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Russia

Russia is located between Europe and the North Pacific Ocean in Northern Asia, and is bordered by the Arctic Ocean. 79.8% of the population is Russian, while 3.8% is Tatar, 2% is Ukrainian, 1.2% is Bashkir, and 1.1% is Chuvash. The main religions in Russia are the Russian Orthodox Church and Islam.

Russia became a Communist state in 1917, when Lenin led a revolution and overthrew the monarchy. The successive regimes were brutal and ineffective in their attempts to stimulate the economy. Gorbachev introduced changes between 1985 and 1991 that unintentionally divided the USSR into 15 independent republics in 1991. Since then, Russia has attempted to build a democratic political system and capitalist economy.

Religious Freedom

The Russian Constitution guarantees religious freedom, yet it is not consistently respected by the government. The Church and state are officially separate in Russia; however, officials of some religions are consulted by policy makers.

The religious freedom of some minority religions, those considered nontraditional, is legally restricted in Russia. Nontraditional religions, or religious groups, are not permitted to register, which prevents them from being recognized as a legal entity. Religious groups are not allowed therefore to open a bank account, buy property, publish literature, or receive tax benefits. Though these groups are permitted to engage in other activities, difficulties are often encountered. Authorities have the power to ban religious groups.

Religious organizations are required to register with the government; however, in 1999, re-registration became compulsory and those that did not meet the deadline lost their legal status. When religious organizations move or change their leadership, the Federal Registration Service Department must be informed, or the organization will be closed.

International Treaties Signed by Russia

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The Convention on the Rights of the Child

Canada-Russia Diplomatic Relations

Information about Canada’s relationship with Russia
Canadian Embassy in Russia
Canadian representatives in Russia
Russia’s representatives in Canada

Prayer

For prayer requests, see the alerts or the general page of prayer for the Persecuted Church.

Related Links

General information about Russia
Information about human rights in Russia
Information about the persecuted Church in Russia  (from the Voice of the Martyrs Canada)

Related EFC Religious Liberty Commission Alerts

Note: Alerts are in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most recent.

Russia: Many Applications Submitted by Christian Organizations Denied, including the Salvation Army

::7/16/01
(Source: Keston Institute, Religion Today)

Last December, we reported that a Moscow court refused to grant permission for the Salvation Army to work in that city. The court was concerned about the name of the organization and mistakenly believed that it was military in nature. Subsequently, the landlord for the Moscow Salvation Army refused the church entry to the premises. The court hearing for the liquidation of the church has now been adjourned until 11 September.

The Salvation Army does have federal status in Russia. It was granted registration in late February of this year. This has allowed the Moscow church to transfer most of its assets to the federal organization. The problem now is that there seems to be a “tug of war” between local and federal authorities. It is far from clear that the landlord will accept federal registration documentation to rent space to the Moscow Salvation Army. And it is not just a problem with landlords, the Moscow Salvation Army might not be able to get a bank account or pay employees if they cannot get local registration documentation.

Colonel Kenneth Baillie says “This waste of time, energy and money is such a diversion from our real ministry of compassion and Christian concern.” The Salvation Army is not the only Christian organization that has been caught in a registration bind in Russia. A 1997 law required all religious organizations to register by the end of last year or face liquidation. While many were able to obtain their registration, some 2,000 organizations did not meet the deadline. This was not because they did not apply but because their applications were denied or simply not processed.

Pray:
• Please pray for the Moscow Salvation Army, that the judge hearing their case on September 11 will allow the church to be registered so that it can continue its good works in that city.
• Pray for other Christian organizations that have not yet been registered, that they will not be liquidated but will be able to be registered.
• Please pray for the lawyers who are representing these Christian organizations. There are very few Christian lawyers in Russia and most of them spend considerable time on these cases.

Russia: Many Christians Organizations Unable to Meet Deadline to Register

::12/22/00
(Source: Greek Evangelical Fellowship, Christian Solidarity Worldwide; World Evangelical Fellowship; Washington Post; Keston Institute; Newsroom)

Many Christian charities and churches will be unable to meet the December 31 deadline to register as a religious organization. Russia passed a law in 1997 at the behest of the Russian Orthodox church that had stringent registration requirements that made it difficult for non-orthodox religious groups to operate in Russia. Religious organizations that do not meet the deadline or requirements may lose their property without compensation.

