RELIGIOUS FREEDOM UPDATES FROM THE CIS
Covering events in 1998.
Table of Contents
RUSSIA RECOGNIZES MORMON CHURCH
KGB-STYLE TACTICS USED ON CLERGY
NEWSPAPER ATTACK ON SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS
OFFICIAL STATISTICS ON RELIGION IN RUSSIA
LATEST ON THE "ON FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE AND RELIGIOUS
UTO complains about "Troika" agreement
RFE/RLMay 18th, 1998
The leader of the United Tajik Opposition, Said Abdullo Nuri said the decision to form a "troika" of Russia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to combat the threat of fundamentalism in Central Asian endangers the Tajik peace process, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 May. Nuri called the threat "an invention" of "certain circles" and said "fundamentalism does not exist in Tajikistan." The next day, ITAR-TASS quoted Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov as a saying fundamentalism is a real threat in the region and claiming that religious radicals are already disseminating fundamentalist propaganda in Tajikistan.)
"Pure" and "impure"
Fergana Valley has become a zone of struggle with religious dissent
by Valery Uleev
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 3 April 1998
The region of the Fergana valley, which in the classification of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe is a zone of potential interethnic conflicts, has become the arena of a struggle with religious dissent. In Uzbekistan this struggle has taken on an extremely repressive form. An enormous campaign for rounding up all who are suspected of belonging to Wahhabism has extended even into the south of Kyrgyzstan.
The intraconfessional conflict between true believers and ordinary believers has never gone beyond the platitudes of theological debates of individual religious activists at the mosque level. Many consider that the active penetration of the ideology of fundamentalist Islam into central Asia is related to an external political factor; that is, such countries as Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia are actively participating in this process, sharing enormous means with their fellow believers. Likely the news about this has been greatly exaggerated. If such help exists, then it is occurring at the official level.
There is a logical explanation for the appeal of the fundamental sources of Islam to a certain portion of believers. In conditions of the liberalization of public life in the first years of sovereignty a certain Islamic response occurred. Today when all restrictions have been removed there are people who are concerned for the purity of Islam. At present in a substantial portion of mosques the flock is being ruled by charlatans, who do not know even the basics of Islam. However it has become prestigious to be a believer and since the early 1990s thousands of people have made the pilgrimage to Mecca.
There has been an impoverishment of the popular masses and a sharp differentiation among people in terms of social and property status. Many believers see the cause of their misery and suffering in social injustice when during the division of the "all-national" property everything was seized by the former party and soviet nomenklatura who walled themselves off from the people by an enormous repressive apparatus.
Today there is a politicization of Islam; that is, on the one hand, the exploitation of the sentiments of believers by the ruling political elite for their own mercenary goals, and on the other hand, crude interference of the state in confessional affairs.
We should be cautious about the way, by reason of theological illiteracy, fundamentalism takes on a negative coloration in our understanding, following the slant of the news services and mass media. We were taught long ago to place an equality sign between the concepts "fundamentalism" and "Islamic terrorism." However, fundamentalism can be not only armed with machine guns and not only in Islam, although it is in Islam in recent years that it acquired such a clear aggressive character. Rather this is a reflexive response to the policy of the West by people who have been driven into a corner. Evidence of this is in the events in Tajikistan, the Balkans, Algeria, and many undercurrents of Islamic life.
"Our" fundamentalists have never declared the idea of the creation of an Islamic theocratic regime to be their basic goal. In our region there has not been a single case where the differences between fundamentalists and believers has gone beyond the bounds of theological disputes and only the interference of the state in religious affairs has intensified the situation and divided Muslims into the "pure" and "impure."
The government has painted all our fundamentalists as Wahhabis for some unknown reason. Meanwhile from an academic point of view, there is no sense in talking about Wahhabism in Central Asia since it can occur only on the basis of the Hanbali, one of the four canonical Sunnite schools of Islamic law which historically never existed on the territory of Central Asia. It is necessary to take into account that Wahhabism as religious dissent poses no threat to the security of our republic, especially since our constitution officially enforces freedom of conscience.
After the famous Namangan events of the end of last year and the beginning of this year, when a criminal group clashed violently with officers of the Uzbek police and members of their families, official law enforcement structures evaluated these actions as terroristic acts of indigenous Wahhabis. In Uzbekistan there began an unprecedented campaign of "witch hunts" which seized the territory of southern Kirgizia. This happened because Islam Karimov incautiously declared at a press conference after the recent summit of the heads of central Asian states that Uzbek Wahhabis were preparing military raids on the territory of the neighboring republic.
Dozens, if not hundreds, of people today are languishing in the prisons of the Uzbek special services merely on suspicion of participation in Wahhabism. It seems that having disposed of political opposition, the dictatorship of Karimov has taken on religious opposition and the Namangan events were the occasion for repressive actions. Meanwhile many consider that the murder of the policemen had nothing to do with religion.
Law enforcement's agencies of Uzbekistan are operating on the territory of southern Kyrgyzstan as if they were on their own land. With the open connivance (and perhaps direct support) of the Kyrgyz authorities, the special forces of Uzbekistan are running wild in Dzhalal-Abad and Osh districts, detaining at the border of kidnapping suspects (Kirgiz citizens) and conducting searches without any authority. The Uzbek police use of technique of planting: they discover on all suspects during the search from one to four grams of marijuana or three or four shells from a Makarov.
The prohibitive and repressive measures have still not produced the desired results. As a rule they have led only to the growth of the opposition. In our opinion the situation will get worse and the number of adherents of fundamentalist Islam will grown inexorably. (tr. by PDS)
RFE/RL News, May 25th.
Speaking at a press conference on 22 May, Sheikh-ul-Islam Haji Allakh-Shukur Pashazade, the head of the Spiritual Department of Muslims of Azerbaijan, claimed that the activities of Hare Krishna, Wahhabi, and Christian missionaries have created a "dangerous situation" and could "split the country," Turan reported. Pashazade said his department has written to heads of all Baku local councils asking them for information on "illegal activities" by religious bodies. He also said that using the terms "Allah" and "Prophet" in addressing or greeting Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliev constitutes a "sin."
Kyrgyz Draft Law on Religion Ambiguous in its Treatment of Non-Traditional Religions
by Dr John Anderson, University of St Andrews
Mar 24, 1998
For some months now a parliamentary committee in Kyrgyzstan has been considering a new law on religion, though a legislative backlog suggests that it may be some time before the law sees the light of day. Though official spokesmen previously expressed a concern to avoid the discriminatory elements in the Russian law, a text that has recently become available to Keston Institute reveals considerable ambiguities in phrasing that might allow pressures to be mounted against non-traditional religious groups.
