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On August 21-22, representatives from the International Union of Churches of the Evangelical Christian Baptists (IUC ECB) were scheduled to hold an annual service in a tent in the town of Lyubuchany a few miles south of Moscow. According to their website (www.iucecb.com/), the meetings had been held in the area for more than ten years. Since the meetings were of a religious nature, they did not fall under the regulations requiring approval from local authorities. However, on August 20, the owner of the land, V. L. Chekanov, was called to the police station where he was asked to explain the nature of the meeting. That evening, several hundred police moved in on the site, including officers with machine guns and gas masks. The authorities completely dismantled the tent and the furnishings, verbally abusing those present and injuring one man who had been taking photographs.

Three weeks later, the hostility escalated when the building where the local ECB church was meeting was burned by a group of vandals. The church was meeting in a house on the property of Sergei V. Kareev, who lived nearby. Around 3:30 a.m. on September 13, the family heard the sound of breaking glass and found the building on fire and a group of people gathered. When the family shouted at them, the group ran away. A few days earlier, some of those responsible for the attack in August had been seen in the woods near the Kareev property. An arson report was filed by police only after the insistence of the church members.

While freedom of religion is generally experienced by most in Russia today, recent reports have raised concerns. Pray that Christians in Russia will be free to practice their faith without government interference. Pray for those in Lyubuchany as they continue to reach out to their community.

For more information on challenges facing Christians in Russia, click here.

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