A missionary from the USA, who was punished with a fine for holding regular Bible lessons in Russia, has decided to ask the European Court of Human Rights for help. Missionary Donald Ossewaarde was the first missionary from the United States to be fined under Russia's anti-missionary law that has been in place since summer of 2016. Mister Ossewaarde was fined forty thousand rubles (approx. $600) after he was found "guilty" of illegal missionary work for hosting Bible lessons at his own house in the small Russian town of Oryol. The Russian anti-missionary law, also called "Yarovaya", is named after one of the legislators responsible for its introduction.

It was meant as an "anti-terrorism" law, which enables the state to monitor extremist, mostly islamic religious groups. Ossewaarde had tried everything in his power to solve his personal situation, he even involved the Russian Supreme Court. However, all is efforts have been without a positive result. So finally he filed an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights because he believes that freedom of religion should be considered a fundamental human right.

Ambassador warns: be more sensitive!

No citizen of any country should be persecuted on grounds of their faith, Mister Ossewaare believes. The Russian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion for all, however this did not prevent him from being rated as an "alien agent".

As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Russia has the duty to guarantee freedom of religion. However, the Russians are well-known for having a rather flexible attitude towards laws and their use, Ambassador Sister Evangelia of the Boston-based CULC Missionary Service Center explains. "Laws are considered having less authority than political decisions in Russia", the ambassador said to Christian News.

Sister Evangelia is in charge of the relationship between the protestant and evangelical CULC missionaries and the orthodox churches in eastern Europe and Greece.

Be careful and respect local laws!

Ambassador Evangelia explained in the interview with Christian News that too many missionaries would not understand that American standards regarding the rule of law are not an International Standard they can rely on.

Law and order are practised differently in other countries and sometimes, as it is the case in Russia, political aspects may overrule fundamental rights from time to time. "You can dislike the local laws and customs, but you better get used to them if you want to reside and work in these countries without getting into severe trouble", the ambassador warns.