Article 5 of the draft does indeed promise full religious freedom and equality to all regardless of their convictions, but a number of other clauses follow the Russian example in offering rights primarily to traditional religious organisations - a category that is nowhere defined in the text of the law. For example, though the state education system is declared separate from religion, traditional religious communities may under certain defined circumstances participate in the moral education of secondary pupils. The same article excludes non-traditional groups from preaching in state or private schools, and also appears to deny them the right to propagate their message in public places or through the mass media. (Article 9) And though the state commission on religious affairs together with the Justice Ministry has recently undertaken a re-registration of religious communities, it seems that a further process will have to follow on approval of the current draft (Article 11)
On paper certain aspects of the law appear less restrictive than the Russian version, but many ambiguities remain. For example, all religious groups appear able to import religious literature, though the proviso that such works must not stir up ethnic hatred or social unrest raises a number of questions, especially in the light of recent press comment attacking the charismatic Church of Jesus Christ and other groups for publishing books which attack the cult of ancestors, something seen as an attack on their national culture. Other ambiguities include the prohibition on attempting to win people over from one religion to another, an apparent ban on all proselytizing activities, and the suggestion that non-registered religious groups are not simply denied the right of juridical personality, as at present, but have no right to exist at all. In addition the functions of the state commission on religious affairs are spelt out in a sufficiently vague way so as to allow both liberal and constrictive interpretations of its role (Article 20)
From a liberal perspective the ambiguities of the law must raise questions as to whether Kyrgyzstans place as the Central Asian haven of religious pluralism is under threat. Whilst much of the law may pose no threat to non-traditional religions, various articles allow sufficient leeway for restrictive interpretation by central and local officials. Moreover, the fact that the law appears to emanate from the presidential administration means that PRESIDENT AKAYEV is unlikely to repeat his recent use of the veto against a press law which severely curtailed the rights of the media. At the same time, Western observers need to bear in mind that this is not a stable democracy but a state where ethnic and civic harmony is fragile, and where the concern for order is central.
RFE/RLMay 14th, 1998
Presidential spokesman Kanybek Imanaliyev told a press briefing on 13 May that Askar Akayev is personally supervising the battle against religious extremism, ITAR-TASS reported. Imanaliyev said the president is concerned about the "appearance of Wahhabi missionaries." Kyrgyzstan, like neighboring Uzbekistan, has ordered all mosques to be registered.
Kyrgyz Religious Organizations Form Committee to Protect Islam
RFE/RLMay 15th, 1998
A number of religious organizations have established a committee in Bishkek to counter anti-Islamic measures by the Kyrgyz leadership, RFE/RLs Bishkek bureau reported on 14 May. Human Rights Movement of Kyrgyzstan Chairman Tursunbek Akunov said that the Kyrgyz government is cracking down on religious organizations under the pretext of combating Wahhabism, which, he claimed, does not pose a threat in Kyrgyzstan. Also on 14 May, Russian presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii invited Kyrgyzstan to join the tripartite alliance created by Russia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan earlier this month to combat religious extremism, ITAR-TASS reported. LF
The Moscow Times, May 16th 1998
KAZAN, TatarstanTatarstan, 750 kilometers east of Moscow, maintains a careful balance between its Islamic and Christian communities. Tatarstans religious harmony is in part due to the strategy of authoritarian President Mintimer Shaimiyev. He has shrewdly cultivated close ties with the traditionally Christian half of the population, as well as with the other half, ethnic Tatars who are traditionally Muslim.
But Tatarstan has a strong history of harmony between Christianity and Islam. The two religions are divided largely along ethnic linesSlavs and Tatars. Some Tatars converted to Christianity in the 16th and 18th centuries, but today there are virtually no conversions across the ethnic lines. "By Gods will, we are already divided, and we have nothing else to divide," Galiullah, the previous mufti for Tatarstan, says.
For centuries, the Russian Empire observed the rights of Muslims in its territory in exchange for reciprocal treatment of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman Empire. "The fundamentals of this tolerance were built a long time ago," says Archbishop Anastasy of Tatarstan, who heads the republics Russian Orthodox community. In the early 1990s, Muslims and Orthodox Christians staged joint protests demanding the return of their houses of worship. The giant Azimov Mosque in Kazans market area and the eloquent baroque St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, both not far from the Kremlin, were returned as a result of those demonstrations.
APMoscow Times, May 16th 1998
TASHKENT, UzbekistanAuthorities will now be able to restrict religious freedoms for national security reasons under a sweeping new law that took effect Friday in mostly Muslim Uzbekistan.
The law, passed two weeks ago by parliament, appears directed at the Wahhabis, a fundamentalist Islamic sect blamed for recent violence in the former Soviet republic in Central Asia. Uzbek President Islam Karimov said previous laws were inadequate to stem the growth of the sect, originating in Saudi Arabia. Karimovs government alleges that Wahhabis are intent on installing an Islamic government in place of his secular one.
Karimov has accused Wahhabis of killing officials and destroying food processing plants, water reservoirs, power stations and other strategic sites.
The law requires all religious groups to register with the government. It bans political parties based on religion and says minors cannot take part in religious organizations or missionary activities.
RFE/RL Newsline, 22/5/98
In its 19 May issue, the Uzbek daily newspaper "Khalk Suzi" published the text of laws aimed at regulating the activities of religious groups in the country. The new legislation stipulates that religious groups must register and outlaws missionary activities aimed at converting individuals to other religions, teaching religious subjects without official permission, publishing material that advocates extremism, separatism, and chauvinism. Some clauses of the laws are vague, such as the one forbidding people to wear religious clothing in public. Clergymen from registered religious groups are exempt from that provision.
Who can go to Church?
Almaty police try to set Cossacks against archbishop
by Sergei Kozlov
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 30 April 1998
Every year when the Orthodox of Kazakhstan mark their chief holy day, the Resurrestion of Christ, the "Cossack question" breaks out, in which the Cossacks and the authorities make mutual accusations against one another. As a rule, this regards the traditional clothing of Cossacks; the agencies of law enforcement consider the wearing of such clothing a violation of Kazakh legislation that forbids "creation of military groups." The Cossacks maintain that the authorities are looking for any, even the most absurd, pretense to discredit the representatives of Cossackdom and to achieve its complete eradication from Kazakhstan.
