TO ALL BODIES OF ELDERS IN RUSSIA New law on missionary activity
We appreciate the opportunity to serve Jehovah with you "shoulder to shoulder" in special time of the end (Soph. 3:9). Today, when true knowledge is multiplied, is given a powerful testimony about the Kingdom of God. The success of the preaching of the Kingdom, growth and spiritual prosperity of the Jehovah's people can be called a miracle. Without the support of God, which means he protects his people and leads them, preaching work would be impossible (Matt. 19:26).
As you probably know, was recently approved amendments to some laws concerning the regulation of the exercise of missionary activity. We know that you and the brothers and sisters in your congregation can be a lot of questions about it. Over time, we will be able to provide more specific recommendations on this, when it is clear how these amendments to legislation will be applied. In this letter we want to give you a general guide.
According to the law, missionary activity "shall be any activity of a religious organization aimed at spreading information about their doctrine among persons who are not participants (followers) of the given religious organization, in order to involve such persons in the composition of participants (followers) religious organization made directly to religious organizations or their authorized citizens and (or) legal persons in public, using mass media, telecommunication network "Internet" or other lawful means". This means that the personal religious service is not missionary work. Missionary activity the law recognizes the activities of religious organizations. When any person personally shares with other spiritual thoughts, such as from the Bible on their own and on their own initiative, then it does not fall under the definition of missionary activity. To preach the good news of the Kingdom of God is a part of our personal ministry and worship to Jehovah. No organization directs us to preach. We obey Jesus Christ, who has commanded us to do (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20). The right to freely disseminate religious and other convictions and act in accordance with them guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation (article 28). In addition, our personal preaching ministry is not "in order to involve other persons to be the participants (followers) of religious organization". We just share the gospel with others, and people, in turn, decide how to act.
We're going to congregation meetings and conventions to worship God and to glorify him. Under the law, they are religious services, not missionary work, so they are also not subject to the requirements and restrictions associated with missionary activities.
All this means that, in general, we can continue serving our God Jehovah the same way we did it before.
Of course, some government officials, referring to the amendments to the law can be regarded otherwise our preaching activity, claiming that we are engaged in missionary activities. This can cause some detention and the imposition on them of fines. The counsel, therefore, Jesus from Matthew 10:16, 17: "Be cautious as serpents, and at the same time guileless as doves", is now more relevant than ever.
Teach publishers to act rationally when they are involved in personal preaching Ministry (Prov. 22:3). Perhaps they should not visit all the tenants in a row in the same building or on the same street, and not to stay long at the intercom, and go to another area. We should also refrain from gathering in large groups and not to attract undue attention. You need to carefully weigh whether it is prudent to continue to serve in public areas. A wonderful way shares the good news is the informal witness. We also ask that you temporarily do not use any printed literature in your own preaching ministry, use only the Bible, and not to campaign at the invitation of the regional congresses. Perhaps in some areas it is prudent to use in the service of the Synodal translation of the Bible. All this will help not to create the false impression that we are engaged in missionary activities.
Where, when and with whom a person says about their beliefs is a private matter (ROM. 14:12). In addition, according to the law there is no obligation for person to report their attitude toward religion and cannot be compelled to define its attitude to religion". So to tell or not about your religious affiliation to others is also a personal matter. Given this, if the authorities detain someone during his personal preaching ministry, we must be willing to rely on Jehovah and know the biblical basis for our ministry (Prov. 3:5, 6; Matt. 10:18, 19; Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20). In addition, it is possible to remember that article 28 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation allows you to share with others your personal religious beliefs, and you do it on your own initiative and on your own behalf. Additionally you can use article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and do not answer on any further questions.
If the authorities come to our meetings or convention and demand an explanation for what's going on here, it is possible to report the following: "Here is the religious services in accordance with part 2 of article 16 of the Federal law "On freedom of conscience and on religious associations". I have nothing to add. On other questions I refuse to answer on the basis of article 51 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation".
Please discuss thoughts from this letter with the congregation at the meeting, which will take place on the week of July 18, 2016 in the "Local needs". Make an announcement regarding printed literature and campaign for the invitation to the convention. We ask you to refrain from trying to establish rules on other issues or otherwise interpret the law. Instead, reassure publishers that Jehovah appreciates their loyal service.
Jehovah promises that will always be with his servants. For example, in Isaiah 54:17 says: "No weapon formed against thee shall prosper". This and other similar promises guarantee the prosperity of God's people. Remember that Jesus sustains us in ministry, as promised (Matt. 28:20). We should not be afraid, because all attempts of God's enemies to silence us are doomed to failure! Warm Christian love, Your brothers, Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia