[they] had to meet outdoors in a city park.

 n Jan. 13, 2004, a church building of an independent Baptist church, in Tula, Russia was blown up.  Authorities said that it was due to faulty equipment within the building.   But in a January report by the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, witnesses testified to having seen a group of men around the building and the sound of breaking glass just before the explosion.  The Baptists also established that the gas pipes were not damaged.  The pastor had also received anonymous threats.  City inspectors have ruled that the building is beyond repair.  After the iron curtain came down in 1991, the Russian Orthodox Church took over from the Communist Party and reestablished their influence in religious affairs in Russia.  Even though they are not as brutal in their persecution as the communists had been, they still do not hesitate in their persecution of Baptists and other non-conformists.  With the crumbling of the USSR, Russia adopted a constitution allowing religious toleration but not real religious liberty.  In 1997 a more strict law was passed that required churches to have existed for fifteen years before being permitted to register.  The Sept. 2003 Moscow Times reported that one non-registered Baptist church was refused permission to rent any public buildings and had to meet outdoors in a city park.  This requirement for registration was amended to allow for a re-registration for groups who were registered prior to the implementation of the 1997 law, but this, of course, gave no relief to independent Baptist congregations.  Christian leaders have noticed an increasing intolerance  toward non-Orthodox believers.  New visas and visa renewals have been regularly denied for foreign religious workers.  Much prayer for Russia needs to be added to our prayer lists.

Dr. Greg J. Dixon from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. IIII: Cummins, pp. 26-28.

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