The current Orthodox Easter turned out to be no exception, during which on 19 April Almaty police did not permit the Semireche Cossacks to enter the main church of the city, Holy Ascension cathedral church, for the celebration of Easter liturgy. At the same time, along with the Cossacks, who were dressed in traditional Cossack uniform but not carrying any weapons, members of their families who were dressed like all the rest of the believers coming to church also were not admitted.
Representatives of law enforcement agencies cited several orders by the head of the administration of Almaty, Viktor Khrapunov. But the Cossacks were not told directly that the reason for the detention was their military uniforms.
"Because we have been regenerated on the principles of Orthodoxy," the assistant to the ataman of the Union of Semireche Cossacks, Vladimir Shikhotov, told reporters, "and this is the greatest Orthodox holy day, we cannot come not wearing festive clothing, our Cossack clothing."
The head of the department for relations with public organizations of the chief administration of internal affairs of Almaty, Lt. Col. Alikhan Bektasov, made a curious declaration placing the blame for the great uproar: "The question of whom to admit to the church and whom not to permit was not decided by the government head but by the bishop; church hierarchs decided it."
In the lieutenant colonels version, the archbishop of Alma-Ata and Semipalatinsk, Alexis, who was conducting the Easter liturgy in Ascension cathedral, supposedly appealed himself to the Semireche Cossacks not to come to church in military uniforms. Alikhan Bektasov called the appearance of Cossacks in military uniform a provocation against the Orthodox church.
However literally the next day the incident between the Cossacks and the law enforcement agencies took a completely unexpected turn. Archbishop Alexis completely refuted Bektasovs declaration: "It was complete news to me that the police did not admit people into the entries because they were dressed in Cossack clothing. I did not give any such orders. . . ."
The master categorically denied Lt. Col. Bektasovs version that the Cossacks, in putting on their traditional uniforms, were somehow going against Orthodoxy or were provoking the leadership of the church to forbid their attending churches; Cossack clothing has no significance for the Lord, the archbishop thinks.
The situation is also curious because this was the first time that Archbishop Alexis, in the seven years of his serving in his current post in Almaty, openly raised his voice against local authorities. Ordinarily the local diocese has silently distanced itself from the activities of the Cossacks and in November 1994 it even condemned their statement in defense of their rights. Obviously there is some basis for the point of view that Bektasov quite reasonably counted on the silence of Archbishop Alexis as a way of deflecting criticism from the administrative head of Almaty, Viktor Khrapunov.
But the head of the Orthodox church of Kazakhstan did not remain silent, which has amazed many here, and he gave new premises for accusations against such a despicable and scandalous figure as Lt. Col. Bektasov, who for several years has been courting Cossack opposition by regularly provoking Cossacks and forcing a conflict between them and the diocese.
True, it still remains unclear whose orders the officers of law enforcement were fulfilling when they trailed the Cossacks and prevented their entering the church. (tr. by PDS)
Calls for "Eastern Slavs" to Unite
RFE/RLMay 25th, 1998
Speaking at a conference entitled "The Slav World: Unity and Variety" in Yaroslavl on 23 May, Lukashenka called for the consolidation of "Eastern Slavs" and warned against Western attempts "to impair the creation of any civilized association" on former USSR territory. He said the Russia-Belarus union is "not a closed society but the core of a multi-faceted and equal unity of Slavs and other peoples." Belarus has now taken on the role of a "unifier of Slavic territories," he commented.
Belarus-Russia Union Obstructing "Globalization"?
RFE/RLMay 25th, 1998
Belarusian Foreign Minister Ivan Antanovich, addressing the Russian Academy of Social Sciences in Minsk on 25 May, said that the Belarus-Russia union has become "a major barrier on the road of world globalization," ITAR-TASS and Belapan reported. "Supranational corporations have practically dominated the entire world, but today nobody calls this process imperialism, it is called globalization," he commented. The Belarus-Russia union, he continued, has revived the "more than 1,000-year tradition of making a great state." Antanovich added that it is possible to introduce joint systems of control within the union, primarily in the financial, power engineering, transport, communications, and defense sectors. With regard to the unions future, Antanovich commented that he personally would like to see a "Slavic Orthodox state."
"Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" reported on 27 May that Minsk will this week implement its ruling that all agencies involved in the distribution of humanitarian aid in Belarus and sending Belarusian children abroad for medical treatment must apply for a license to the Presidential Administration Department for Humanitarian Aid. That department will issue five-year licenses and is also authorized to revoke those permits. "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" suggests the government made the ruling to remove "competitors" from what it may consider lucrative activities and to distribute aid only to those individuals "favored by the authorities." JM
More than 65 religions in Ukraine
SLAVIANSK, UKRAINE, 22 April (Radiotserkov).
The committee on religious affairs of Ukraine published statistical data according to which at present more than 20,000 religious organizations are operating in the country, belonging to 65 confessions and denominations. Around 50 percent of all religious societies of Ukraine are Orthodox. Numerically, the next group after the Orthodox is the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church, which number more than 3,000 societies.
Third and fourth place, numerically and in terms of influence on the population of Ukraine, are occupied by the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (around 2,000 organizations) and the Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith, to which more than 1,000 Christian congregations belong. Besides this, the committee of religious affairs noted that in the past year the number of "Full Gospel" charismatic churches has grown, as well as of the students of religious educational institutions belonging to these churches. According to statistical data, the rate of growth of their congregations is greatest for the charismatic churches among all religious organizations of Ukraine.
ID numbers decried
Kiev (AP, 28/5/98)
The Ukranian branch of the Russian Orthodox Church denounced a new system of national identifications numbers as"the mark of the Antichrist."
The new system similar to Social Security numbers in the United States was introduced last fall but has come into wider use in recent weeks, especially in official transactions.
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine appealed to the president, the government and parliament Tuesday to change the system.
The Bibles Book of Revelations cites 666 as the number of the Antichrist. Some Christians interpret that to mean that the "mark of the beast" could be any identifying number required to transact business in the modern world.
by Svenlana Stepanenko
KIEV, 27 February. At the beginning of February several members of a sect of satanists were arrested in Kiev. Offices of the Podol department of police caught the satanists in one of the unfinished blocks of the Pavlov psychiatric hospital on Lysa hill while there were performing cultic rituals. Among the eleven arrested, six were minors. Although in commemoration of their "holiday" the satanists had killed several dogs, the police agencies had to release them because of insufficient evidence of criminal activity. According to information from law enforcement agencies, there now are approximately ten such sects, comprising around 300 members, active in the Ukrainian capital.
