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In their own quiet way, Russia’s Protestant denominations are continuing to evangelise.
There are almost 4,000 evangelical worship places in the country, according to new figures. Muslims rank second, with more than 1,500.
“Except for a few Orthodox extremists, I do not hear a single voice expressing approval for the prohibition of the Jehovah’s Witnesses”, says Russian church historian Constantine Prokhorov.
The criminalization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia is a mistake, says the Italian Evangelical Alliance. Freedom of worship should be guaranteed for everyone, “even for those who, in our view, are completely wrong.”
The government will close down the central offices of the religious organisation. The pressure on non-Russian Orthodox groups makes evangelical Christians wonder who will be targeted next.
“This kind of precedent is highly frightening and raises the question of who’s next”, says Evangelical-Baptist leader Vitaly Vlasenko.
The commission described the church as an insular sect with rules designed to stem the reporting of sexual abuse.