Although Russia is a secular state with an atheist past, the regime favours the Russian Orthodox Church, which can mean problems for other denominations. Non-traditional Protestant churches are accused by the Russian Orthodox Church of stealing their members. Since 2011, several legal restrictions have shown a trend towards greater state control and more isolation from the West, which has affected denominations that are seen as “Western”. Meanwhile, in the Muslim-dominated Chechnya and Dagestan republics, converts to Christianity are considered traitors to their national identity. In July 2016, President Vladimir Putin signed into law what some commentators referred to as an “anti-missionary bill”. The Yarovaya Law was formally introduced as an “anti-terrorism” measure, allowing the government to monitor extremist groups. However, Russia’s Christians have also been affected, particularly missionaries, who need a permit, and “house churches”, which are now illegal, as religious activity is only allowed inside registered buildings. Maximum fines are $780 for individuals or $15,000 for organisations. In August 2016 American missionary Don Ossewaarde was fined $640 for holding a church service in his home. He took his case to Russia’s Supreme Court and then, in March 2017, to the European Court for Human Rights. (Photo: Fred Inklaar via Flickr; CC 2.0)

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Russian Patriarch and UK archbishop call for greater support for persecuted Christians

Russian Patriarch and UK archbishop call for greater support for persecuted Christians

The Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury have called for more aid to reach Middle Eastern refugees, especially Christians, and for robust safeguards against extremist ideology, which they say has spread “like an epidemic”. Patriarch Kirill and Archbishop Justin Welby released a joint statement thanking […]

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Cautious welcome to Russia’s praise of Protestantism

Cautious welcome to Russia’s praise of Protestantism

A senior official in the Putin administration has acknowledged the “value” Protestants bring to Russian society, reports Radio Free Europe. Marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, First Deputy Chief Sergei Kiriyenko said: “The followers of the Reformation idea appeared in our country immediately after it started. Those people contributed […]

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Growing list of Christians charged under Russia’s ‘anti-missionary law’

Growing list of Christians charged under Russia’s ‘anti-missionary law’

A year on from Russia introducing its “anti-missionary bill” in July 2016, more than 180 cases have been brought before court, with prosecutions steadily increasing throughout the 12-month period. The list of cases against 129 individuals and 52 religious communities, published by regional news agency Forum 18, includes missionary activity […]

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Crimea also affected in first year of Russia’s ‘anti-missionary law’

A cross seen over the construction site of a bridge across the Strait of Kerch linking Crimea to mainland Russia. (Photo by Vladimir Smirnov via Getty Images)

Since Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed into law what some commentators referred to as an “anti-missionary bill” in July last year, individuals and groups have been targeted because of their religious affiliation in both Russia and the annexed Crimea. After the annexation in March 2014, religious organisations in Crimea had […]

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Russia outlaws Jehovah’s Witnesses as ‘extremist group’

The administrative centre of the Jehovah's Witnesses based in the town of Solnechnoye in the federal city of St Petersburg, Russia. The Supreme Court has ordered the disbanding of the group. It needs to hand over all its assets and property to the Russian government. (Photo: Getty Images)

Russia’s Supreme Court yesterday (17 July) rejected an appeal by the Jehovah’s Witnesses against a ruling in April which declared it to be “extremist” and has ordered the disbanding of the group on Russian territory. “The justice ministry had argued that the group distributed pamphlets which incited hatred against other […]

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Russia: Church reacts as ‘anti-missionary bill’ becomes law

Russia: Church reacts as ‘anti-missionary bill’ becomes law

On 7 July, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill referred to by one Christian organisation as an “anti-missionary bill”. The new law, known more commonly as the “Yarovaya” law (the name of one of its authors), which will come into effect on 20 July, was formally introduced […]

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