An ongoing a dispute about properties between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is a major factor in continued tension between the Pope and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and this situation must be solved before the two will meet. There is also some sort of a division between the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
(Combined news clips, January 16th, 1998:)
Talks between Russian Orthodox and Catholic Church officials ended with no major agreements or breakthroughs Jan. 15. The two sides met to patch up differences over the status of Catholic churches in the Ukraine, among other issues, and to schedule a meeting between Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Alexy. The heads of the two church bodies have not met since 1054 when the Christian church split into Orthodox and Catholic camps.
...The historic meeting cant take place until a difficult situation in Ukraine is resolved, Russian Orthodox Church sources said. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, formed in 1596 and loyal to the Vatican, was banned by Josef Stalin in 1946. The church re-formed in the 1980s and began seizing church property from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Orthodox leaders contend that the Ukrainian church obtained the property illegally.
...A meeting between the Pope and Patriarch may not be too far off, according to the Interfax news agency. Vatican officials say they are pleased with the progress already made, which includes a joint church commission to study the Ukraine problem. John Paul II has expressed a desire to preach a message of Christian unity in Russia but cannot do so unless he receives permission from the Russian Orthodox Church.
Metropolitan refuses to pray with Ukrainian Orthodox
KIEV, 12 May. The primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox church, Metropolitan Vladimir, refused to participate in a supplication service marking the opening of the work of the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine along with the "head" of the schismatic groups, Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarch and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. The supplication service was scheduled for 11 May in the cathedral of Holy Wisdom in Kiev. As a result, the "ecumenical" service did not occur at all. (tr. by PDS)
(RFE/RL, March 13th, 1998)
Upper House Ratifies Human Rights Convention
The Federation Council on 13 March voted 105 to zero to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights, Reuters reported. The upper house held no debate before approving the document, which is supported by Yeltsin. After the president signs the convention, Russian citizens will be allowed to seek redress at the European Court in Strasbourg if they believe their rights have been violated.
Activists Unimpressed By Draft Program on Human Rights
Members of the human rights chamber of the president's Political Consultative Council have sharply criticized a draft program for protecting human rights in Russia from 1998-2002, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported. During a 12 March meeting, veteran activists including Valerii Borshchev, who is also a State Duma deputy from Yabloko, said the program was drafted without consulting the human rights community. Lidiya Grafova said discussing the program was a "waste of time." In interviews with RFE/RL, Grafova and other members of the chamber expressed pessimism about current trends in Russia. Viktor Cherepkov, who is also mayor of Vladivostok, argued that it is "impossible" to use the court system to defend human rights. Valerii Abramkin argued that torture is such a widespread problem in law-enforcement agencies that the police pose a greater threat to the population than do criminals. LB
MINISTRY OF JUSTICE OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
Concerning practical questions on implementation of the federal law
On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations
For use in the practical implementation of the federal law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" we send:
--a commentary on the law prepared by the deputy president of the commission on question of religious associations of the government of the Russian federation A.E. Sebentsov; [Russian text of this commentary is available at Pravoslavie v Rossii. See also "The law is about freedom for all."]
--methodological recommendations for execution by agencies of justice of the oversight functions with regard to religious organizations prepared by the department on affairs of public and religious associations;
--methodological recommendations for the application by agencies of justice of several provisions of the federal law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations," prepared by the department on affairs of public and religious associations on the basis of questions submitted by agencies of justice.
--rules for review of applications for state registration of religious organizations with agencies of justice, have been worked out and will be sent after their state registration. Normative legal acts of the government of the Russian federation (on procedures for registration of representations of foreign religious organizations and on the conduct of state religious academic expert analysis) will be officially published after their adoption.
At the same time we remind you of the necessity of submission to the department on affairs of public and religious associations of information about state registration of religious organizations in 1997 in accordance with the previous sent form by 20 January 1998.
First deputy minister P. Krasheninikov
24 December 1997
Roman Lunkin, Keston News Service
Mar. 10, 1998
Russian human-rights activists have criticised their government's new regulations on the registration of foreign religious organizations as 'discriminatory'. The new regulations, which interpret Article 13 of the controversial law on church-state relations enacted in September, were published in the Moscow newspaper 'Rossiiskaya gazeta' on 12 February and have been translated into English by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service of the U.S. government. (Contrary to some reports, as of the first week of March these regulations interpreting Article 13 are the only regulations related to the new law which have been officially approved and published. As of 6 March, regulations interpreting the law's other 26 articles were still in draft form.)
The final version of these 'Regulations on the procedure for the registration, opening and closing in the Russian Federation of representative bodies of foreign religious organizations' ('Polozhenie o poryadke registratsii, otkrytiya i zakrytiya v Rossisikoi Federatsii predstavitelstv innostranykh religioznykh organizatsii') is essentially the same as the draft version which has already been circulated informally. (See Keston News Service, 'Draft Regulations Fail To Soften New Religion Law', 19 January 1998.)
VALERI BORSHCHOV, the Russian parliament's leading defender of religious freedom, told Keston that the final regulations discriminate against foreigners. He noted that the new regulations are more restrictive than the text of the law itself, which includes only a prohibition on liturgical and other religious activities by representative bodies of foreign religious organisations. The regulations go beyond that prohibition to deprive foreign religious bodies of the status of legal personalities, with all the consequences following from this, even though registration in and of itself should normally presuppose such status, he said.
In addition, said Borshchov, the regulations require re- registration of representative bodies of foreign religious organisations once every three years, which in effect means that for each re-registration a representative body will be required to prove its right to exist. In Borshchov's opinion, a measure which was at first 'extraordinary' will now become 'routine'.
By a decree ('postanovleniye') of the government signed by PRIME MINISTER CHERNOMYRDIN on 2 February and published together with the 'polozheniye', foreign religious organisations with representative bodies in Russia are required within six months to apply to the appropriate organ of justice for registration.
