In July 2016, Russia passed religion laws restricting “illegal missionary activity” by either citizens or foreigners. This activity could involve speaking to people about religion, or the distribution of either printed, audio or video materials.
Between January and June of this year, there have been 42 known prosecutions, resulting in 36 convictions. All those who were convicted received fines.
Most of the recent convictions have not involved religious organisations but rather individuals who were sharing their faith. Those charged were convicted because they did not notify the authorities of the existence of their “religious group”, even though they were acting as individuals.
These laws do not only affect Christians but also citizens belonging to other religious groups. According to Russia’s current laws, individuals or groups engaging in missionary or evangelistic activities of any kind could possibly be subjected to stiff opposition.
- Prayerfully uphold our brothers and sisters in Russia who are presently encountering opposition for sharing their faith.
- Ask the Lord to provide for those who have received fines so they will have the resources required to pay the penalties.
- Pray God’s people will not “grow weary of doing good” but rather look with an expectant hope to His promises of an abundant spiritual harvest (Galatians 6:9).
Post your prayer in the comments below.
It was early in 1964 that a document was brought out of Russia. This document, signed by 120 Russian Christians, was dated February, 1964.
It tells a sad story of what happened on Christmas Day in 1963 in the city of Barnaul in Russia, a holiday, celebrated in memory of the birthday of our Saviour Jesus Christ. People celebrate by going to church, attending worship service, and of course their holiday dinner held in a festive mood.
However, in Russia, on Christmas Day four Christians sat in the People’s Court in the city of Barnaul. They faced a stern judge who sentenced them under Statute 227 of the Soviet criminal code. Under this statute, the leader of an underground church group, Pastor Subbotion, was sentenced to five years in prison.
A lay Christian named Nicolai Khmara was sentenced to three years. His brother Wasili Khmara received three years. His sister Ludmila received a two-year suspended sentence.
The families were in the court room. Many of their Christian friends were there, as were the wife of Nicolai Khmara and her four children. Nicolai was in the best of health, radiant and cheerful. Perhaps his family felt three years wasn’t too long, that time would pass speedily and their daddy would soon be back with them. Little did they know that this would be the last time they would see him alive.
Two weeks later, the wife of Nicolai Khmara was notified by the Barnaul prison authorities that her husband was dead. With some friends she came to the prison and received the body of her husband. They took the body home, placed it in a pine box, a coffin, in the living room.
The four Khmara children, the eldest 13, and the youngest just one month, were there. The older children looked at their daddy, but could barely recognise him as his body was purple and blue. He had been beaten. There were marks on his wrists from chains and handcuffs. He had been burned as though hot steel objects had been applied to the side of his stomach, and the bottom of his feet. Obviously, he had been brutally beaten to death. His mouth was stuffed with rags. On removing the rags, she found that his tongue had been cut out, no doubt because his jailers did not want to hear his Christian testimony.
Yes, Nicolai Khmara died a horrible death. Yet, what was the terrible deed he had committed? What was the terrible crime for which he had to pay with his life? Nicolai and his three friends had met secretly in the nearby village of Kulunda in the true fashion of an underground church
Several times they had applied to the authorities for permission to worship, but their requests were denied, because the hall where they wanted to meet didn’t have the sanitary and other facilities the officials demanded.
Many Christians came to pay their last respects during the four days Nicolai Khmara’s body lay in the simple coffin in the family living room. It was a solemn and mournful funeral procession.
The body was carried on the shoulders of friends to the cemetery. The funeral procession wound through the streets of the city of Barnaul.
by Paul Voronaeff
Legislation governing religious communities in Russia is complex, contradictory, and often inconsistently applied. In one recent case, a church community was barred from using its place of worship, even though it has done so for two decades.
The Verkhnebakansky Baptist Church in Novorossiysk has been worshipping in a two-story building in a residential area for years. There were no problems until the spring of 2018 when a change of government administration brought new attitudes toward religious communities. One church in the city has been demolished and another banned from using its building. The door of the Verkhnebakansky church building was sealed in early July.
Authorities claim that churches are using residential buildings in ways they were not intended, even though a 1997 law permits religious worship on residential premises. The officials also claim that the buildings do not always meet necessary safety and planning regulations. This problem is further compounded as the construction of buildings designated for worship are being denied and the efforts of those affected by this opposition are refused. Despite the attempts of the Baptist church leaders to prove the building meets all regulations, they have only been met with roadblocks.
