Russia Considers Tighter Clampdown on Missionaries, Religious Groups

The Russian government said that within the coming weeks it may begin tightening control of foreign missionaries and religious organizations.

According to reports and Russian newspapers, the Justice Ministry is considering adopting stricter rules on granting visas to foreign missionaries – an action if effective would lead to the limitation of foreign missionaries in Russia. The government also expressed plans to make the suppression of religious centers easier while causing registration of religious organizations more difficult, according to Zenit News.

"Especially with their visas, registration, and especially they have to report to the government about their activity in Russia,” Sergey Rakhuba, vice president of Russian Ministries told Mission Network News (MNN). “What do they do? What kind of group they represent? What kind of ministry they have? It sounds like it's all going back like it was during the Soviet time."

Rakhuba commented that although the Justice Ministry is the vocal supporter of the new regulations, he believes the Russian Orthodox Church is involved in the proposal.

"At this time, Russian Orthodox Church initiates all of this. And they inspire the Russian government to help control other religious groups. Basically it means they want to monopolize all religious activity," Rakhuba said.

Russian Ministries – a registered, indigenous organization – will not be directly affected by the new policies, but may be required to report its activities to the government. And despite restrictions on foreign missionaries, church growth and evangelism in Russia will not be hindered, Rakhuba said.

“I don't think that it will affect evangelism because you cannot stop people from talking about Christ. You cannot stop people talking about their experiences with Jesus. And, that's what Russian Ministries is doing."

Rakhuba expects that if the new polices pass, foreign missionaries will face difficulties and trouble maintaining their legal status as foreign evangelist.

"So, they either have to turn into tentmakers and work under the business visa, or something else, but I know next year lots of foreign mission groups will have some problems."

Russian Ministries was founded in 1991 to promote indigenous evangelism, church-planting, church growth and humanitarian aid in the former Soviet Union by developing creation and strategic partnerships between nationals and Western Christians. Through more than 350 partnerships, Russian Ministries serves to enhance and improve ministry outreach and effectiveness in areas including summer evangelistic camps, youth ministries, church construction, medical ministries, relief, and various forms of media. Today’s Russian Ministries team includes American missionary specialists and national Christians working from the Moscow headquarters and from 25 ECPCs throughout Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

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