Protestant activist PYOTR ABRASHKIN, head of the all-Russian Council of Christian Organisations, told Keston that the six- month period is completely unrealistic. Most organisations which will be classified as representative bodies of foreign religious organisations will be unable to complete the process on time and will thus be forbidden, he said. Agreeing with Borshchov, he said that the very principle of periodic re- registration for religious bodies is discriminatory because the laws of Russia do not recognise any such principle for non- religious organisations: the latter are required to register only once. The new regulations state that provincial or national executive-branch officials may terminate the activities of a representative body of a foreign religious organisation on their own authority if they unilaterally decide that it has broken the law. They would not need to seek a court order.
(Associated Press, The Moscow Times, May 19th 1998.)
SALT LAKE CITY Russias Justice Ministry has granted official recognition to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and several other denominations, lessening fears that foreign-based faiths would be expelled, the Mormon Church has announced.
Signed Thursday [May 14th 1998] in Moscow and anounced Friday, the certificate of registration allows the Mormon church to continue its humanitarian and missionary efforts and to provide meeting places for its roughly 8,500 members in Russia.
"This will come as an immense relief for our members as well as the missionaries and the parents of missionaries," said Jeffrey Holland, a member of the faiths Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which oversees Mormon operations in the former Soviet Union.
Not that the church ever stopped its longtime work in Russia, where it supports seven missions and sends more than 700 missionaries door-to-door seeking converts. Holland said the church has had a presesnce in Russia for the past 50 years, although only insignificant numbers during the 1990s.
by Dmitry Suslov, Radiotserkov, 2 April 1998
KAZAN, 1 April. All Russian Pentecostals have great joy. On 30 March 1998 the new Russian United Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) underwent state reregistration in accordance with the rules established by the new law on freedom of conscience. (tr. by PDS)
by Liliia Solomonova, Alexis Markevich, Radiotserkov
MOSCOW, 2 May. Our reporter has learned from the attorney for the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Russia, Boris Tanasov, that on 22 April the union underwent official reregistration in the Ministry of Justice. The new charter, adopted recently by the congress of EKhB of Russia, was registered. Such reregistration became necessary as a result of the adopted of the new law on freedom of conscience. At the present time regional EKhB centers are preparing for reregistration. Following them, local churches also will be reregistered. (tr. by PDS)
by Lilia Solomonova, Radiotserkov
MOSCOW, 8 April. The directorate of justice of the Administration of Moscow region refused registration to the congregation of the Christian Presbyterian church Zion in the city of Reutovo, Moscow region. "In accordance with article 11, part 5 of the law 'On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Association,'" the letter from the chief of the directorate of justice of the Administration of Moscow region, Yu. Vlasov, said in responst the the application from the congregation's pastor N. Slivki, "registation requires the presentation of a document certifying the existence of the religious group on the given territory for at least fifteen years, which is provided by an agence of the local administration. Because of the absence of such a document, the directorate of justice has decided to leave the application without review." (tr. by PDS)
NOTHING HAS CHANGED
Nezavisimaia gazeta--religiia, 15 April 1998
New rules for registration forbid violations of law
Almost a half year from the day the federal law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" took effect, the agencies of justice, citing the absence of rules for registration, has not reviewed the applications for registration and reregistration of religious organizations. Representatives of the administration of the presidency of Russia and the government of the Russian federation frequently, though for some reason most often abroad, have declared that the rules for registration and other substatutory acts whose adoption were provided by the current federal law should provide clarifications for all the contradictory provisions of the new law and, in the end, there will be no violations of the rights of religious organizations.
So finally on 16 February 1998, rules for the review of applications for state registration of religious organizations with agencies of justice of the Russian federation were approved by edict of the Ministry of Justice of RF and were registered on 5 March 1998. (English text of the rules)
Vladimir Vasilevich Riakkhovsky, president of the Christian Legal Center, were the hopes of religious organizations, who had come under the operation of the unconstitutional provisions of point 3, article 27 of the new law, that with the adoption of the rules on registration their problems would be resolved satisfied?
Of course not. How could any rules in general resolve the contradicitons in the federal law? No. According to point 1, article 11 of the federal law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations," the state registration of religious organizations is conducted by the federal agency of justice and agencies of justice of the component elements of the Russian federation according to a procedure established in accordance with civil legislation and the current federal law. In accordance with point 1, article 51 of the civil code of RF a legal entity is liable to state registration by the procedure established by the law on registration of legal entities. Inasmuch as the law on registration of legal entities, including religious organizations, has not yet been adopted, then the only legislative standards that regulate the procedure of registration of religious organizations must be considered to be the general provisions on legal entities of the civil code and corresponding articles of the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations." The rules regarding the review of applications for state registration of religious organizations within the agencies of justice of the Russian federation are simply the administrative regulatory act of the Ministry of Justice, which does not define a procedure for registering religious organizations but only a precedure for reviewing applications for registration, the procedure of submission of documents, requirements of their form, procedure for transmittal of documents, adoption of decision regarding them, and so on. Moreover, these rules, as regulatory and substatutory acts, not only should not, but may not, interpret federal law. The right of official interpretation of a law belongs exclusively to the legislators themselves. The Ministry of Justice of RF is not such a body.
Thus it would of course be mistaken to say that the adoption of rules for the review of applications could clarify the situation on the implementation of the provisions of point 3, article 27, of the federal law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations," dealing with religious organizations that do not have a "document" confirming their activity on the respective territory for at least fifteen years. Only the constitutional court of RF can deal with the issue of the constitutionality of point 3, article 27 of the law. These provisions of the law already have been applied by agencies of the procuracy in regard to several religious organizations in specific instances and thus in the near future an appeal will be presented to the constitutional court of RF over the violation of the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens by point 3, article 27 of the law.
Nevertheless , those who developed the rules for review of applications deserve their due. Being bound by the text of the overtly discriminatory point 3 of article 27 of the law, they nevertheless made the attempt to remove its contradiction with articles 9 and 13. Thus, in accordance with point 3 of the rules, religious organizations that do not have the document regarding fifteen years of activity, but which are members of a centralized religious organization, are not required to undergo annual reregistration. Unfortunately, those who worked out the rules were not able to go any further; that would become interpretation of the law. Although by logical extension it would seem that religious organizations that are members of a centralized organization suffer no restrictions of their rights, regardless of the length of their activity.
I think that it would be worthwhile to determine in the rules for review of applications the procedure for informing agencies of local administration regarding the establishment and commendement of the activity of a religious group as well as the procedure for a religious association's receiving appropriate confirmation. These questions, although not directly connected with the procedure for review of applications for registration by agencies of justice, nevertheless have direct pertinence to this procedure.