As we reported on December 12, the Salvation Army lost an appeal for registration in Moscow. They are therefore losing their ministries to the homeless and destitute in that city. The church itself meets in a hotel and they are not certain the hotel will continue to allow them to meet. Please pray for Christian ministries in Russia, that they will not be discouraged but will continue to minister despite official hostility.

Pray:

  • Please pray that religious organizations that cannot meet the registration deadline will be able to transfer their property to Christians who will maintain it so that it is not lost to the government.
  • Please pray that the government of Russia relents in its enforcement of discriminatory regulation and allows freedom of religious organizations.
  • Russia: Salvation Army not welcome

    ::12/12/00
    (Source: Washington Post, Religion Today)

    A Moscow court has ruled that the Salvation Army is an unwelcome foreign organization. It refused to grant permission for it to work in the city. Under a law restricting religion, passed in Russia in 1997, most religious groups must formally register with local and national governments. The Russian Orthodox Church pushed for the legislation because if felt threatened by proselytizing groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists and Mormons as well as cults. Even groups already working in Russia were required to re-register. The Salvation Army returned to Russia in 1991 after having been expelled by the Bolsheviks in 1923. It has successfully re-registered in 5 of the 14 cities it ministers in.

    In August, the Moscow municipal justice department refused to re-register the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army lost appeals to a local court and to a higher court. If it does not win an appeal from the Russian Supreme Court by the end of the year, it will be forced to close its soup kitchens and other social programs in Moscow by the end of the year. The Salvation Army is also seeking national registration.

    Pray:

  • Please pray for the Salvation Army workers and leaders in Moscow, that God will give them peace and that they will be able to continue to minister.
  • Pray that the Russian Supreme Court overturns the lower court decisions.
  • Pray for the Salvation Army to receive national registration.
  • Pray for those who depend on the Salvation Army programs in Moscow that they turn to Christ by the example of the Salvation Army workers throughout this conflict.
  • Russia: Television show’s equating of Churches to Satanism Results in Discrimination Against Houses of Worship

    ::6/13/00
    (Source: Religion Today, Keston News Service)

    Two Pentecostal churches in Russia are faced with possible dissolution after being accused of using hypnosis during their services. According to the pastors of the churches, a video used as evidence against them actually shows the effects of the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

    Kostroma regional authorities have charged Kostroma Christian Center and Grace Church of Evangelical Christians under Russia’s controversial 1997 law on religion. The law has been criticized as violating provisions in Russia’s constitution which guarantee religious freedom. According to Lauren Homer, a Missouri-based lawyer specializing in Russian religion law, the law specifically prohibits "the infliction of damage" on "the morality or health of citizens, including the use in connection with their religious activities of narcotic or psychoactive substances, hypnosis, the performing of depraved or other disorderly actions". Last year a similar case in the far eastern port city of Magadan was rejected by the court.

    The churches in Kostroma, a town about 200 miles northeast of Moscow, have experienced problems since last summer when trying to register under legislation that requires all religious organizations to re-register by the end of this year. However, the real difficulties began after a television report suggested the churches were in the same category as satanists and accused them of using "psycholinguistic techniques to induce hypnosis". However, according to Keston News Service, in order for the authorities to obtain an order for dissolution they must prove that the churches caused harm to the health of citizens. The judgment report on which the application for dissolution is based does not allege harm.

    The pastors of the two churches state that the committee which issued the judgment report only invited them to give evidence after it had reached its conclusion. They claim that the committee had no jurisdiction in the matter because the churches belong to centralize national organizations and should therefore be investigated by federal rather than regional authorities. Homer argues that in a country where authorities have been accused of abuses in blocking the re-registration of minority groups this case is atypical and represents ignorance, rather than outright malice. She has met with regional administrators who have professed that they "don’t understand these [charismatic] manifestations of faith" and "don’t know how to discern what is good and what is bad".

    Pray:
    • Pray that the pastors and members of these churches would have wisdom in dealing with the local authorities and that God’s name would be glorified by their actions in this case.
    • Pray that the court would have wisdom in this case which could have far-reaching implications for the Pentecostal church in Russia.
    • Pray that local authorities would live up to the spirit of constitutional guarantees of religious freedom by not banning unusual religious activity simply because they don’t understand it.

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