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Franklin Graham Cancels Persecution Summit in Moscow over Repressive Law

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Rev. Franklin Graham says he is cancelling an evangelical summit in Russia after the government passed a new law placing severe restrictions on Christian evangelization.

"We were looking forward to this significant event being held in Russia because no one knows modern Christian persecution better than the church that suffered under communist rule. However, just a few weeks ago Russia passed a law that severely limits Christians' freedoms," Graham posted on Facebook in announcing the cancellation of his World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians. 

The law, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, puts a stop to sharing faith in homes, online, and anywhere else except for church buildings. It is considered to be the country's most restrictive since post-Soviet history. 

It gives Putin the authority to crack down on nongovernment affiliated churches, according to Archbishop Andrew Maklakov, administrator of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church of America. 

"The Russian Orthodox church is part of a bulwark of Russian nationalism stirred up by Vladimir Putin," David Aikman, history professor and foreign affairs expert, said. "Everything that undermines that action is a real threat, whether that's evangelical Protestant missionaries or anything else."

The law is forcing Christians to carry out missionary work differently, the Slavic Centre for Law and Justice, explained.

According to Christianity Today fines for violating the law are $780 for individuals and $15,500 for an organization. Foreign visitors who violate the law face deportation. 

In order for citizens to share their faith, people must secure a government permit through a registered religious organization. The restrictions also apply to activity in private residences. 

"There are potentially very wide-sweeping ramifications to this law," according to Joel Griffith, from the Slavic Gospel Association. "It just depends on, again, how it is going to be enforced, and that is a very huge question mark." 

However, Sergey Rakhuba, president of Mission Eurasia and former Moscow church-planter, says the law would not stop Christians from pursuing their faith. 

Watch CBN interview with Sergey Rakhuba here with International Correspondent Gary Lane: 

"They say, 'If it will come to it, it's not going to stop us from worshipping and sharing our faith,'" he told Christianity Today  "The Great Commission isn't just for a time of freedom." 

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association had plan to host the event in Moscow in October. Instead, it will now take place in Washington, D.C.. May 10-13 of 2017. 

"It seems that every week we learn of another example from a part of the globe that shows how critically we need to have this World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians," Graham said. 

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