New Law in Russia on Religious Freedoms
The law, passed by the Russian Duma will make it unlawful for Christians to share their beliefs with others in their homes, online, in the streets, parks, or anywhere outside of a registered church building. So, a conversation about God with a non-believer in the street, on the bus or in the park could be seen as illegal missionary activity.
The penalty for breaking the law will be a stiff fine: the equivalent of six weeks’ wages for an individual – and 20 times that for an organization.
Russian church leaders plan to lobby newly appointed deputies to the Duma in September to amend the law while Christian lawyers are also planning to appeal to the Constitutional Court.
Below is a breakdown of the new laws and what they mean, practically, for people living in Russia.
New law: A religious organization, by inviting a foreign citizen to conduct worship, is required to conclude with him a labor or civil contract.This places significant limitations on our ability to invite visitors from other countries, because now we need to obtain a work visa.
What it means for people in Russia: If your friend or relative who lives abroad wants to share his faith and beliefs while a guest in your household, he faces a fine and administrative expulsion from Russia.
New law: This article also introduces the notion of missionary activity, defining it as the "activity of a religious association aimed at disseminating information about a doctrine among non-participants (members, followers) of a religious association, in order to recruit these people to membership (as members, followers) in the religious association, carried out directly by religious associations, or authorized by the citizens and (or) legal persons in public, with the help of the media, the Internet, or by other lawful means."
What it means for people in Russia: More or less, it means that any talk about God with an unbeliever is a missionary activity and is subject to regulation, which will be discussed later in the article.
New law: The ban on missionary activity in residential premises.
What it means for people in Russia: You can freely pray at home and read the Bible. But as soon as you do this in the presence of your unbelieving friends – you are an offender and can be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
New law: The liability of the religious organization for the implementation on its behalf of missionary work.
What it means for people in Russia: Think three times before providing an authorizing document to your parishioner. After all, responsibility for his actions, including administrative, will be borne by the religious organization.
New law: Not only a ban on missionary activity in residential premises, but also a ban on the transformation of residential premises to non-residential in order to carry out religious activities.
What it means for people in Russia: Did you buy a private house for the church? You will never be able to turn it into a house of worship. Why not? Because the call for the repentance of unbelievers is prohibited in residential premises. You can hold services, but leading unbelievers to the path of salvation is prohibited.
How you can help:
• Pray that Christians in Russia will know that our God is sovereign and the government of the world is on his shoulders (Isaiah 9:6).
• Pray that this new iron curtain of Christian persecution in Russia will be amended in response to the outcry.
• Pray God’s peace for believers in house churches threatened by the new law.