Russia, or the Russian Federation, is the largest country in the world by area. It became an independent country after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.
In principle, freedom of religion is a guaranteed right under Article 28 of the Russian Constitution. But, in practice, many Russian Christians do not experience this level of religious liberty.
Since 2016, more than 1,300
cases have been brought against Christians. In the first half of 2020, at least 19 Christians were prosecuted for “illegal missionary activity”, with an average conviction rate of 92%. Most of the charges were for distributing religious literature on the street without authorisation.
The 2016 “Yarovaya Law” gives harsh penalties for vague offences and allows the authorities sweeping surveillance powers. A church in Moscow with a congregation of about 50 has had its services interrupted almost every Sunday by police, who film and take photos inside the church to identify ways in which they claim the church is violating the law.
In November 2019, Olga Glamozdinova won a landmark court case. She was fined for “use of land for unintended purposes” when she allowed church members to meet for four hours every week at her house, where the church was registered. The Russian Constitutional Court ruled in her favour, saying that residential buildings can be used for religious worship services and religious organisations can be registered at residential premises.
A new amendment to the law on freedom of conscience and religious association was drafted in 2020. If enacted, it will be illegal for pastors trained outside Russia to preach in a church or even conduct home Bible study groups. It calls for those trained abroad to re-train in Russia, but the government has made it difficult for Christian theological institutions to operate, with licences being revoked.
Pray that Christians will be filled with grace and peace, responding to restrictions on their freedom of worship in a Christ-like way. Ask God to give wisdom and protection to those who share their faith with others.