Thousands of Christians from various churches in Russia are fasting and praying together to unite and as a sign of protest against the anti-terrorism law recently signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, which considers worshipping at home as an act of “terrorism and extremism.”
In an interview with Charisma News, Great Commission Ministries Chairman Hanny Haukka said Christians in Russia were shocked and disappointed by the government’s decision to approve the legislation.
“The church is appalled at the news of the new law. About 7,000 evangelical and protestant churches are in fasting and prayer at the moment over the news,” Haukka said.
He also urged other Christian believers around the world to join Russians in praying that the government does something to stop the implementation of the terrifying new persecution law.
“Russia is closing down in an awful way. The new law is in total conflict with the purpose and the task given to the church by the Lord. The law will send the church back into Soviet-era Communist persecution,” he said.
Haukka explained that under Russia’s new anti-terrorism law, any discussion of God with non-believers will be considered as missionary activity, which will be punishable under this new legislation. Reading the Holy Bible should also now be done privately, and not in the presence of non-believers.
A Christian in Russia is also prohibited from inviting any non-believer to a church service. Any form of religious activity at home is also now prohibited based on the new law, despite the fact that most churches in Russia meet within the confines of their own homes, according to Haukka.
Even famous American refugee and whistleblower Edward Snowden criticised Russia’s new law on Twitter. He said, “#Putin has signed a repressive new law that violates not only human rights, but common sense. Dark day for #Russia.”
In response, thousands of churches across the country have come together to cry out to God.
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“The church is appalled at the news of the new law. About 7,000 evangelical/protestant churches are in fasting and prayer at the moment over the news,” Haukka tells Charisma News via email.
Churches aren’t the only residents enraged by the law.
American refugee Edward Snowden tweeted: “#Putin has signed a repressive new law that violates not only human rights, but common sense. Dark day for #Russia.”
What’s more, critics are now declaring the Yarovaya laws, aka the “Big Brother,” laws, as a sign of the end times:
If these amendments come into force, prison sentences for certain non-violent “extremist” crimes will potentially be twice as long as, for example, murder committed in the heat of passion, which carries a maximum sentence of three years.
Despite receiving nearly unanimous support in parliament, the Yarovaya laws have triggered a flood of apocalyptic commentary. Many wonder why Russia’s already excessively harsh criminal laws are being made harsher.
The only official criticism of the legislation, however, has come from the Presidential Human Rights Council, which has highlighted ways in which the proposed amendments directly contradict the Constitution and existing laws. This criticism has been almost entirely ignored.
The Duma has already passed a number of laws that have harshened Russian law in the name of fighting terrorism and extremism. It criminalized “public calls for the violation of territorial integrity” and “rehabilitation of Nazism,” a direct affront to the freedom of speech. In 2013, it passed a law that allowed the state to confiscate property from individuals affiliated with terrorists, including their relatives.
The government has long used the “fight against terrorism and extremism” to justify repressive laws, no matter how obviously senseless they may be. As a result, Russia’s statutory framework can now be effectively used to target not only credible extremist threats, but also political opponents of the state. A large group of prominent Russian lawyers decried this problem in an open letter in 2013, saying that the “parliament’s legislative work has acquired a distinctly prohibitive and repressive character.”
In response, Haukka pleads with believers around the world to join with Russian churches in prayer and fasting.
“Russia is closing down in an awful way. The new law is in total conflict with the purpose and the task given to the church by the Lord. The law will send the church back into Soviet era Communist persecution,” he says.