Failure to regulate these matters at the federal level has already led to arbitrary interpretation by agencies of local administration of the provision of point 2, article 7 of the law. Thus, the administration of Vladivostok required all religious groups operating on the territory of Vladivostok and not registered with the department of justice of the Primore territory to submit a written notice to the mayor regarding their activity with the addition of a list of all members of the group, the leadership staff, and indication of the place and time of its meetings. The admininstration of Ekaterinburg also is adopting rules for giving notice of the beginning of the activity of religious groups.
In accordance with this regulatory act, notification about the commencement of the activity of a religious group is in no way different from state registration of a religious organization; it is necessary to present a list of ten participants of the group and the bylaws of its activity with an indication of the structure of the group and the form of its activity, information about the fundamentals of its doctrine, the conclusions of the expert panel of the administration of Ekaterinburg, certification of the religious character of the activity of the group, and, strangely, a document confirming its legal address. In the course of three months the administration will review such "notification" and render its decision.
And these are only the first fruits of the legislative actions of local administrations. Tomorrow the administrations of villages and towns will begin to adopt their rules. Perhaps it is still not too late to regulate this matter that directly affects the rights and freedoms of citizens at the federal level. In my view the rules on review of applications arbitrarily include a list of the information that is contained in the consolidated state register (appendix 3). It is not clear why religious organizations, distinct from all other legal entities, now have a one month period to inform the registering agency about changes in their leadership? Where does such "special attention" on the part of the state to religious associations "that are separated from it" come from? (tr. by PDS)
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE ASKS CLERGY TO BECOME INFORMERS
by Aleksei Markevich, Lilia Solomonova, Radiotserkov (Moscow)
The Obninsk EKhB church received a warning from the district administration of justice, according to the miniter of this congregation, Igor Filatov, in a communication to a Radiotserkov reporter. The warning contains the strict requirement of annual reporting of all sorts of information about the church, including "Family name, given name, patronymic, and information certifying the permanent and legal residence on the territory of RF of the leader and members of the organization." The warning includes citations to the laws on freedom of conscience and noncommercial organizations which are by no means clear. It seems that stern warnings have been received also by other EKhB churches in central Russia. It is evident that the leaders of the churches are being insistently urged to inform on members of their chruches and to report how many of them are residing "on a legal basis." (tr. by PDS)
[The following document, in typescript, was sent by FAX to Russian Religion News on 20 February]
THE POLICE HAVE INTERPRETED AND ENFORCED THE LAW ON FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE
In the city of Narofominsk a small group of believing Christians of Evangelical Faith (1) has formed. The majority of them are retired and they invited to their home a young minister from Balabanovo, Sergei Adamovich Drozdov (2). Liudmila Ivanovna Zaitsev, who is retired, summoned all of them to her apartment.
The new law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations", adopted in September 1997, provided for such a situation in chapter !!, article 7, under the heading "Religious group." The first point states: "A religious group in the present federal law is defined as a voluntary association of citizens, formed for the purposes of corporate confession and dissemination of faith, functioning without state registration and acquiring the legal capacity of juridical person . The premises and property necessary for the activity of a religious group are acquired for the group's use by its participants."
In the evening of 13 February, in Liudmila Ivanovna's apartment, during the evening worship meeting, a bell rang and a district policeman walked in. Having learned from the hostess that a religious group had assembled in her home, or more accurately a church of which she was a member, he demanded of Sergei Adamovich Drozdov his passport, in accordance with the passport system. Since at the present time he did not have his passport on him, he did not produce it (all he had was his wife's identification as a mother of multiple children). Having learned that he did not live in Narofominsk (Moskow region) but in Balabanovo (Kaluga region at the border with Moscow, thirty minutes away), the policeman demanded that he and the hostess go to the police station.
Thus the worship service was interrupted by a crude act of disrespect for the religious feelings of the assembled beleivers by a representative of the law enforcement agencies and all believers were extremely upset.
At the police station, after interrogating both, the mistress of the apartment was permitted to go home and the presbyter was told to report to the chief of police the next morning with his passport. Sergei Adamovich, who suspected nothing, arrived at Narofominsk from Balabanovo at the appointed time, intending to go from there to work.
The chief of police conducted an interrogation which was both insulting and humiliating. Knowing quite well that sitting in front of him was no criminal who had been arrested for committing a crime, but a minister of the church of Christians of Evangelical Faith, the police chief did not restrain himself from using the threat of an eight-day sentence and requiring Sergei to sign a promise not to appear in Narofominsk during the evening hours for whatever reason. The deputy chief, a major, behaved differently, in a proper and respectful manner.
Finally the police chief ordered to take him to the police department, where a lieutenant collected his documents and on the basis of accompanying documents put him into a cell with fifteen men. Sergei read on this slip of paper given him what he was accused of: "Refused to produce documents upon demand of a police officer; behaved defiantly and indecently; insulted a police officer." Sergei objected that this was not true, but he got no results. Then he asked to tell his wife that he had been arrested, since she would have to stay with the children. But no one complied with this.
He was received in the cell cordially when the men found out about his "crime." All the prisoners sympathized with him, but they noted that he had signed his papers, which they asked to see. Apparently they were talking out of their own bitter experience.
On Monday, after two days had passed, Sergei was removed from the cell and again taken to the chief. This time they brought him into a larger office where behind the table sat a man in civilian clothing and the earlier chief sat to the side. The new chief did not introduce himself but conducted an interrogation in a very crude manner. First he asked Sergei whether he was a believer. Having received an affirmative answer he asked whether he would continue to believe. Then he threatened that if Sergei did not get out of Narofominsk, then he would force him to worship at the Orthodox church or he would do something that Sergei would not like. Several times he asked Sergei sternly whether he would appear here again. If he were to show up in the city, even if it were not for a service in the evening, then he would be detained for a fifteen-day period, followed by another fifteen. Surveillance would be posted at the apartment and no one would have the right to assemble there without registration.
In the end Sergei Adamovich was fined twenty rubles and charged about forty for his food. His wife was waiting for him at the police station door along with the bishop of the district church.
Immediately after his release several religious organizations (Christian Missionary Center of Kaluga region, the Gideons of Kaluga region, and the Association of Christian Missions of Moscow), who are most concerned about the fate of freedom of conscience in Russia, held a conference at which Sergei Adamovich was asked to tell about what happened.
