ICC Note: A new law has been created in Russia which has many Christians concerned over their right to share the Gospel freely. The law which is intended to combat terrorism also severely restricts religious free speech by requiring anyone who wants to share their faith to obtain government permission first. Those found guilty could face major fines ranging up to $15,000 or expulsion from the country if the person convicted is an international missionary.
By Heather Clark
07/10/2016 Russia (Christian News Network) – The president of Russia has signed into a law an anti-terror bill that contains several provisions that have raised concerns among Christians, including requirements that religious citizens obtain permission from the government to share their faith.
According to reports, the amendments to the “Yarovaya law,” named after the bill’s author, are meant to protect citizens from terrorists in the country and mandate severe punishment for those found to be financing or aiding terrorism.
However, in addition to requirements about telephone records and online data encryption, the amendments also include text affecting missionary activity throughout Russia. Any preaching or proselytization outside of a church building will now be considered missionary activity, and any persons wishing to share their faith with others must first receive a government permit through a registered religious organization.
“Even in a private home, worship and prayer will only be allowed if there are no unbelievers present,” the Barnabas Fund outlines. “Churches will also be held accountable for the activities of their members. So if, for example, a church member mentions their faith in conversation with a work colleague, not only the church member but also the church itself could be punished…”
Violators could face up to $780 for an individual and $15,500 for an organization. Foreign missionaries could possibly face expulsion if they violate the law and/or speak in churches without a work permit.