moscow-kremlin-night

A Christian ministry that works with persecuted Christians worldwide has announced a day of prayer and fasting for Wednesday, June 29, in response to legislation in Russia hearkening back to the communist era that would require anyone who wants to share their faith to obtain government authorization.

According to Barnabas Fund, two members of the Russian parliament, the Duma, “introduced a series of amendments to anti-terrorist legislation that would require individuals to gain prior state authorization before even discussing their faith with someone else.”

“The Duma adopted the amendments and [Wednesday] the bill will be discussed by the Council of the Russian Federation and then be sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Such restrictions long have been sought by Muslim majority countries, who cast it as a religious freedom issue, claiming that no one should “disparage” any religion, although the only beneficiary appears to be Islam.

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”

Barnabas Fund’s report warned: “The new law will require any sharing of the Christian faith – even a casual conversation – to have prior authorization 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 rubles [about $770].”

The report said 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.”

According to EN.News, there is an advisory council of heads of Protestant churches in Russia, and those members have appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the law.

Sergey Ryakhovsky, a co-chair of the council, said the amendments regarding “freedom of conscience and on religious associations” are extreme.

He said such prohibitions were not even contained in the “godless” Bolshevik plans of the 1920s.

The bill, he noted, “violates the fundamental rights and freedoms in the sphere of religious freedom.”

“The Constitution of the Russian Federation Article 28 says that everyone is guaranteed freedom of religion, including the right to freely disseminate religious and other convictions.”

He also noted international law asserts the “inalienability of the right to distribute their religious beliefs.”

And, he pointed out, the plan “is in contradiction with Article 30 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.”

“Believers tend to talk about their faith, and no law can forbid … it,” he said. “The Soviet past reminds us how many people of different faiths were persecuted for their faith, for spreading their beliefs, the Word of God. … Our fathers not only paid fines and were sentenced to prison terms for ‘illegal assembly,’ for ‘religious agitation,’ for preaching and prayer. And today we see clearly that the proposed bill gets us back to that shameful past.”

The Barnabas Fund report said key leaders are using the excuse of anti-terror legislation “to clamp down on any churches other than the Russian Orthodox, support for which is closely tied to Russian nationalism.”

Even worse, the report said, the bill “is vaguely worded and, with a heavily politicized judiciary, could lead to a situation similar to that faced by Christians in the Communist era.”

Besides supporting Christians who are suffering discrimination financially, the organization encourages and facilitates prayer by providing information, raises awareness of the plight of persecuted Christians and speaks on their behalf.

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea have collaborated to create “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” which confirms that groups like Pew Research, Newsweek and The Economist also identify Christians as “the world’s most widely persecuted religious group.”

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.