The upper chamber of the Russian Assembly has approved what is being referred to by one Christian organisation as an “anti-missionary bill”.
Mission Eurasia‘s Sergey Rakhuba says the the bill “prohibits missionary and evangelistic activity in residential areas of Russia and limits missionaries to acting only on behalf of registered religious groups … Any person speaking on behalf of a church or religious organisation will be required to carry specific documentation of their registration with them at all times. Additionally, foreign missionaries would only be permitted to work at the invitation of registered religious groups”.
He said the bill, approved on 29 June, is “the most draconian anti-religion bill to be proposed in Russia since Nikita Khrushchev promised to eliminate Christianity in the Soviet Union.
“For years we have watched as huge changes take place in Russia under the increasingly dictatorial rule of President Putin and his administration. Freedom of religion represents a threat to the current political agenda in Russia. Today, few–if any–foreign Christian mission groups have an official presence in Russia, having been pushed out by anti-evangelical regulations.”
Forum 18 reports that the bill was first adopted by the lower chamber of the Russian Assembly on 24 June, as part of a package of anti-terrorism and public security laws.
It reports: “If President Vladimir Putin signs the new amendments into law (Criminal Code Article 282.2) the following penalties will be imposed:
“Part 1: a fine of 400,000 to 800,000 Roubles; or 2 to 4 years’ income; or 6 to 10 years’ imprisonment with a ban on working in one’s profession of up to 10 years and restrictions on freedom for 1 to 2 years.
“Part 2: a fine of 300,000 to 600,000 Roubles; or 2 to 3 years’ income; or compulsory labour for 1 to 4 years with a ban on working in one’s profession for up to 3 years or with restrictions on freedom for up to 1 year; or 2 to 6 years’ imprisonment with a ban on working in one’s profession for up to 5 years or with restrictions on freedom for up to 1 year.”