Two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving in Novorossiyk, Russia, have been detained by authorities.
According to church spokesman Eric Hawkins, the missionaries were detained Friday evening during a meeting at a local church.
“While we are grateful these young men are reportedly in good condition and are being treated well, we are troubled by the circumstances surrounding their detention,” Hawkins said in a prepared statement.
The parents of the missionaries have been notified, Hawkins said.
The father of one of the two missionaries — known as “volunteers” in Russia to comply with laws there — posted a plea for prayers on Facebook.
“They were in the church building and arrested during their English class,” wrote Kyle Brodowski, the father of missionary/volunteer Kole Brodowski. “It has been difficult to understand, and is becoming more complicated each day.”
According to Kyle Brodowski, the mission president “is doing everything possible to gain their release, all we can do is pray.”
Hawkins confirmed the church is currently working with local authorities for their release.
Missionaries have long been held in suspicion by Russian people, and this is not the church’s first run-in with legal authorities there since the fall of the Soviet Union ushered in waves of proselytizing believers from many faiths in the 1990s.
In 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law an anti-terrorism measure that restricted proselytizing by religious groups. Mormon missionaries began to call themselves “volunteers” to comply with the new rules, and the church reduced the number of missions in the country.