Non-Orthodox Christians in Russia Face Ongoing Discriminations

Two sources recently reported on the restriction imposed upon Protestant churches’ constitutional rights in Russia.

Although the ongoing persecution reports have surfaced many times in the last few years, they have recently gained momentum towards reaching a new level of threat against non-Orthodox churches in Russia, mostly due to the long lasting and the cumulative effect of the restrictions.

Native correspondents from both the World Evangelical Alliance’s Religious Liberty Commission and Norway-based Forum 18 have issued an account of the current conditions in the various cities of Russia where discrimination against Protestant churches have led to their difficulty renting places for worship.

In the last few years, many “sect” churches, non-Orthodox churches including Protestant churches have relocated their place of worship several times, according to Forum 18, which monitors religious persecution in Communist and former Soviet states. Ambiguous grounds in the official or unofficial agreements were imposed unexpectedly, forcing the eviction of many churches from their buildings. Furthermore, political pressure by the Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate (ROC MP) have also contributed to the strict regulation on the practices of non-Orthodox churches.

Forum 18 reports an incident in which World of Life Church with 700 members had their rental agreements cancelled five times over the past two years. Such restricted environment for worship have caused small congregations to merge with larger churches to take refuge in their size and resilience towards the persecution. Other churches have taken upon themselves to decrease the frequency of meeting and hold the occasional gatherings at rented space, Forum 18 reports.

Increasing number of such incidents throughout Russia have alerted the foreign mission organizations and prompted the victimized churches to take a stronger stance in the issue.

According to the WEA RLC, positive response from the Protestant churches and the public are growing.

Cross-denominational Protestant Christians from Moscow and Vorenezh have gathered in a forum to discuss the direction towards their impartial representation. Meanwhile, Moscow’s Emmanuel church organized a demonstration against “the systematic discrimination and violation of the constitutional rights of Protestant Christians.”