activities went into effect on Wednesday, and religious freedom advocacy groups say they are starting to assess the impact it will have on Christians in the country.

“For Christian advocates inside the country, there are challenges and risks,” the American Center for Law and Justice’s Gene Kapp said in a statement to The Christian Post on Thursday.

“Our team at the Slavic Centre for Law and Justice [ACLJ’s Moscow affiliate that has argued against the law] is in the process of evaluating and analyzing the impact of the new directives. They are also preparing a webinar to provide critical advice and analysis for the Christian community on this vital issue. Details and timing are still being worked out. We will stand with them and assist in any way possible.”

The contested law was reportedly crafted in an effort to combat the Islamic State, according to The Economist, following the terror group’s claim that it was responsible for the downing of Russian Metrojet flight 9268, which crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula last fall and killed all 224 passengers on board.

Many religious liberty advocates, however, believe the law does little to thwart radical Islamic jihadists and instead targets minority Christian denominations unaffiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Faith McDonnell, director of religious liberty programs at the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C., said in an interview with The DailySignal on Wednesday, “The law doesn’t do that much to defend from terrorism and only prevents Christians and others who are not Orthodox from preaching and proselytizing,”

“Russia is slipping back to what it was before,” McDonnell added.

There are two branches of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church. The Moscow Patriarchate is protected under the new law because it has been aligned with the Russian government for decades. The Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church, however, is independent and is not exempt from the law.

In an email to The Daily Signal, Archbishop Andrew Maklakov, administrator of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church of America, said: “As the Russian Federation has drifted back to its Soviet roots more and more over the past 25 years, it has increasingly sought to harass, persecute, and destroy any religious organization that it might consider competition to its own ‘state church.'”

As CP reported last week, under the new law foreign missionaries will not be allowed to speak at churches unless they have a work permit from Russian authorities. Similarly, any kind of discussion about God with non-believers is now considered a missionary activity and punishable by law. And religious activities, even in private homes, is no longer allowed.

In an eerie echo of its Soviet-era KGB past, the law also states that “every citizen is required to report religious activity to the authorities, or face punishment him or herself.”

Named after the bill’s author, Irina Yarovaya, the “Yarovaya law” contains police and counterterrorism measures that grant state security agencies the authority to access private communications, regulate Christian proselytizing on the internet, and requires telecom companies to store phone conversations, text messages, and videos for six months and provide that data to the government.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group that aims to defend civil liberties in the digital world, noted Tuesday that Mikhail Fedotov, Putin’s human rights head, urged senators of Russia’s Federal Council not to support the bill when it was being considered.

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6 Comments

  1. Joe Pascudnok on

    Russia already has the True faith. No need for other Christian groups nor wackos like JW’s, Mormons and others. Also, limiting Muslim growth is a good thing.

    • Anthony Carris on

      Joe, you have an understanding of reality. Russia does not wish to have the very reverents Al Sharpten and Jessie Jackson in their Midst. Andoni

  2. @Joe Pascudnok: I’m an Orthodox Christian, which means that I also believe it is the True Faith, as we sing at the end of every Liturgy. But other versions of Christianity also believe theirs is the True Faith. In Russia, where I lived for 17 years and became Orthodox, that version is the traditional majority and state-favored faith, and has now effectively outlawed all other versions including other forms of Orthodoxy, not just JWs and Mormons. But now I’m back in the U.S. where Orthodoxy is only a small minority. What if the majority versions of Christianity here in the U.S. – Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc. – were to take the same position that you espouse, and have a law passed that would outlaw “wacko” Orthodoxy? Would that be a good thing? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!

  3. Peter Poulapos on

    Robert: The US has a Freedom of Religion clause and therefore any and all religious beliefs can flourish. Russia does not have such a clause and it’s restriction on the spread of preaching other faiths besides the Orthodox faith is primarily aimed at Muslim radicals. Yet, in a nation where Orthodoxy has come back from the edge of extinction, although many times a radical & uneducated Orthodoxy, why are other faiths desperately trying to pollute Russia with their skewed religious teachings?

  4. George D. Karcazes on

    The difference between living in a country where religion is separated from the State, and a country where there is an established, State-sponsored religion — goes beyond the difference between living in a country that is pluralistic and one which whose population is essentially homogeneous. The genius of the American experiment is to insure that people are free to believe and support whatever faith they wish, without government interference. Aside from insuring that every taxpayer is not compelled to support a religion they do not profess, it requires the faithful to step up and support their own religion with their own time, talent and treasure. If Orthodoxy in Russian is “radical & uneducated” should the State interfere with the “free exercise” of others religious beliefs in order to support Orthodoxy (and use it to promote nationalism and attempts to re-subjugate the former captive nations of the Soviet Empire)? Most people would probably choose the American model.. as imperfect as it may be.

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