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Russia

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Russian Christians at worship

On 6 September 2012 a Pentecostal church building in Moscow was torn down by the authorities during the night. The congregation had struggled for many years to legalise the building, but they were given no advance warning of the demolition and were unable to prevent it. A human rights official denounced the action, saying, “This is the Soviet approach – to come in the middle of the night with mechanical diggers. This is unacceptable.”

In former times, Orthodox Christianity was a strong part of the identity and culture of Russia, which saw itself as a bulwark against the Muslim Tatars and other Muslims of Central Asia. Decades of persecution under communist rule (1917-1990) have left their mark on the very diverse people of this vast country. Estimates suggest that about 200,000 Christian leaders were martyred during this period, and a further 500,000 Christians were imprisoned. However, the Communists’ threat to destroy Christianity and to parade the Soviet Union’s last Christian on television never came true. Instead the end of Communism heralded a massive increase in churches, churchgoing and Christian activities.

Yet in recent years a climate of hostility and antagonism against Christians has spread. The incident described above is just one example of the harassment that is faced by “non-traditional” churches in Russia (those other than the Russian Orthodox Church). They are obliged to register with the authorities and may be burdened with demands for information; unregistered groups can be dissolved. They may have difficulty in obtaining construction permits or in renting or buying meeting-places. Occasionally their services are raided, their literature and other property confiscated, and their members detained. Rising intolerance in society at large is reflected in disparaging remarks made about them in the media.

Some areas of the country have large Muslim populations, and radical Islam is growing here. The North Caucasus has been stricken by a violent insurgency driven by Islamists who are fighting to establish a separate state ruled by sharia. Wahhabism, the extreme and puritanical version of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia, has been spreading, and Christians face harassment, intimidation and persecution from the Muslim majority. In Chechnya women are under pressure to wear the hijab. In April 2012 a Muslim lawyer threatened a “bloodbath” if Muslim demands for the introduction of sharia courts in Russia were not met.

 

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christian, persecution, charity, church, persecuted, sookhdeo, Islam

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    • Heavenly Father, we pray for Kim Jung-Wook, a South Korean Christian who has been sentenced to hard labour for life in North Korea for “spying” and attempting to establish house churches in the country. We thank You that although prosecutors demanded the death penalty, this was commuted, but we pray that Jung-Wook will be sustained by You in his imprisonment and cruel treatment and will soon be released. We pray too for the dozens of North Koreans who were detained after Jung-Wook’s arrest in October on suspicion of helping him, and for the families of any who have already been executed. We pray for political change and religious freedom in North Korea, that it may be made legal to be a Christian and to take part in Christian activity. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed 7 hours ago

    • Two Christian families in Uzbekistan who meet in a private home to read the Bible and pray together have been repeatedly fined and had property confiscated. Alisher Abdullayev and Veniamin Nemirov were originally fined in 2012 for unregistered religious activity and teaching religion “illegally”. They refused on principle to pay, claiming that they had not violated any laws. But earlier this year bailiffs went to their homes and confiscated a car, a mobile phone and household items. The men and their wives were then fined again, ten times the minimum monthly wage. Officers have also raided one of their meetings, filming and harassing those present and seizing religious literature. Pray that the authorities will stop targeting the families and that they will be left alone to study and pray in peace. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Tue, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Leaders imprisoned for up to 60 days and members for up to 45 days; fines, corrective labour or community service: these are the penalties for taking part in religious gatherings in Kazakhstan held without state permission, according to a new criminal code. Those who finance unregistered religious activity will be liable to the same punishments as leaders. In addition, a new Code of Administrative Offences lays down a wide range of penalties for exercising the right to religious freedom. Both codes have been condemned by 119 Kazakh and international human rights groups and individuals. They further tighten controls on religious practice in a context where it is already much restricted. Pray for wisdom and courage for Christians in Kazakhstan as they seek to maintain their worship and witness. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Mon, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Give thanks that 55 Christians, almost all church leaders and converts from Islam, received Bible training at a three-day seminar in Kyrgyzstan that was supported by Barnabas Aid. The participants have virtually no access to Biblical training, and so the studies were a great boost to their faith and ministry. Meeting fellow church leaders, who are all dealing with similar issues, such as isolation and persecution from Muslim relatives and local Muslim communities, was also very encouraging to them and gave them the opportunity to build up a Christian support network. Pray that the Lord will continue to speak to them through the Bible passages they studied at the seminar, and that He will bless their ministries. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sun, Sep 2014 00:00

    • Christians and other minorities in Burma (Myanmar) are extremely concerned about a proposed religious conversion bill that will require people to seek permission from the authorities before changing religion. It is part of a package of four bills designed to “protect race and religion” in the Buddhist-majority country. The government says it is intended to prevent forced conversions. The draft says that forcing someone to convert would be punishable by a year in prison, while insulting another religion would be punishable by between one and two years in prison. Similar laws in force in several Indian states are used to threaten legitimate evangelism by Christians and as a pretext by Hindu militants to attack Christians, whom they falsely accuse of forcibly converting people. Pray this bill will not become law in Burma. Subscribe to the prayer points rss feed Sat, Sep 2014 00:00

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