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Christians and the Struggle for Religious Freedom
A vital booklet about religious freedom to inform, inspire and challenge you. Includes an explanation of what religious freedom means and examples of the challenges Christians face in our Persecuted and Forgotten? 2012 update.Get the book or download your copy
Latest news from Russia
- RUSSIA: Orthodox and Catholics discuss "pursuing new approaches together"
- RUSSIA: "We are stronger together" say Orthodox and Catholic leaders
- UNITED KINGDOM: Events highlight need for solidarity
- RUSSIA: Chapel boat sets off on ecumenical voyage
Russia - Country profile
Religious freedom in Russia has come a long way since the days of brutal Soviet persecution – but there continue to be areas of concern.
Legal regulations for religious organisations have become increasingly stringent – though at the same time, courts have upheld the constitutional rights of Christian communities. In May 2008, Forum 18 reported that the Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Tuapse, had its liquidation over an unfiled tax return overturned by a court.
An increase in the powers of the Russian Justice Ministry’s Expert Council for Conducting State Religious-Studies Analysis has sparked concerns amongst religious groups.
One Orthodox group said the council was “a direct threat to the constitutional rights of the citizens of Russia to freedom of confession”. They added that it could lead to the “oppression of believers and the restoration of religious censorship and inquisition”. Muslims, Catholics and some Orthodox leaders said council members were ignorant about religion. (Source: Forum 18, 2nd June 2009)
Tension over the return of confiscated Church property looks set to grow after a controversial law, passed in November 2010, which was criticised for favouring the Russian Orthodox Church. It came as Catholic Archbishop Paulo Pezzi of Moscow expressed dismay after a former Catholic church in Kaliningrad was handed to the Russian Orthodox Church.
Nevertheless, relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church are more promising since the election of Metropolitan Kirill as Patriarch in January 2009. Aid to the Church in Need UK Director Neville Kyrke-Smith said: “There are still some suspicions about ecumenism in Russia, but Metropolitan Kirill has shown a very balanced attitude in his relations with the Catholic Church.”
In May 2010, Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev of Volokolamsk of the Moscow Patriarchate visited the Vatican. He said Catholics and Orthodox were increasingly seeing themselves as allies and called for “greater collaboration” in tackling the “de-Christianization of our countries”. (Source: Zenit, 19th May 2010)
Helping Sisters provide a vital ministry
Just 50 priests serve the Russian diocese of the Transfiguration of the Lord, which is more than eight times the size of the UK. So the Sisters at work there are carrying out a vital ministry to those in both spiritual and physical need. Bishop Joseph Werth writes: "Your help for the Sisters is truly a great support, and I am immensely grateful that we have always been able to count on you."
Training the priests of tomorrow
More than 70 years of Soviet communism saw Christians martyred in their thousands, churches destroyed and the faithful oppressed. But now the bells in Russia ring out once more, the monasteries are full, and the faithful flock into the churches. Thanks to your generosity in supporting the Orthodox seminary in Smolensk, Russia's priests of tomorrow are receiving a sound and faithful formation.
Help for the 76 religious Sisters in Novosibirsk
The diocese of the Transfiguration of the Lord, based in Novosibirsk, covers an area of two million square kilometres. There are many different religious communities of Sisters in the diocese who run outreach initiatives for those most in need. But above all they bring the Word of God to these people and are a vital support for the priests of the diocese. Your generosity enables all of these Sisters to continue in their selfless service.
Examples of Persecution
February 2010: Police in Kaluga raided the Sunday service of St George’s Lutheran congregation. Police officers disrupted the service to search for “extremist literature”. Officers blocked church doors preventing anyone leaving or entering. (Source: Forum 18, 23rd March 2010)
June 2010: Authorities reneged on a five-year agreement allowing members of the Pentecostal Hosanna Church, in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan, to visit prisons. Pastor Artur Suleimanov blamed it on government officials opposed to the Church. (Source: Forum 18, 11th June 2010)
November-December 2010: Latin Catholic Archbishop Paulo Pezzi of Moscow protested against plans to transfer a former Catholic church to the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow. Archbishop Pezzi said that the Catholic Church had spent 20 years trying to win back the former Holy Family Church which was seized after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. (Source: Asia News, 12th November 2010)
Last updated: 23/03/2011