Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an anti-terrorism law, but for the country’s many churches, the signature sparked a demand for prayer and fasting.
The bill toughens punishment for acts deemed to be terrorism and for the organization of “mass unrest,” according to the Los Angeles Times. It would also introduce prison sentences of up to a year for those who fail to report such crimes.
Furthermore, Great Commission Ministries Chairman Hanny Haukka tells Charisma News the law entails:
- Foreign guests are not permitted to speak in churches unless they have a “work permit” from Russian authorities
- If a friend or relative from outside Russia wishes to share his/her faith in your home the guest will be fined and expelled from Russia.
- Any discussion of God with non-believers is considered missionary activity and will be punishable.
- Missionary activity will be permitted by special government permission. Example: If one traveling on a train shares his faith without written permission the offender will be taken into police custody for the duration of the journey and will be fined 50,000 rubles ($1,000).
- Offenders from the age of 14-years-old will be subject to prosecution
- Religious activity is no longer permitted in private homes. Most churches in Russia meet in homes.
- Every citizen is obligated to report religious activity of neighbors to the authorities. Failure to be an informant is punishable by law.
- One may pray and read the Bible at home but not in the presence of a non-believing person. You will be breaking the law and be punished.
- If the church has purchased property it cannot be converted into a place of worship.
- In church buildings, it is not permitted to invite people to turn to God. Worship services are permitted but making a non-believer a follower of Christ is against the law.
In response, thousands of churches across the country have come together to cry out to God.
“The church is appalled at the news of the new law. About 7,000 evangelical/protestant churches are in fasting and prayer at the moment over the news,” Haukka tells Charisma News via email.
What’s more, critics are now declaring the Yarovaya laws, aka the “Big Brother,” laws, as a sign of the end times: Despite receiving nearly unanimous support in parliament, the Yarovaya laws have triggered a flood of apocalyptic commentary.