A story that has been floating beneath the radar which deserves a little more attention is that of an incident in Izhevsk, Russia a couple of weeks ago. Apparently a Pentecostal church was harrased by the local police force:
Twenty masked special and plain clothes police raided an evening seminar on 14 April at the Word of Faith church in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtia autonomous republic. Police forced the 70 people present outside, calling them “sectarians” and “prostitutes”, while they searched the church. Nearly 50 church members were held for five hours at the police station and fingerprinted.
While it may indeed be that this is an isolated event, Russia’s recent track record on religious freedom isn’t much better than that of its Soviet forbearers. A US State Department document from as far back as 2001 shows concern over religious freedom. Izhevsk is mentioned in particular, though then in relation to expulsion of Scientologists.
The former USSR has a long way to terms of freedom to worship. The practice of church registration still occurs—a device that was used in the communist era to keep tabs on religious activity. The incident in Izhevsk should remind us Americans to be vigilant in prayer for those lacking the freedoms we so often take for granted.