Skip to comments.Church Demolished: Russia's Fading Religious Freedom
Posted on 11/11/2012 10:44:30 AM PST by daniel1212
MOSCOW -- A recent nighttime raid and destruction of an evangelical church outside Moscow raised concerns that religious freedom is fading in Russia.
That's because police simply watched as dozens of men with heavy machinery demolished the Holy Trinity Pentecostal congregation.
Some fear its part of a threatening pattern against Russia's evangelical Christians.
Authorities Raid Church
Sveta Romanyuk finds it difficult to talk about what happened the night of Sept. 6, 2012.
"What they did was not right. We didn't even have time to save the Bibles," she said.
On a recent morning on the edge of Moscow, 12-year-old Sveta and a handful of her friends held Sunday school on the steps of what used to be the entrance of their church.
"I want the people who did this to know I still love Christ and I am going to pray for them and our country," Sveta said.
In the early hours that September morning, about 45 men, backed by local Russian police, descended on Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church.
"I got here around 4 a.m. and saw two large excavators tearing through the church building," Zhidkov Maxim, who attends the church, said. "The police just stood and watched the whole thing."
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As word spread, other church members, like Alena Maltseva and her husband, rushed to try to save the church.
"I'll never forget the sound of my church being crushed," Maltseva said. "It was so painful."
Pastor Vasily Romanyuk also tried to stop the men but it was too late.
"When I tried to get into the territory I was stopped by drunk tough guys who introduced themselves as a vigilant group acting on behalf of the city district," said Pastor Romanyuk, who leads Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church. "They refused to show their IDs and papers."
By 3 a.m., the three-story building was in ruins.
"Unfortunately, what we are seeing today is nothing new. For decades evangelical Christians in Russia have experienced similar or worse," Pastor Romanyuk said.
Legal Government Battles
Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church became registered in the late 1970s while Soviets still ruled. In 1995, the church was forced out of its original building and moved to a site some 45 minutes outside Moscow.
The church erected a temporary building but battled authorities over building permits.
Pastor Romanyuk wanted to build a bigger, more permanent structure. Authorities refused. For 17 years, the city even prevented the church access to water and electricity.
Then in late August 2012, a district official notified Pastor Romanyuk that the church was slated for demolition.
"I never imagined they would actually do it," he said.
The brazen act stunned the evangelical community.
"They chose in front of the entire public, in front of the entire world, in Moscow, in the largest city in Russia, the capital, just to simply level the evangelical church making that statement," Sergey Rakhuba, with Russian Ministries, said.
Pattern of Discrimination
Romanyuk said he sees a pattern emerging.
"You talk to any evangelical leader in Russia and they will tell you this is all about ideology. The government and the Russian Orthodox Church view us evangelicals as a threat," he explained.
"They see our congregations growing, they see how dynamic our services are, and they are threatened by it," he said.
Even though the country's constitution states that all religions are equal before the law, the government is often accused of discriminating against citizens who profess faiths other than Orthodox Christianity.
Vladimir Ryakhovsky, a leading human rights lawyer in Moscow, said Holy Trinity's property and legal challenges are just part of an emerging pattern against Russian evangelicals.
"Bottom line: this is discrimination," Ryakhovsky, who runs the Slavic Center for Law & Justice, said. "This year alone, the government has given the Russian Orthodox Church 200 building permits and in many cases the government will help fund the new churches."
Cozy Orthodox Church-State Relations
And what evangelicals are most concerned about is the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church within the state apparatus. They accuse President Vladimir Putin of tearing down walls between church and state.
"Muslims from time to time will face similar challenges in trying to build mosques," Vasily Evchik, a Russian evangelical leader based in Moscow, said. "But you will never hear of an Orthodox church being bulldozed and ransacked in the middle of the night."
Back on the grounds of Holy Trinity Church, Romanyuk and the congregation are pressing forward. They're holding weekly services in a large tent next to the demolished church. There are reports the city wants to turn the land into a large sport complex.
"I never imagined in my life that I would go through such an experience," Pastory Romanyuk said. "But to tell you the truth I feel emboldened and full of hope, thanks to the prayers of Christians around the world."
Twelve-year-old Sveta is also hopeful.
"Since this happened I've been asking God to provide us a new place, a place we can continue to meet and share with others about the love of Christ," she said. "I know God will take care of us."
Coming to a country near you -
I see attacks like this will be increasing all over the world. The US has lost her soul. The "christian" watchdog that was the US, is no more. Watch as attacks throughout the world on Christians increases.
We are entering the prophecized days.
Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.
Some people want to live
Within the sound of chapel bells
But I want to run a mission
A yard from the gates of hell
And with everyone you meet
I'll take them the gospel and share it well
And look around you as you hesitate
For another soul just fell, let's run to the battle
Run to the battle
Do you have your armor on?
We're in the middle of a raging war
We've been training for so long
Have we learned to use His sword?
We may not be ready but we serve a mighty Lord
And He's made us more than conquerors
So what are you waiting for? Let's run to the battle
We got to run, run to the battle
He has trampled down the enemy
And has given us the victory
When we pray we learn to see that His army
We are marching on our knees
There'll be times when we grow weak
Let's keep our faith alive
Let your faces shine with glory
For He's helped us to survive
And in that final hour when you feel like you're ready to die
Will you hear the trumpet sound
Will you hear the warrior cry, run to the battle
We got to run, run to the battle
prophecized = prophesied
Now THAT really would give an excuse to some to send you to the Gulag.
And paradoxically this is likely due to Ruskies gov doing the will of the institutionalized Orthodox church,
The Orthodox Church wants to be the only church in Russia.
Indeed they do, and that kind of church is not that of the NT one, which did not consider ruling over those without to be part of their charter, (1Cor.5:12) much less dealing with theological enemies by the sword of men, which they only sanctioned the state to use, justly. (Rm. 13:1-7; 1Pt. 2:13,14).
And it is one thing for the state to affirm in a basic and general way the beliefs of its founders and voters, and another to require religious submission to one sect.
Correct...AND the protestants want to be the only church(es) in Russia.
you shouldn't call them "Protestants".