ChristianityToday reports that a new law against evangelism has been approved by Russian president, Vladimir Putin. These new laws place stronger restrictions on sharing faith in homes, outside homes, and online. This amendment imposes tougher sanctions on people who preach anywhere, but recognized church buildings.
This new law has caused a lot of concern for Christians, particularly religious organizations, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, who feel that this law is against them. So far, this has drawn a lot of protests from religious leaders and human rights advocates, including Konstantin Bendas, the deputy bishop of the Pentecostal Union. He said:
“The local police officer came to a home where a group of Pentecostals meet each Sunday. With a contented expression he told them: ‘Now they’re adopting the law I’ll drive you all out of here.’ I reckon we should now fear such zealous enforcement.”
Forum 18 cites lawyer, Vladimir Ryakhovsky of the Slavic Centre for Law and Justice, took to Facebook to air his feelings.
“Today is indeed a black day on the calendar. Hope was that Vladimir Putin would not in the end sign this law. A law which openly contradicts the gospel command ‘go and make disciples’ and, in addition, violates the constitutional rights of citizens.”
A spokeswoman for the Council of Churches-Baptists had something similar to say.
“We are distressed by the Law and see it as repressive for believers in our country, because the Law contradicts the Bible. We must assume there will be repression and persecution”, she said.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has also reacted to this new law with opposition.
“These deeply flawed anti-terrorism measures will buttress the Russian government’s war against human rights and religious freedom.
They will make it easier for Russian authorities to repress religious communities, stifle peaceful dissent, and detain and imprison people. Neither these measures nor the currently existing anti-extremism law meet international human rights and religious freedom standards”, USCIRF chair, Thomas Reese, said.
This new law, which is being considered Russia’s most restrictive measures in post-Soviet history, goes into effect on July 20, 2016.