Russian Pentecostals divided over the war in Ukraine

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Russian Pentecostals divided over the war in UkraineBishops Lavrenov and Novikov clash. The community is allowed to have different points of view, as long as they do not contradict the Holy Scriptures. In Soviet times, Pentecostals were among the most persecuted of believers; today they endure Putin's restrictions with great difficulty. Catholics and Protestants under systematic surveillance after invasion launch.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Russian Union of Evangelical Christians (Roskve), an umbrella group for Russian Pentecostals, has published a letter on its website, after lengthy discussions within all the communities and in the unitary bodies, putting an end to an ongoing debate. Above all, it is intended to sanction the newfound communion between two Roskve bishops, Sergej Lavrenov and Aleksej Novikov, who had quarrelled over the latter's publication on social networks of the 'Z' symbol an initiative condemned by Lavrenov.

The two bishops signed a joint statement, in which they explained that "at different times in its history, the Church of Christ has had to face various challenges, yet it has been able to preserve fidelity to the word of God and its unity, overcoming these difficulties".

The events of recent months have been a cause of division not only in society, but "also within the People of God", and the differences in views and the different interpretations of the same passages of Holy Scripture among the various pastors and believers "give the opponents of the Church of Christ reason to dishonour the works of God, and lead into temptation those who are not yet firm in the faith", Lavrenov and Novikov observe.

The Russian Pentecostals, however, claim diversity as one of the most deserving characteristics of their movement, which allows "the presence of different points of view, as long as they do not contradict the Holy Scriptures, because it enriches our service and the life of our entire Church". In the face of the situation that has arisen in the country, the document continues, "when it is necessary to avoid further polarisation of society, rather we need to promote peace and concord, we consider it indispensable to express all the love of Christ and the readiness to forgive and dialogue, even with those who disagree with us in social and political opinions, which Christ Himself never put as the foundation of His building".

Therefore diverging opinions on teh war are allowed, without denying the preaching of the Gospel to all parties, and guaranteeing "help to the suffering and needy regardless of the flags of their state and political affiliation". The discussion will continue in the coming months, knowing the sensitivity of Pentecostal communities and believers, who in Soviet times were among the most persecuted among believers, and even today endure with great difficulty the restrictions on religious freedom in Putin's Russia.

Pentecostals make up the majority of Russian Protestants, who are also represented by the more traditional Lutheran churches and the numerous Baptist communities, and the total number of Russian Protestants is normally estimated at between 1 and 2% of the population, around 1.5 million people. Lutherans have been present for the longest time, having arrived in the Russian Empire from Germany or the Baltic at the time of Peter the Great, while since the 19th century the Baptists, and then the Pentecostals and Charismatics, began to take root.

As with Catholics, the religious activities of non-Orthodox Christians are regulated by a law made stricter by the 2016 amendments, what is known as the 'Jarovoj law', which prevents foreign missionaries from acting as leaders of Russian associations. Missionary and catechetical activity can only be carried out by persons accredited according to the regulations and within church buildings, and surveillance has become systematic these days, to avoid any form of 'discrediting the armed forces and government policy'.