Late on the afternoon of July 7, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law legislation against terrorism and extremism. An amendment in this law prohibits freedom of religion in a way that is considered the most restrictive measure in post-Soviet history.
The law, which passed the upper and lower houses of Russia’s Parliament on June 24, could go into effect as early as July 20.
Under the law, all personal evangelism on the streets and in individual homes is now restricted. Evangelizing outside registered churches will result in fines. Christians meeting in homes are not allowed to invite unbelievers.
Christians wishing to share their faith must secure government permits through registered religious organizations. Even with such permits, they are not allowed to witness anywhere besides registered churches or religious sites. Churches that rent rather than owning their facilities will be forcibly disbanded.
Besides rendering evangelism illegal, the law will also punish not reporting violations. Russian believers and missionaries will be under constant scrutiny of officials and even neighbors.
Individuals found guilty of violating the new law will be fined up to $800 USD, while organizations found in violation will be fined up to $15,500. Foreigners found in violation will be deported. All aspects of the law also apply to internet activities.
This decision will severely restrict missionary work and the ministry of local churches in Russia.
AG General Superintendent George O. Wood has assured Russian believers of global AG support. “God will grant you faith and strength. We are standing with you.”
“Regardless of potential challenges in Russia, or any other nation,” AGWM Executive Director Greg Mundis says, “we will keep relying on the Holy Spirit to accomplish Christ’s mission.”
The Russian church has been in constant prayer and fasting as the situation has developed. “Pray that God will save us and give us wisdom to do His will,” a Russian Pentecostal leader states. “We will preach the gospel.”