Editorial: Big Brother Bill passes in Russia

PUBLISHED ON 8 JULY, 2016 BY

Russia (MNN) – We’ve been following the progress of proposed anti-terrorism legislation in Russia.
Yesterday, Putin signed the Big Brother bill into law.
We asked for your prayers that the bill would be amended or vetoed as written. It appears that while Putin had until July 20 to sign the bill, the affirmative decision was made quickly.
Joel Griffith of Slavic Gospel Association says “I understand from one source that this package of bills was actually drafted in April and it’s been back and forth through a few committees here and there so I’m imagining this has probably been well discussed behind the scenes.”
As we mentioned yesterday, while the law is presented as a means to thwart terrorism, there are possible implications that will threaten Gospel workers.

Big Brother Law re: terrorism

Griffith says the law is meant to protect the country from further attacks from terrorists. For instance, he explains, anyone found to be financing or aiding terrorism will be severely punished, as will those who are actual participants. The sentences are 10 years to life in prison.

Implications for missions

The streets of Moscow, Russia (photo by Greg Yoder)

Christians had been praying for the bill to be stopped because of what it could mean for evangelism in Russia. But, hope is not lost just because it’s been passed.
Griffith says, “I think, certainly, the call to prayer that we put out is by all means still valid. It’s been signed into law, now it’s all going to depend on how this gets interpreted down the food chain within the Russian Federation.”
SGA and other mission organizations are concerned about the anti-missionary clauses in the law. They are waiting to hear from the registered Baptist Union Church to find out how the law will practically affect them.
From what we understand now, the law has been signed as last stated.
Griffith says if it is enforced as strictly as it is written, there will be major problems for missionaries and anyone desiring to share the Gospel outside of their Church building.
“It could stop missionary activity to anybody but representatives, registered organizations and groups, it would require every missionary to have documents with specific information proving connections to a registered religious group.”

Photo published by Andrey via Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/a8Y3pK

Ultimately it would limit the activity of mission work in residential areas and also that of foreign missionaries.
Griffith explains that a lot of registered churches are small enough that they meet in residential buildings. A section of the law covering residential regulations could threaten that.
“There are potentially very wide-sweeping ramifications to this law. It just depends on, again, how it is going to be enforced and that is a very huge question mark,” he says.
You can continue to pray for Christians in Russia. Pray that the law will not be enforced or interpreted as strictly as it is written.

What’s next?

SGA is meeting and discussing how to respond, but they’re fortunate not to be independently working in Russia.
“Our whole ethos and purpose is to serve the Church. And the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists is registered with them. And our sole purpose for existence is serving those Churches,” Griffith says.
It helps that they are working under a registered religious group.
“I think our approach to this right now is just very cautious. I mean, we are concerned, there’s no doubt about it. We are calling people around the world to please pray for churches.”

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