Pray for the Mari people – Europe’s last pagans. A Finno-Ugric ethnic group who have traditionally lived along the Russian Volga and Kama rivers. Even though a significant number became members of the Russian Orthodox church during the Soviet era, many kept their pagan traditions. Mari tribes, which can be traced back to the 5th century, worship in Groves offering blood sacrifices. Please pray that the Gospel will take root amongst the Mari people – that they will come to see that Jesus made the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins. Pray for the church in Yoshkar-Ola, the capital city of the Mari El republic which has a population of about 700,000.
Russia is the largest country on earth. More than 140 million people from nearly 100 people groups, and speaking 97 languages, live there. Bible translation is ongoing in dozens of languages throughout Russia, including ten minority people groups who are known by the cover term ‘Menshevik’ which comes from the Russian word for ‘minority’. Praise God that the Bible in Cache*, one of the Menshevik languages, has now been published. Many Cache speakers consider it taboo to possess a copy of the Bible – pray that attitudes will change and interest will grow in reading the Cache Bible. Pray that an audio recording of this Bible will soon be completed, providing another way for Cache speakers to access the Scriptures. *Name changed for security reasons.
The Karachai people are a testament to mankind’s will to survive. Their history includes being driven into the Caucasus Mountains by invading Mongols, forcible conversion to Islam, revolts against Russia, occupation of their homeland, and deportation to Central Asia. If God did not have a plan for the Karachai, they certainly would not have persevered through these and other violent acts. But He does have a plan and many Karachai have now returned to their homeland in the Russian province of Karachai-Cherkessia. As a people group the Karachai are proud, but demoralised; spiritually they are lifeless with little interest in anything beyond immediate physical needs and family honour. Pray that the wind of God’s Holy Spirit would blow there, drawing the Karachai to Him. For God plan for them is not in vain after all this time. May their hearts be opened.
Like so many young men in Russia, Evgeny was heavily addicted to drugs. However, after the birth of his son Artur*, Evgeny’s mother persuaded him to enroll in a drug rehabilitation programme run by Salvation Centre. Evgeny overcame his addiction, and left the centre a few months later full of hope in God. But his hope was tested when he returned home and found his partner, Lyuba, high on drugs, with Artur at her side. Evgeny returned to Salvation Centre, and asked them to help Lyuba. Months later, she too was free from addiction, ready to start a new life with Evgeny and Artur. Praise God for the work of Salvation Centre and pray for children like Artur, born into unstable homes, that they and their families will be offered the support they need. *Name changed
The Siberian Christian Mission of Mercy (SCMM) works amongst the remote communities along the Yenisei River, the central of the three great rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean. SCMM serves the region’s historic people groups such as the Dolgans. Because of their isolation, many of these peoples still have their own unique language and culture. So far several small churches have been planted. Pray for these churches to grow and for the safety of SCMM’s committed workers and their families, who occasionally face violent opposition.
Pure View was founded in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk by a group of Christians who were passionate about improving the quality of life of people living with HIV - both within the church and in the wider society. Tackling stigma in the church through theological training and raising the awareness of pastors is a key part of this aim. In the past, pastors would openly condemn people with HIV as ‘more sinful’ than others, or refuse to marry couples where one of the partners was HIV positive. Although the situation is slowly improving, challenging convictions takes a long time. Pray for the ministry of Pure View as they work to help churches in the Siberian region to see the needs of people around them, understand their problems and respond with love.
A recent Russian government report estimates that 14,000 Russian women are killed every year by partners or other family members. However, many independent observers consider these numbers to be a gross underestimate. Drug abuse, alcoholism, poverty and poor living conditions are all major contributors but the root cause of the violence often lies deeper, embedded in the unequal relations between Russian men and women. Many Russians consider a woman’s place to be at home and blame the victims for provoking the attack. Pray for the victims of violence in Russia. Pray that they will be able to feel God’s compassion, love and new hope in a future free from violence. Pray for the Russian government and churches to take the issue of domestic violence seriously and for Christians in Russia to be effective advocates for change and witness to God’s redemptive power.
Drugs flooded Russia after the Iron Curtain fell. At the same time, organised activities for young people disappeared and social spending was slashed. Russia is still battling the ensuing drugs epidemic. Each year some 30,000 people die from narcotics abuse and more than 2 million Russians are registered addicts. The free Salvation programme balances the needs of body, soul and spirit: through sport, farming and other manual work, Bible study, counselling and skills training. After completing a first stage of recovery at the centre, participants are linked with a local church where they learn to serve others. Pray for those currently undergoing rehabilitation at the centre, that their addictions may be overcome, so they can enjoy His peace and comfort. Pray too for Russia’s young people: ask for preventative measures to deter them from entering the self-destructive world of drugs.
Almost 1% of Russia’s population of 142 million people is in jail. Approximately 350,000 prisoners are released every year - many of them have tuberculosis, hepatitis and HIV. Light of Life has a small team in the Perm region of Russia, where 46 prisons house 32,000 people. As well as providing education classes, so far they have trained 1,500 inmates to offer health advice in Russian prisons. Pray for these trained prisoners, many of whom have experienced the healing of Christ from their addictions, and for good relationships with prison authorities.
The small republic of Chuvash is located in the centre of the European part of Russia. In the capital, Cheboksary, the churches there are combining proclamation of the gospel with demonstration of the gospel. They are working hard to make Christian radio programmes that reach their local community and also run a number of social outreach projects, including a rehabilitation clinic for alcoholics. Many alcoholics have become Christians, and now help others in the same boat to find faith in Christ. Pray for the funds to grow this work and for the new home-grown missionaries who are being sent out to other parts of Russia.
There are thought to be almost 700,000 orphans in Russia. Many children live in orphanages or on the street and many more Children live in families that are dysfunctional or unhealthy. Neglect and abuse can ultimately lead to future generations becoming orphans too. Praise God for the work of the Russian Risk Network. By equipping and encouraging Christians to work with orphans, adopt or become foster families, they aim to give these children families that they can belong to.
Russia has one of the biggest HIV epidemics in Europe, with 940,000 people living with the disease (mainly drug users). The problem is worsened by the ignorance and prejudice surrounding the disease within Russian society. However, the minority Protestant Church is playing a growing role helping people living with HIV. Veena O’Sullivan, Tearfund’s HIV Unit Manager says, “Our partners (in Russia) are inspirational… I have never seen churches grow so quickly with so many lives transformed. At the heart of this is the fact that many churches are made up, started and led by people who have been on the margins of society, former drug users, former sex workers… This is our dream, this is our vision and God is bringing it alive in a country where the Protestant Church is facing oppression and where denominational boundaries are well defined.”
Population: 144,463,451 (2017)
Official languages: Russian
GDP (PPP) per capita: $27,466 (2017 est.)
Life expectancy: 69 years
Religions: 63% Russian Orthodox, 30% Agnostic or Atheist, 2% Muslim, 1% other religions