All present, recognizing their responsibility for the fate of freedom of conscience, which is dear to all, decided not to leave this incident without an appropriate response but to spread publicity about these first step of a new legal order. Does this incident reflect the new legislation in operation or is it simply the arbitrariness of local authorities? Who can answer this question? The court, or time?
[the document was signed on 17 February 1998 by I.P. Fedotov, bishop of the regional church of Christians of Evangelical Faith of Russia; A.I. Kalugin, district bishop; V.I. Chernousov, president of the Christian Missionary Center; V.G. Murashkin, Acting President of the Association of Christian Missions]
Notes appended to original:
1. The Association of Churches of Christians of Evangelical Faith (KhVE) of Russia traces its foundation to 1920, to the Odessa (1922), All-Ukrainian (1923) and later All-Russian (1927) Union of KhVE churches, which in 1927 comprised more than 40,000 members. At the present he is represented by more than 40 religious missions and centers throughout Russia, united in the Association of Christian Missions located in Moscow.
2. Sergei Adamovich Drozdov, born 1970, is married, father of four children, employed as a piano tuner in the Second Music School of Obninsk. He is an ordained presbyter in the United Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith. His ministry for God is conducted without compensation in his free time. (tr. by PDS)
by Yury Kolesnikov, Radiotserkov
NOVOSIBIRSK, 4 May. According to reports from Novokuznetsk, the Evangelical Christians-Baptists churches have been deprived of the right to continue their work among prisoners in the corrective labor colony, no. 16/12, of the administration of internal affairs. Director of the colony, Lt. Korolev, in a private conversation with Alexis Kriukov, the local minister, stated that "an order has been received to admit into the territory for services among prisoners only representatives of the Russian Orthodox church." Asked about what will become of the prayer building that was built here at the expense of the Baptists five years ago, Lt. Korolev advised transferring it to the RPTs parish. Unfortunately, the Radiotserkov reporter still has been unable to make contact with the administration of the colony in order to clarify whether the order came "from above" or the initiative for the "eviction" of Baptists from the territory belongs to the local leadership. (tr. by PDS)
by Yuri Kolesnikov, Radiotserkov
NOVOSIBIRSK. 11 March. The director of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in the settlement of Tuim (Khakassiia), Fr Pavel Zaiakin, reported that today at 9:00 a.m. the procurator's office conducted a verification of registration documents of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in the premises of the Tuim Lutheran church. The verification was conducted by the assistant procurator of the district, Olga Mikhailovna Kvasova. To the mission director's question about what was the basis for the verification and what authorization she had, Mrs. Kvasova declared that "the procuracy may verify any organization and require any documents for the verification for purposes of assuring legality, without any sanctions."
Fr Pavel told the Radiotserkov reporter by phone that he could not find such a broad authorization in the text of the law on the procuracy other than the vague indication that "the procuracy carries out oversight of the legality of any organizations and administrations." Nevertheless, as the basis for the verification of the activity of the Lutheran mission Mrs. Kvasova offered a circular of the procuracy of the republic of Khakassiia.
This document, according to Far Pavel, says that on Khakassiian territory several religious associations "have directly violated the law on freedom of religious profession." Cited as an example are the activities conducted by the "Proslavlenie" church involving foreigners as well as activity of the church among prisoners. As regards ELM, the procurator of Shirin district, in which the settlement is located, is mandated to conduct verification, whether ELM can confirm its fifteen-year term of existence, whether it attracts minors into its activity, etc.
Thus it is quite clear that having lost two rounds [see "Lutheran mission prospering"] for the closure of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in arbitration courts, the procurator of the republic has again entered the ring in hopes of delivering a knock-out punch against ELM below the belt. Contemporary jargon gives another way of defining such activites. Fr Pavel said: "Judging from this letter, it seems to me that a 'raid' on protestant organizations has been prepared." (tr by PDS)
by Yuri Kolsenikov, Radiotserkov
NOVOSIBIRSK, 27 March. In his letter to the head of the mission, junior counselor of justice R.E. Chugunekov charged that the showing of Christian films, educating children in the basics of the faith, and contacts with foreign citizens is illegal activity, on the basis that such activity is a violation of the "Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" in the case of organizations that do not have a certificate showing their registration for more than fifteen years within the region.
The director of the west Siberian Christian Mission in Novosibirsk, Fr Vsevolod Lytkin, also received from the Shirin procurator an official notice requiring amendment of the charter of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission in Khakasiia which was extremely amazing. As Fr Vsevolod told the Radiotserkov reporter, actually several years ago Pavel Zaiakin was sent to this district of the republic of Khakasiia as a missionary from the west Siberian Christian mission. However, from the time of the registration of ELM, it was a legally independent organization. From the point of view of the director of the west Siberian mission, the procurator's demand for immediate cessation of the activity of ELM as illegal, is itself illegal, since the mission conducts this activity in accordance with its charter, and the law defers the reregistration of that charter for at least a year and a half. At the present, said Fr Vsevolod, work is going on to change the charter, and Mr. Chugunekov was informed of this.
Vsevolod Lytkin evaluates the present situation for ELM in Khakasiia as "strange." "I do not understand what these people need," he said, referring to the Shirin procurator. "This letter is quite strange, completely absurd, and obviously is simply a manifestation of the activity of the district procurator." (tr. by PDS)
by Lawrence A. Uzzell, Keston News Service
Apr 2, 1998
Authorities in the republic of Khakassia are continuing their attempts to close the Lutheran congregation in Tuim despite two successive court rulings in the parish's favour. This month the mission's pastor PAVEL ZAYAKIN received two warning letters - one from the local procuracy for the Shira district and another from the republican procuracy in Khakassia's capital Abakan.
The letter from Abakan, dated 23 March, announced the republican procuracy's intent to seek a ruling from an appeals court on its so far unsuccessful lawsuit to have the parish's 1996 registration declared invalid. If the republican authorities should win this case, the precedent would give them and officials in other Russian provinces a new weapon against religious minorities: the power to send officers of the security agencies into the homes of believers to intimidate them into renouncing their signatures as 'founders' of local congregations. (See Keston News Service, 13 March 1998.)
The local procuracy's letter, dated 12 March, pursued a different line of attack. The local authorities accused the Lutheran mission of breaking the new 1997 law on religion by inviting children to its activities and by distributing religious literature in hospitals. They also wrote that several provisions of the parish's charter, such as its section on international contacts, contradict the new law and must be repealed.
