On April 2019, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) added Russia to its list of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC), a list of countries “whose government engages in or tolerates particularly severe religious freedom violations.”
2019 U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Annual Report
Representative Foley Hyun Sook of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, a ministry that partners with persecuted Christians all over the world, explains that the rise in Christian persecution is tied to Russia instituting the Yarovaya Law in 2016.
“The Yarovaya Law outlawed house churches, forced missionaries to have proper permits, and forbid Christians from evangelizing outside of church,” Foley explains.
Forum18, a news service that reports on Religious Freedom all over the world, there were 159 anti-missionary prosecutions in 2018 alone.
“In one of these cases, a Baptist Christian named Eldar Akhundov was fined simply because a stranger asked for spiritual help and Akhundov invited him to worship together,” Foley says. “Another Christian was arrested because he supplied a stranger with a religious booklet after the man asked him for one. The issue needs to be brought to the attention of Korean Christians, for both prayer and mission reasons,” Foley adds, “but our research reveals less than 5 news reports in Korean Christian media on the subject of Russian anti-missionary prosecutions. Furthermore, the most recent of these articles was in 2017.”
Of the 159 prosecutions, only one involved a Korean: a Korean woman who was a member of the World Mission Society Church of God. Though this group is considered a cult, Foley says the charges brought against her should concern all Korean Missionaries travelling to Russia.
“This missionary wasn’t charged with being a member of a cult,” Foley explains.
“She was arrested for ‘the dissemination of information about her beliefs among people who are not members of this religious association, with the aim of involving them in the association.’ That’s exactly what Christian missionaries do too. As a result, we must make sure Korean churches and missionaries are prayerful and prepared.”
Voice of the Martyrs Korea is joining USCIRF in labeling Russia a “country of particular concern” and noting an urgent need to prepare Russian Christians for persecution. According to Foley, Voice of the Martyrs the global founders of Voice of the Martyrs, Pastor Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, began ministering to the Russians in the 1940s.
“The Wurmbrands were Romanian Christians who risked their lives to smuggle Bibles and financial aid to Russian Christians who were persecuted by Communists,” Foley explains. “When the Communists took over Romania, the Wurmbrands, themselves, experienced persecution. Pastor Wurmbrand was imprisoned for 14 years and his wife spent three years in slave labour camps and prisons. Instead of cursing the Communists, however, Pastor Wurmbrand wrote, ‘I hated communism, but I loved the Russians.”
“In light of Voice of the Martyrs longstanding commitment to partnering with Russia’s persecuted Christians and missionaries, we are urging Korean media, mission agencies, and churches to join us in monitoring the situation in Russia closely. We invite Koreans interested in Russian mission to join us in planning our persecution preparedness outreach to Russian Pastors.” Foley says. “Unfortunately a lot of the Glasnost-era interaction between Russian (and Russian speaking) Christians and those in the US, South Korea, and Europe prepared Russian Christians for prosperity, not persecution.”