For the First Time, Russia Ranked Among Worst Violators of Religious Freedom

From: Christianity Today, APRIL 26, 2017

For the First Time, Russia Ranked Among Worst Violators of Religious Freedom

USCIRF annual report expands countries of particular concern.

Russia’s ongoing crackdown on religious minorities, foreign missionaries, and evangelists has earned it a spot among the worst countries in the world for religious freedom.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which flags religious freedom violators for the State Department, listed the former Soviet state among six new Tier 1 “countries of particular concern” (CPC) in its latest annual report, released Wednesday.

It is the first time in the commission’s almost 20-year history that Russia has made the list. A total of 16 countries currently hold the CPC designation, and another dozen are being reviewed as Tier 2.

Russia is the only country whose repression of religious freedom has both intensified and expanded into a neighboring state by means of military occupation since USCIRF began monitoring it….

Last week, Russia’s Supreme Court officially banned Jehovah’s Witnesses nationwide….

Additionally, the commission wants to see more pressure put on Russian officials over repressive application of other laws, including its “foreign agents” law—which restricts missionary activity—and a 2016 anti-evangelism regulation (known as the “Yarovaya law”)—which keeps non-Orthodox Russians from sharing their faith outside official church buildings.

Russian evangelicals, who make up less than 1 percent of the population, continue to push back against the restrictions, which have resulted in arrests, fines, and confiscated materials for Protestants found guilty. They have risked punishment to continue to spread the gospel.

“They say, ‘If it will come to it, it’s not going to stop us from worshiping and sharing our faith,’” Sergey Rakhuba, president of Mission Eurasia and a former Moscow church planter, told CT last year. “The Great Commission isn’t just for a time of freedom.”

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