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Russia Bans Sharing of Faith

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a package of anti-terrorism laws that also include measures that put tighter restrictions on missionary activity and evangelism. Effective July 20, 2016, the newly approved law will ban the sharing faith in homes, online, or anywhere but churches and other religious buildings.

Christianity Today reported that citizens who want to share their faith “must secure a government permit through a registered religious organization, and they cannot evangelize anywhere besides churches and other religious sites.”

This law will have far reaching effects on Protestants and religious minorities. Konstantin Bendas, deputy bishop of the Pentecostal Union, disclosed that last month, “the local police officer came to a home where a group of Pentecostals meet each Sunday.”

According to the Christian magazine, “The anti-evangelism law carries fines up to US $780 for an individual and $15,500 for an organization. Foreign visitors who violate the law face deportation.”

Meanwhile, Radio Free Europe reported that Russia’s new anti-terrorism law “includes measures toughening punishment for extremism and terrorism, increases the state’s surveillance capabilities, and criminalizes failure to inform the authorities about certain crimes.”

The law allows the state to access private communications, increases the number of crimes that 14-year-olds can be prosecuted for and restricts the activity of religious leaders.
“There are potentially very wide-sweeping ramifications to this law,” Joel Griffith of the Slavic Gospel Association said in a Mission Network News report. “It just depends on, again, how it is going to be enforced, and that is a very huge question mark.”

The law was denounced by religious leaders, human rights advocates, and even government officials. Prayers and protest rallies were held to oppose the approval of this law. Putin’s critics accuse the authorities of using extremism laws and counter-terrosim measures to target the Kremlin’s political opponents.

According to The Washington Times, “While the law would be theoretically neutral in application, proselytization is a hallmark of evangelical Protestantism whereas the more populous Russian Orthodox Christians do not have a heritage of proselytizing. Indeed, experts believe the law is aimed at maintaining the political favor of the country’s most dominant religious institution.”

By: Joyce Dimaculangan

Sources

Christianitytodaycom. (2016). Gleanings | ChristianityTodaycom. Retrieved 11 July, 2016, from http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/june/no-evangelizing-outside-of-church-russia-proposes.html

Rferlorg. (2016). RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 11 July, 2016, from http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-putin-signs-antiterror-law/27844555.html

WashingtonTimes.com (2016). The Washingtion Times. Retrieved 11 July, 2016, from http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jun/29/proposed-law-russia-would-ban-proselytizing/

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