Religious freedom in the former Soviet Union, never a sure thing, is fading away. In Kazakhstan, a woman was deported to Uzbekistan for “carrying out missionary activity without local registration.” Her crime? She gave a Christian children’s magazine to a 12-year-old girl in her neighborhood. The Kazakh government is openly supporting more laws restricting religion, working to pass a law requiring all churches to register, even though a similar law had been ruled unconstitutional by the country’s Supreme Court.
In Uzbekistan, the government is actively cracking down on Christians. Some have been fined 50 times their monthly wage after being found guilty of “attracting believers of one confession to another. “ The Christians fined were distributing religious literature without permission and had gathered for an “illegal religious teaching meeting.”
In Ukraine, believers can still worship and teach openly, but subtle changes in the government’s attitude to religion are causing many to be watchful, to be in prayer, and to think about how they are using the freedom they currently have.
There is much debate in the US about the government trampling our civil liberties and constitutional rights. These liberties and rights are precious gifts I have enjoyed and at times taken for granted. When I think about the plight of believers suffering around the world, I need to remember to pray for them and to consider just what I am doing to protect my freedom, and how I am using it for God’s kingdom.