Russian president Vladimir Putin has thanked Christians for playing a major role in reviving the country's spiritual traditions and its moral and ethical values.
In his Orthodox Christmas message released on Saturday, Putin said the season is a time to think good thoughts and do sincere acts of kindness for loved ones and for the needy. He also lauded Christians for their participation in preserving Russia's historical and cultural heritage, Christian Today reports.
"The Russian Orthodox Church, other Christian denominations are playing a huge, truly unique role in reviving the high ethical, moral values, guarding our rich historical and cultural heritage," said Putin in his Orthodox Christmas statement. "They increasingly cooperate with state and public organisations in the cause of education, enlightenment and charity, in strengthening the institution of family and bringing up the young generation."
In addition, Putin was all praises for the Christians' effort to unite ethnic and religious communities. These efforts, he said, help maintain "civil peace and accord" in Russia.
While Putin's Christmas message includes "other Christian denominations," CT notes that the government favors the Russian Orthodox Church because of its patriotism. In fact, it has greatly expanded across the country in the last few years.
However, many Christians have grown concerned over the "Yarovaya Law" that Russia passed last year, which restricts evangelism and other missionary activities in the country as part of measures to clamp down on terrorism.
American missionary Donald Ossewaarde was arrested after the anti-evangelism law was implemented in July 2016. He has already returned to Illinois but his lawyers are preparing to appeal his conviction under the "Yarovaya Law," the Baptist Press details.
Ossewaarde, who has been a missionary in Russia since 2002, is reportedly hoping that the court would overturn the charges filed against him in August, and his lawyers are also seeking to challenge Russia's anti-evangelism law. Should the ruling be in his favor, the Baptist missionary said they could resume their house church activities in Russia.