At the Moscow International Book Fair in September, the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) booth was a major draw. American sponsors recount with delight how hundreds of Soviets lined up every day—in a queue stretching past the nearly-always-empty booth of Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her American Atheist Press—in hopes of receiving a free New Testament and a glimpse of Christian literature in both English and Russian.
Laws against religious literature, though unenforced of late, remain. Yet, in this and other areas of religious activity, Christians continue to take advantage of new opennness provided by glasnost. “The legal situation is in a kind of limbo,” said Michael Rowe, a Soviet church expert from Keston College in England, which monitors religious rights in the Eastern bloc. “Increasingly, people are going ahead … and acting in advance of [changes in] the law.”
Just a few years ago, the only Bibles and religious books entering the USSR were smuggled in. Now, the Soviets have been granting unprecedented permission for Bibles to be imported, and Soviet citizens are openly seeking information about Christianity.
In addition to ECPA, which represented 80 members at the fair, Multnomah, Tyndale, Lion, the Southern Baptists, and a coalition including the Mennonites, the Friends, and the Brethren in Christ set up booths and reported strong interest in their materials.
“There is a hunger there, a desire for change, for knowledge of the truth,” said Jeff McLinden of Bible Literature International (BLI). Millions of Bibles have been shipped into the Soviet Union over the last year, and recently, truck-loads of literature have been allowed in with little or no customs examinations.
The Slavic Gospel ...1
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