Long lines will form across Moscow’s Red Square this week to view the remains of Lenin, the man who perhaps more than any other in the twentieth century changed the course of world politics. Under the encouragement of Soviet leaders, millions will commemorate the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Russian revolutionary.Forty Lithuanian Catholic priests, in a recent appeal to the Soviet government for relief from religious persecution, quoted Lenin as saying: “Every person must have full freedom not only to profess any religion he wants, but also to publicize and change his faith.” Lenin didn’t live up to these words, according to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. It just posthumously excommunicated him from the faith in which he was baptized for alleged desecration of holy places and torture of believers. But while propagandists crank out effusive plaudits for the 1917 “liberation” from czarist decay, many thousands of Soviet Christians will continue to lament the oppression instigated against their faith by the revolution.
To be sure, thousands of churches are open every Sunday all across the Soviet Union. Many are crowded. But the Communist authorities enforce strict regulations against evangelism and Christian education. Those elements are indispensable to a virile church.
Because of these restrictions, many Protestant Christians in the Soviet Union go underground. They defy the law and often find themselves at odds with the authorities. Some are harassed.
A detailed document sent to the West last fall from dissident Protestants estimated that “tens of thousands of believers” died in prisons or in exile between 1929 and 1961. It said that since 1961, “more than 500 brethren have been arrested and imprisoned, ...1
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