Sunday, June 12, 2005

freedom of worship in russia -- really?!

After a decade of runaround from the government on getting a building to house their 1000-member Emmanuel Church, Pastor Alexexander Purshaga decided it was time to act. The church filed for permission to protest and held a church rally on Pushkin Square (Moscow) May 22nd. They also filed for permission to hold a week of protests on Tverskaya Ploschad.

When parishioners gathered there on May 30th, Helena Purshaga (Alex’s wife) reported, "The police came and asked to see our papers. We showed them, and everything was fine.

"But on Tuesday no one asked who we were, whether it was legal or not. They started tearing our posters down and grabbing women and pensioners."

Police then produced a document, dated three days after the legal deadline for permission, changing the rallies’ location to Pushkin Square.

Several Emmanuel members were fined 500 to 1000 rubles. A pastor who came from St. Petersburg to support the protest was thrown in jail. And so was Pastor Alexander (five-day sentences).

(Read the entire article "Evangelical Christians Fight for a Church" - Moscow Times)

Alexander and Helena have visited our church many times, and he and Pastor Brent (Cantelon) are pretty tight. Thus it was not surprising to see Pastor B. visibly shaken this morning when he related these events. But even in this, there is a beam of light.

Apparently Alex was cold and Helena went to the jail with some warm clothes for him. In the process of filling out the forms etc., the jailer mentioned to her, there was no prisoner in the whole jail like her husband. He got up willingly in the morning, went for his shower, then back to his cell without protest. And the rest of the day, all they heard from his cell was his prayers. "Could I be a Christian?" the guard asked.

And so right then and there, Helena led Alex’s jailer to the Lord (and with that, she said, the gloom and numbness of the last days lifted from her as well).

***************
Related:

"Moscow Stonewalls Pentescostals' Efforts to Build Church" - Charisma Magazine

"Russia Evangelicals Blocked in Efforts to Build Churches" - Christianity Today

"Persecution Watch in Russia"

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