During the last 6 months many Christians have suffered persecution and discrimination despite Covid -19. Even though the social relations between people seem to have decreased in most of the continents, it looks like the authorities have been offensive in many countries to restrict Church life, especially in centralized societies. As a result of this, the liberty of conscience has become more questioned.
It seems that states like China, Russia, Belarus and some of the countries strongly influenced by Islam, have put efforts in developing new mechanisms of control to hinder Corona. In the extension the evil authorities to Evangelical Christians are using the technic of limiting side effects of Corona to even hinder and restrict Church services, meetings, gatherings and mission activities.
Many house churches have ended up under new sort of surveillance as a result of a more strict control of the citizens. In some cases Christians with international contacts have been blamed for distributing viruses and infecting people around them. This has often led to the fact, that Church buildings have been sealed and closed. Campaigns against Evangelicals in media have been brought up, because their international contacts are “risking the health security in the society”.
In addition to this you can see that the increasing political confrontation between East and West, North and South, are increasing the tensions between the Christian and Islamic world, China and U.S.A., Russia and European Union, but also between Christianity and the secular world. This is causing a huge amount of polarization, which is putting Churches and especially Evangelical Christians under the flag of enemies, which on a long term will cause more discrimination, persecution and martyrdom for our brothers and sisters. Afghanistan, Belarus, China, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan and Eastern part of Ukraine and Crimea are some of the countries and regions, which need a special portion of intersession now.
Even the situation in Nagorno-Karabach in Caucasus region and former Soviet Union can easily escalate and lead to polarization between new countries, which can increase sufferings for Christians in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkey. Please do not forget these regions either in your prayers.
During the time of Corona pandemic the Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches have sent out a huge amount of appeals and prayer requests for persecuted Christians. The cases of discrimination and threats have not decreased even though the social contacts should be less during the Covid -19. In Russia it has led to reactions, which are clearly directed against Protestants.
On April the 2nd Russian News (Vremja) in Channel one blamed Evangelical Christians and Baptists, that they had visited Spain and spread Coronavirus in the city of Bryansk in Russia. Indirectly you could receive a message by the report in the program, that the international contacts with west was a virus in itself, which the Protestants are not carefully avoiding. Because of that, they were causing big problems for the Russian society.
As a result of this the “Revival Church” in Bryansk was closed. A huge amount of death threats and mails came to pastor Voronin, even though he was able to confirm, that no one of the accused persons, were members in his Church. The same week some people tried to burn down the biggest Evangelical Church in Sankt Petersburg. Despite this, court cases are mainly directed against Evangelical pastors, who have been accused for braking the “Jarovaja law”, which is limiting religious extremism and mission work in the country.
During pandemic a huge amount of the churches have stopped their services and started to send meetings on-line, because it is in one of the very few possibilities to share the faith, pray and study the Bible together. The “problem” is that internet and streamed services are also reaching people, who are not members in the churches. This defines the activities as religious propaganda, which is strictly limited by the Jarovaja law.
Over 250 court cases have been organized against Pentecostal, Baptist and Charismatic churches in Russia during the last two years. Some of the biggest churches have been closed in central parts of the country. The evil tendency has continued against Pentecostal churches even in September-October 2020. Sometimes the Churches have won the trials, but they are still suffering under many new restrictions, which have been introduced recently by authorities. For example:
- The churches must now give a more detailed report once a year with information about their members, who they are, what they are doing etc. (earlier the requirement was only every third year).
- The law about missions is restricting to whom and what you can say about religious matters outside Church buildings. You are not allowed to inspire citizens to become members in religious organizations, engage or involve people, which are not members in the Church.
- Church buildings can now only be used, if they are built or used on plots, which have registration for religious purposes. (The evaluation is that almost 50% of Pentecostal Church buildings are located on plots, without possibilities to be used for “practicing the religious cult”.) Authorities have started juridical processed against Churches, which do not have the right registration. If the congregations wants to register a private plot for Christian services, it has usually been denied.
The authorities are even working on new laws, which can limit the freedom of using laymen and receiving members to the Churches: A leader, or a pastor need to have theological examination from Russia. People sentenced to punishments are not able to become members, if this law will be accepted by the Russian parliament.
Pray specially for the Pentecostals, Baptists, Evangelical Christians, and Charismatic Churches in Russia. Their members are focusing a huge amount of discrimination, restrictions and threats. It looks like the suffering is a result of revival and spiritual growth in Russia today.
Observe, that this article will continue on my blog in November, whith important reports from Belarus, Caucasus and Central Asia.