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MNN (03/31/06) – Christian radio in Russia may be a thing of the past if the Ministry of Culture and Mass Communications continues denying radio licenses to Christian radio stations.

New Life Radio in Magadan applied for a license renewal this past fall. New Life’s Dan Johnson says they successfully completed the first stage of the approval process and sent the application to the deputy minister of the federal licensing department in Moscow for final approval.

According to Johnson, that’s as far as it got. “It appears New Life Radio’s paperwork remained on his desk unsigned for a long time, while the deputy minister continued to give approval and his signatures for other secular radio stations seeking license renewals. On March 23rd, New Life Radio was informed that the deputy minister refused to approve the license renewal due to late submission of documents.”

According to Johnson, everyone involved in the case was shocked by the decision. “A denial based on this reason had never happened before and we feel the action is unprecedented and highly irregular, given the fact the New Life Radio complied and it even has correspondence from the ministry that can corroborate this fact.”

Johnson says revoking a license is typically done by court action. He can only assume this is a religious freedom issue. “So, for us the bigger question is the Russian government’s move against freedom of religion and freedom of the press. How does this come into play with the situation of New Life Radio, Russia ‘s first Christian radio station being denied its license even though it had done nothing wrong to deserve the license denial.”

New Life will be appealing this decision to the Ministry of Culture and Mass Communications to renew the license, and if the appeal is denied then they enter into some kind of legal proceedings against the deputy minister.

Johnson says there are only two Christian radio stations in Russia today. He says there’s a reason for that. “No new Christian stations have started in Russia in the last five years,” he says. “Many Christian applicants in cities across Russia have actually been denied the right to obtain radio frequencies. So, it’s clear there is a bias that exists within the government against evangelical mission activities and in this case we’re concerned that radio has simply been targeted and we fear for the future development of radio.”

Pray that the appeal will be successful and that the government will allow more Christian stations in the country.