Catholics unlikely to be affected by “draconian” anti-terror laws

A missionary Catholic priest serving in Russia says he expects new anti-terror laws will have a much bigger impact on small groups of Evangelicals than on the Catholic Church in Russia.

The priest, who has been serving in Russia for 24 years, said since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Catholic Church has followed government regulations that require religious organizations to be officially registered with the government.

Some smaller religious groups, often Evangelical, believe it is against their conscience to register with the government and so they refuse to do so, the priest said.

These new laws seem to be intended to target these newer, less established groups who are unregistered and may meet in private residences, he added.

The question now is how the law will be applied and whether its application will violate the Russian Constitution, which states:

“Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of conscience, the freedom of religion, including the right to profess individually or together with other any religion or to profess no religion at all, to freely choose, possess and disseminate religious and other views and act according to them.”

The ‘Yaroyava’ package  has been fiercely condemned both by Russian Christians and rights activists and internationally. It makes house churches illegal and limits religious activity to registered buildings.

Russia’s Council of Churches-Baptists said in an open letter:

“Any person who mentions their religious view or reflections out loud or puts them in writing, without the relevant documents, could be accused of illegal missionary activity.”

Another open letter, from the Protestant Churches of Russia, said the laws were “the most draconian anti-religion bill to be proposed in Russia since Nikita Khrushchev promised to eliminate Christianity in the Soviet Union”.

 

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