Why Russia Persecutes Non-Orthodox Christians
Why Russia Persecutes Non-Orthodox Churches
This article provides an excellent introduction into the difficult climate for non-orthodox Christians living in the former Soviet Union. The recent forced demolition of a Protestant church in Moscow and subsequent fining of the pastor for having the courage to meet in the churches rubble record demonstrate a determination by the Russian government to control and suppress non-orthodox Christians.
10/4/2012 Russia (Christians in Crisis)- Russian police demolished Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church in Moscow last month. The members of the church now gather near the ruins for worship, bearing testimony to the continued persecution of “non-traditional,” or disfavored, religious groups after President Vladimir Putin assumed office about five months ago.
It is estimated that 90 percent of ethnic Russians – and around 70 percent of all Russian citizens – identify themselves as Orthodox. Since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Russians have closely associated Orthodoxy with national identity, replacing socialism with Orthodoxy. However, people’s association with the Russian Orthodox Church is apparently more symbolic than representative of their commitment to the substance of the faith. This is perhaps why the church attendance is extremely low.
Russia’s 1993 Constitution states that all religious associations are equal before the law. However, the preamble of the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations, enacted in 1997 under President Boris N. Yeltsin to define the state’s relationship with religion, says respect should be accorded firstly to Orthodoxy, and secondly to Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and [non-Orthodox] Christianity.
Non-Orthodox Christian groups in Russia are seen as rooted in the United States in particular and the West in general, and competing with the Orthodox Church for membership. And both the government – for which a key priority is to protect “Holy Russia” from “foreign devils” – and the Orthodox Church, which is allegedly closely associated with the government, are anti-West.
The Russian government also seeks to restrict the functioning of independent organizations that are not allied with it or show any sign of dissent.
The relationship between the Kremlin (the official residence of the President) and the Orthodox Church is partly based on their common nationalistic ideology which seeks to restore Russia’s might after the Soviet Union’s fall. The 1977 law on religious associations, commonly known as the religion law, was enacted at a time when missionaries from Protestant faiths in the West began working in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Russian Orthodox Church was born in 988 AD with Prince Vladimir being baptized in the River Dnieper with all the inhabitants of Kiev. Since the conflict between the Patriarch of the East and the Pope of the West was at peak at the time, the Russian Church and people inherited the Eastern Church’s antagonism to Rome and the West and shared its isolation from the Renaissance, the Reformation and the rise of modern concepts of social Christianity, explains a 1961 article by Paul B. Anderson in the Foreign Affairs magazine.
“Instead, the Russian Orthodox Church entered the twentieth century with the religious outlook developed no later than the Seventh Ecumenical Council, held in 787,” Anderson adds. “The Russians claim with pride that the Orthodox Church is the true Church of the Apostles, the Scripture, the creeds and the canons accepted in the first seven Councils, and they look gingerly at all other churches, which, they say, separated from it at the time of the Great Schism.”