The church’s leadership has appealed the decision and intend to continue presenting this case to the courts, as far as necessary. According to one of the leaders, Yevgeny Kokora, they are prepared to take this matter to the European Court of Human Rights, if necessary.
Source: Forum 18
- Pray for wisdom and direction for this church and others that are attempting to navigate through the maze of Russia’s most recently imposed legal regulations.
- Pray for Christians to be able to freely meet for worship throughout Russia without any governmental hindrance or opposition.
- Ask the Lord to work in the hearts and minds of the authorities. Pray that many will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel for themselves and find salvation in Christ.
Post your prayer in the comments below.
Once, Russia was teeming with North Koreans. This was where the officials and the higher classes travelled, where the lucky worked, and where the lower classes dreamed to go. Now, however, the crowds have thinned. By and large, North Koreans go to Russia to work abroad in poor conditions.
Jin-ho travelled to Russia with an Underground University (UU) student. The university teaches North Korean defectors how to do North Korean ministry by training them in the field. Jin-ho was there to supervise the student as he ministered to the North Korean workers in the area.
Jin-ho and the student sat across the table from a North Korean man. This man seemed a little different from the other North Koreans to whom they had previously ministered. The man’s spirit was bold, and his actions were confident. His hands were soft – not callused or scarred – and his eyes were sharp.
The UU student leaned across the table and whispered to Jin-ho that the man was not a typical worker, but a government official.
“He has the power to have someone killed,” the student told Jin-ho.
All the same, the student held the official’s hand and told him about God. To both the student and Jin-ho’s surprise, the government official already believed in God.
“When I started to doubt whether the North Korean government was doing the right thing, I needed to cling to something bigger and better,” the man explained. “I didn’t know that this being was the God of Christianity, but I trusted and believed in him all the same.”
The UU student excitedly told the official that the unknown God he was worshipping was the one true God. After all, he had – despite the impossibility of it all – brought all three of them together.
What the government official needed, however, was an inconspicuous way to read the Scriptures. Important men such as he, are even more heavily scrutinised and a physical copy of the Bible could easily be discovered. Jin-ho had exactly what he needed: an MP3 player with the North Korean audio version of the Bible on it.
MP3 players are a staple in the work of the underground North Korean Christian because they’re difficult for outsiders to detect and, in case of a raid or search, are easy to hide. If necessary, the MP3 player can easily be reformatted.
Thanks to the gift of an MP3 player, this official can learn about the God in whom he believed but knew precious little about.
Voice of the Martyrs distributes ministry packs to North Korean workers wherever they can be found. The packs contain MP3 or MP4 players, SD cards, medicine and discipleship materials.
If you would like to financially support the work of Voice of the Martyrs, please go to: vom.com.au/donate
Voice of the Martyrs Australia is an endorsed deductible gift recipient (DGR) by the Australian government. This means you can claim tax deductions for all donations over $2 to Voice of the Martyrs Australia on your tax return.
On Saturday 19 May, four gunmen stormed the Archangel Michael Orthodox Church in Grozny, Chechnya. Before they were shot dead by police, they had killed one church member and two security officers. Two other officers and another church member were also injured.
According to the pastor, churchgoers heard shouts of “Allahu Akbar” outside the church and rushed to bolt the doors just as the attackers tried to break in. It appears that the attack started as a hostage attempt. Along with guns, the four perpetrators also carried axes and Molotov cocktails. The self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group has claimed responsibility.
Chechnya, which is located in southern Russia, has been a hotbed for Islamist activity — often attacking police, government officials and moderate Muslims.
Militants have been attempting to establish a Muslim emirate in the region for years. The population is predominantly Muslim after most of the Christian population fled during the separatist wars of the 1990s.
Sources: World Watch Monitor, Radio Free Europe
- Commit to the Lord the friends and families of those tragically killed in this attack.
- Pray for the healing of those injured and peace for members of the church who witnessed the violence.
- May the governing authorities act justly toward those responsible. Pray the Lord will bring the perpetrators to repentance and to knowledge of the love of Christ.