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International – Russian crackdown latest

September 2016

Russian elections in September may offer a ray of hope to Christians in the country, who are at risk of a serious crackdown on religious activities.

On 24 June, the lower house of the Russian parliament — the Duma — approved legislation known as Yarovaya’s Law, which aimed to tackle extremist religious groups operating in Russia.

As reported in ET, August 2016, the law is named after parliamentarian Irina Yarovaya, who brought it forward in response to the October 2015 bombing of a Russian passenger jet over Egypt. It was approved by the upper chamber and signed by President Vladimir Putin in July.

The law curbs missionary work, donating money to religious organisations and meeting together outside of an approved building. It will also introduce a prison sentence of up to a year for ‘failure to report a terrorist act in the planning stages’.

The bill also bans proselytising, preaching and praying outside officially recognised religious institutions, among other measures. Even having an evangelistic conversation casually must be done with prior state authority, or the penalties will be severe.

However, as it will not gather force until October 2016, pastors in the country have given thanks for freedom to preach the Word of God until then.

Moreover, in a message seen by Evangelical Times, one Russian pastor wrote, ‘Many Christians of Russia pray for a change of this law. In September there will be elections to the state Duma, and probably there will be changes of this law, new legislators.

‘We pray for it and we ask you to pray. For today, there are no restrictions, neither on the preaching of the gospel, nor on the transfer of means’.

While present freedoms remain, Christians will redouble efforts to preach, while praying the fresh elections to the Duma will see people come to power who will reverse the legislation.