Russia’s new law restricting religious freedom comes into effect today, 20th July.
The controversial law, often referred to as the “Yarovaya laws” because of its author Irina Yarovaya, is a package of anti-terrorism measures that greatly impacts religious activity in the country.
Christians and people from other religions will no longer be able to share their faith with others outside of church, and inviting friends to church, even through social media, email or text messages, will no longer be allowed.
Praying, preaching and distributing religious materials outside state-designated areas will be prohibited, and house churches, which are prevalent in Russia, will no longer be able to meet, as the law bans places of residence from being converted into areas used for religious activity.
There is also a call from the government for people to report their neighbours for any suspicious religious activity.
Thomas J. Reese, chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, said the new laws are “deeply flawed” and will “repress religious communities, stifle peaceful dissent and detain and imprison people.”
“Neither these measures nor the currently existing anti-terrorism law meet international human rights and religious freedom standards,” Reese said in a statement.
If the law is strictly implemented, it will have also huge impact on missionary activity. Joel Griffith from the Slavic Gospel Association said it could stop missionaries from operating in the country, with the exception of those who are officially registered with a religious group or organisation.
Griffith said the Slavic Gospel Association is discussing how to best approach the new law. “Our whole ethos and purpose is to serve the Church,” he said. “And our sole purpose for existence is serving those churches.”
Sergei Ryakhovsky, head of the Protestant Churches of Russia, said having to secure permits to share one’s faith outside designated areas is “not only absurd and offensive”, but also paves the way for “mass persecution of believers for violating these provisions”.
- Continue to pray for the Church and other religious organisations within the Russian Federation as the new law comes into force. Pray for them to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
- Pray for the impact of the new law on mission workers in Russia, as they face being unable to continue their work or attend a local church.
- Pray for protection for Russian Christians and encouragement for them at this time of great uncertainty.
- Pray that these laws will not flow out to Central Asia’s states, who already come under the influence of Russia.
- Pray for the protection for believers across this region, and for the Church to grow strong in faith and numbers even as it faces continuing oppression.
Romans 8 vs 38 – 39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.“
Source: http://www.christiantimes.com, http://www.persecution.org/2016