Restrictions against evangelical believers continue to grow across the former Soviet Union/Eurasia, aided by widespread corruption, governmental discrimination against ideas perceived as “foreign” to the nation’s traditional culture, and a lack of understanding of the law by both officials and the public.
Daily, churches are being closed down or threatened with closure in Central Asia, while new laws impose more restrictions on worship and evangelism.
One example is Pastor Dmitry Shestakov of Uzbekistan. In 2007, he was arrested at one of his own Sunday services and charged with distributing extremist religious literature and other violations. At the trial, it became clear that there was no evidence to support these claims, but the National Security Service insisted that he still be sentenced to four years’ exile in a work camp.
In the camp, he was tortured, abused, and pressured to convert to Islam. At the end of his term, authorities threatened him with another three years, but he was miraculously released . . . only to be placed under severe “administrative supervision” for years, such as being forbidden to leave his home town without written police permission.
In January 2013, Pastor Shestakov and his family were forced to leave everything they had and seek asylum in Ukraine, asking for refugee status from the UNHCR. They face many challenges, including the possibility of deportation back to Uzbekistan, where Pastor Shestakov will most likely face imprisonment. Your prayers are urgently needed for their safety and future. Financial support is also needed now to provide the Shestakov family with housing, food, medical care, and other essential services.
Your prayers do matter. Thanks to your prayers and support, united with thousands of others through Russian Ministries, the Lord is gaining victories even now!
Last February, we told you of the plight of Pastor Thomas Kang, who had been detained by Russian police for months on a fabricated charge of attempted bribery. The true motive of his arrest, however, is shown by the fact that it occurred the day before he was due to open “House of Joy,” a retreat for low-income families as well as a gathering place for Christian celebrations and prayer services.
On April 2, after six months of imprisonment, a judge heard Pastor Kang’s case and released him with a fine. Although justice cannot be said to be fully served, the lawyer who represented Pastor Kang said that this was the best possible outcome in this situation. “In my opinion,” he said, “my client was, to put it simply, set up. This case shows once again that you can’t give even the slightest cause for provocation.” He also said that Moscow police were investigating the money and jewelry, which “disappeared” during a Tula police search of Kang’s home.
Together, we can make a difference. Please continue your prayers for persecuted Christians across the former Soviet Union/Eurasia. And as the Lord leads, please give to Russian Ministries’ Religious Freedom Fund, to support churches and families facing persecution and give emergency aid to fellow believers in crisis.
Find our more at Forum 18.