Russian Evangelicals Wary of New President

As Russia swears in Dmitry Medvedev as its newest president today, evangelical Christians throughout the historically anti-western nation are reacting with anxiety and uncertainty over the future of their ministries.

Many Christian groups worry that Medvedev, who was elected this year in what many analysts describe as a mostly lopsided, unfair, and uncontested election, will continue many of the authoritarian and repressive directives attacking religious freedom that have characterized the past eight years of the country during outgoing President Vladimir Putin's administration.

Paul Tokarchouk of Russian Ministries, an evangelical organization based in Russia, said that it remains to be seen what kind of treatment Christian groups will receive over the next few years, though it would probably be a continuation of what Christians in the country have already experienced.

"I think the new president, Mr. Medvedev, will be more open to keep the law and keep those regulations that are already in the law and keep those regulations that are already in the constitution," he said, according to Mission Network News.

In the past, many foreign Christian groups have faced harassment and government scrutiny, Tokarchouk said.

"[The Russian government] consider as a threat, foreign Christians who would help strengthen the evangelical church and the evangelical church becomes strong and more influential and that is the threat that they see in this relationship," he explained.

Tokarchouk emphasized, however, that Russian Ministries was at the forefront of preparing for the future through its summer ministry programs that would train and empower the gospel among young people throughout Russia.

"The number one need is for dedicated, trained, influential people from this young generation who would be willing to take the Gospel to their peers, to their society and who would be relevant," he said.

"Our prayer is that God would use young generation leaders who have already been trained through [our ministry], that they would reach thousands and thousands of kids," he added.

Russian Ministries hopes to enroll over 5,000 children in its summer camp ministry program.