On April 2019, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) added Russia to its list of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC), a list of countries “whose government engages in or tolerates particularly severe religious freedom violations.”
This rise in Christian persecution is tied to Russia instituting the Yarovaya Law in 2016.
The Yarovaya Law outlawed house churches, forced missionaries to have government permits, and forbid Christians from evangelizing outside of church.
Forum18, a news service that reports on Religious Freedom in Russia and Central Asia, details 159 anti-missionary prosecutions in 2018 alone.
In one of these cases, a Baptist Christian named Eldar Akhundov was fined simply because a stranger asked for spiritual help and Akhundov invited him to worship together. Another Christian was arrested because he supplied a stranger with a religious booklet after the man asked him for one.
The issue needs to be brought to the attention of Christians here in Korea and around the world, for both prayer and mission reasons. In Korea, our research reveals less than five news reports in Korean Christian media on the subject of Russian anti-missionary prosecutions. Furthermore, the most recent of these articles was in 2017.
Of the 159 prosecutions, only one involved a Korean: a woman who was a member of the World Mission Society Church of God. Though this group is considered a cult, the charges brought against her should concern all missionaries traveling to Russia, whether Korean or otherwise, cult or true Christian.
That’s because this Korean woman was arrested for “dissemination of information about her beliefs among people who are not members of this religious association, with the aim of involving them in the association.” That’s exactly what Christian missionaries do, too. As a result, we must make sure churches and missionaries serving in Russia are prayerful and prepared.
Voice of the Martyrs Korea is joining USCIRF in labeling Russia a “country of particular concern” and noting an urgent need to prepare Russian Christians for persecution. We should remember that Voice of the Martyrs global founders, Pastor Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, began ministering to Russians in the 1940s.
The Wurmbrands were Romanian Christians who risked their lives to smuggle Bibles and financial aid to Russian Christians who were persecuted by communists. When the communists took over Romania, the Wurmbrands themselves experienced persecution. Pastor Wurmbrand was imprisoned for 14 years, and Sabina spent three years in slave labor camps and prisons. Instead of cursing the communists, Pastor Wurmbrand wrote, “I hated communism, but I loved the Russians.”
In light of Voice of the Martyrs’ longstanding commitment to partnering with Russia’s Christians and missionaries, we are urging Christian media, mission agencies, and churches to join us in monitoring the situation in Russia closely. We invite Christians interested in Russian mission to join us in undertaking persecution preparedness outreach to Russian Pastors.
Unfortunately much of the Glasnost-era interaction between Russian (and Russian speaking) Christians and those in the US, South Korea, and Europe prepared Russian Christians for prosperity, not persecution. That is why we are in the process of translating and publishing a Russian language edition of our book, Preparing for the Underground Church, and mobilizing a team to develop resources and training events for Russian pastors and missionaries.