MOSCOW (BP)--New legislation being considered by Russian lawmakers could drastically restrict missions activity if made into law. Restrictions could include requiring missionaries and Russian Christians to obtain permission to engage in missionary activity and limiting its locations and participants, such as tourists and minors.
While the proposals are currently in the draft stages, language introduced by the Russian Ministry of Justice Oct. 12 indicates that if these laws are enacted they will greatly restrict religious freedom.
Russian Baptist officials say they believe the new language primarily targets Roman Catholics and Protestants and believe it has already found favor with leaders of Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism -- Russia's four most prominent religions.
"Of course, when measures like this are talked about, we are always concerned and we should look at them with a measure of seriousness," said Ed Tarleton, a leader of IMB work in Russia. "Evangelicals have enjoyed days of openness and freedom, so when lawmakers start talking about language that is contrary to that, we become concerned."
The proposed changes include allowing only religious groups who have been registered in Russia for at least 15 years to apply for permission to engage in missionary activity. Foreigners in Russia on a temporary visa, such as a tourist visa, would be excluded from engaging in missionary work.
Russian Baptist leaders add that wording in the proposed legislation makes no distinction between professional missionaries and average believers. Read More