Russia: Belgorod Applies
(June 01, 2001) The regional duma (parliament) of Belgorod region, approximately 450 miles south of Moscow, has passed a local law sharply restricting missionary activity. The new law is supported by the local Orthodox bishop and the governor, but opposed by Belgorod's Protestants, some of whom have already had it applied against them.
According to Keston News Service, a Pentecostal church was denied permission for public events in the city center in April as an official claimed the possible presence of children without written permission of their parents meant the events would violate the law, although the Orthodox had no problems holding public Easter celebrations with children present.
Unlike many similar local laws in Russia, "On Missionary Activity on the Territory of Belgorod Region" is not just confined to foreign citizens, although they are specifically prohibited from conducting missionary activity if they have come to Belgorod for a different reason.
Residents of other Russian regions intending to carry out missionary activity in Belgorod must also submit to the local authorities a document confirming their affiliation to a particular religious organization, a copy of their invitation to the region, an itinerary of their stay, and proof of local registration.
This reminds me of the visionary "invitation" (plea) to Paul to "come over to Macedonia and help us" (Acts 16:9-10). I don't think Paul said, "No, you have to first send us a written invitation before we can preach in your country!" He instead concluded "that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them." Paul and Silas would be thrown into prison there, accused of teaching "customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe" (Acts 16:21). Nevertheless, the Lord blessed their work (Acts 16:25-40).
We are to, as much as possibly, be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18). But when the Lord's will and work conflicts with man's law we must "obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). We should not allow the edicts of men to prevent us from doing the work of God.
From: The Spirit's Sword, Volume V, Number 13, June 3, 2001
We appreciate both brother Price's sharing the above news article with us and his comments. In our efforts to evangelize the world we need to realize that the Bible shows us that governments do not always work for the good of those over whom they rule. The text Joe cited in Acts 5 shows us that the government in Jerusalem was against the very preaching which our Lord had ordained for "every creature" (Mark 16:15; Acts 5:28; cp. 4:18). In the case of the Macedonian call, Paul and Silas ended up being imprisoned by the authorities in the very city to which that call had led! Let us notice a few helpful points along these lines.
Let us not be cowed or discouraged by man's attempts to thwart God's purposes. We must have the faith of the early disciples and scatter the seed of the precious gospel on all soils. May God bless us in our efforts to recognize his supreme right to rule in this earth.
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