American missionaries victims of anti-evangelism law


How they persecute for faith in Orthodox Russia

Roman Lunkin's blog on Echo of Moscow, 14 March 2019


Believers in our country came seriously under attack with the adoption of the Yarovaya Law in its part controlling missionary activity. A bit later, the Russian Supreme Court ruled the Jehovah's Witnesses (an organization banned on Russian territory) to be an extremist organization. As Ekaterina Shulman justly noted at a session of the Council on Human Rights, the list of extremists has been restocked with pacifists (even President V. Putin was amazed).


Among the consequences of the new policy is the suspicion of any talk about religion, especially if it is conducted by foreign citizens. And if they talk about faith in the English language? On 2 March in Novorossiisk, two teenagers, aged 18 and 19, volunteers of the Mormon church (full name—Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which is registered by the Russian Ministry of Justice) and American citizens, David Hague and Cole Brodovsky, were fined for violation of visa regulations and sentenced to deportation.


The occasion was a conversation with willing persons in the English language in a building officially rented by the church. The court considered this to be educational activity. It must be said that the Yarovaya Law has severely limited the activity of Mormons in Russia. At first, classes in foreign languages were closed where they really had been held (in the 2010s missionaries were expelled from the Far East for classes).


Thereafter young Mormons with badges ceased walking the streets. Finally, a couple of years ago missionaries received the status of volunteers on church territory (they were not able to do anything beyond the borders of this territory). But this also did not help. According to the latest information from representatives of the church, the two Mormons from Novorossiisk have still not been released by law enforcement agencies from the center for temporary accommodation. Although it is an administrative case and they seemingly should have been deported immediately.


I think that the chances of the teenagers being called spies are very small, although it is easy to pin this label on foreigners of different faith. Concerning the developments of time. In the case of the Novorossiisk Mormons there is the denunciation of one woman who arrived and supposedly saw the classes, where the youths even corrected somebody's English pronunciation and possibly also spoke about God. In late February of this year, the American Baptist Donald Dean Turner was deported from Briansk in the same way.


In his case there are as many as two denunciations pointing to "horrible things": "he preached the gospel and sang songs about God," possibly "doing this illegally." To complete the picture there is the example of the sentence for the Danish Jehovist, Christensen, in Orel. The text includes the testimony of a person who spoke about some kind of harm caused by Jehovism to his mother: "she does not talk with friends and she lost interest in art." And now about the power of art. The Russian Orthodox Church should be the standard of morality, but it covertly welcomes the most perverse, hypocritical soviet practice.


And indeed the people who write denunciations now consider themselves not "sincere stalinists" but "sincere Orthodox." Throughout the country it is necessary to display not the exhibit of Metropolitan Tikhon Shevkunov, where the Decembrists are spies and the soviet system "regenerates" the country, but the play "The Birth of Stalin" by Valery Fokin (Alexander Theatre), where it is shown how the state assumes the function of a ruthless god, Stalin treads on us, and you get goose bumps over your whole body. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 March 2019)

Russian original posted on site of Religiia i Pravo, 14 March 2019

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