In a reply to the 12 March letter, pastor Zayakin called his parish the legal successor to Lutheran congregations that existed in the Shira district as long ago as 1941. According to interpretations of the new law often heard from Russian government spokesmen in their conversations with western diplomats and journalists - but not codified in the formal, official regulations issued earlier this month - the two-year-old mission should therefore be deemed to have met the controversial '15-year rule'.
BARNAUL, 28 APRIL. The "New Life" church of Christians of Evangelical Faith in Barnaul was expelled from a rented movie theatre. The pertinent order arrived from the city department of culture. According to Stanislav Savchuk, bishop of the churches of Christians of Evangelical Faith for the West Siberian region, officials based their decisions on the claim that the believers' meetings interfered with the work of discussion groups. However, those groups usually meet in classrooms and not in the auditorium. Thus the real causes for this step by the city authorities remain a matter of speculation.
We add that the expulsion was not only an extremely unexpected surprise for the church but also it created a substantial loss. The point is that by agreement with the director of the theatre the parishioners had made capital repairs on the building at their own expense, which amounted to about 50 million old rubles. In return they got the right to rent for five years. But it turned out that the believers have been left without their premises and without their money. True, the director promised to return it, but when will a poor institution of culture get such a sum?
After the sad experience Stanislav Savchuk tried to meet with someone of the leadership of Barnaul, with the mayor or his assistant on relations with religious organizations. An appointment was made but then it was unexpectedly cancelled on the basis that they were tied up. Thus Stanislav Savchuk was able only to assemble all ministers of the city churches of various confessions for united fellowship and prayer. Many brothers at this meeting agreed that the main problem which is bothering them at present is the restrictions on churches from the side of the authorities. True, by contrast with recent experience these now seem mild. In conclusion the brothers prayed, inter alia, for unity and that the churches of various confessions would not condemn but support and bless one another.
It remains to say that the New Life church has reached an agreement with another theatre for rent of the auditorium. We shall follow the development of these events and we recall that a similar story recently unfolded in Novokuznetsk, where the church of Christians of Evangelical Faith also experienced a sudden eviction from a movie theatre. (Vadim Akentiev, Kemerovo)
by Vadim Akentiev, Radiotserkov
BARNAUL, 6 May. The New Life church of Christians of Evangelical Faith in Barnaul has suddenly become a "bum," as they call people without a definite place of residence. The church has been subjected to eviction from the rented movie theatre Chaika by order of the city department of culture. The parishioners had to surrender the auditorium, office, and room for prayer very quickly, according the Pastor Andrei Saveliev, because the director of Chaika had to shorten the deadline for eviction from two months to four days, under threat of dismissal.
Although finding a new place in such a short time is very difficult, the parishioners until recently had hoped that they would be taken in by the House of Culture of the auto factory, which they had occupied last year. However, despite the readiness of the director of the House of Culture to renew the cooperation, he had to refuse the church. Andrei Saveliev said that the administration of the factory decided this because the mayor's office recommended that they not permit "New Life" in the door. One other possibility remains; the director of still another movie theater offered herself to let the church locate in her place. But this hope also quickly evaporated; the same mayor's office intervened. In sum, next Sunday 300 parishioners of New Life church will hold services under the open sky. Andrei Saveliev tried to meet with the administrator of the same department of culture, but the latter refused to meet. He wasn't able to meet with the directors of the department on relations with religious organizations of the administration of Altai territory. The authorities have been silent in response to letters from the parishioners requesting that the situation be investigated.
The official reason for the eviction of the congregation is known: the Chaika theatre is being converted to a youth recreational center. Incidentally, the pastor of the now homeless church does not oppose this. "Interest group work, choreography, and the like, are all healthy," he said. "Moreover, the theatre is in an area where the situation for children's recreation is complex. But some kind of compromise could be found. . . ." Obviously, not only could it be, but it must be! Especially since the decision to make a youth center in Chaika occurred to the bureaucrats only after the church had recovered this theatre from ruins. It had not been used for three years and was in decrepit conditions and the auditorium was partially destroyed. By agreement with the director of the movie house the parishioners at their own expense made capital repairs to the building, spending on this more than 40 million old rubles. In exchange they got the right to five years rental. But in exchange the church was, as they say, cast to the winds.
It remains to add that this year the church mearks its seventh year. Among its parishioners are people for many different ages and social classes. Physicians and teachers, heroes of socialist labor and former drug addicts. By the way, the church conducts substantial work with the last group. Or it did? For now New Life is a big question mark. (tr. by PDS)
Roman Lunkin, Keston News Service
Mar. 10, 1998
A Pentecostal congregation has been expelled from the schoolroom which it had been renting for evening and Sunday worship services in Izmailovsky, just south of Moscow. Since November the 'Zion' congregation headed by pastor IGOR TSYPAK has been meeting in its members' private flats.
GENNADI PERENSKY, director of the Izmailovsky high school, told Keston News Service that in mid-October he received a telephone call from GALINA MOROZOVA, superintendent of schools for the Lenin district of the Moscow oblast, demanding that he expel Pastor Tsypak's congregation. He reluctantly obeyed, giving the Pentecostals only two weeks' notice. On 1 November the congregation left the school.
Pastor Tsypak told Keston that the local officials in Izmailovsky had previously had good relations with the Pentecostals. But he said that as soon as Russia's new law on religion took effect in October 1997, the pro-Communist authorities in the city of Vidnoye, the Lenin district's administrative centre, used it to put pressure on the school. He c
(2) Moscow, 29 April. On 28 April the pastor of the "Source of Life" Christian Center congregation in Moscow was denied use of premises based on the claim that they pray in various tongues and the services are unlike the services of the Russian Orthodox church. This was explained to the pastor by the director of the Molodezhny movie theatre, specifying that he had been phoned by the new prefect of the region, who had visited the movie theatres and demanded the cancellation of the lease for the premises which the church had contracted for their meeting. He claimed that there were complaints from residents of the region who did not like the services of the Pentecostal church. "We are not frustrated by this," Pastor Laine Arens told the Radiotserkov reported in an interview; "we trust the Lord and believe that he has a better alternative for us." (Liliia Solomonova, Moscow)
(3) Venev, Tula Region, 23 April (Radiotserkov). The administration of the Venev district has issued an order forbidding the use of buildings and premises that are governmental property for religious services. This prohibition pertains to all religious confessions, but its initial applications have affected two local congregations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists and Seventh-day Adventists. Until recently their services have been conducted in the premises of the city movie theatre.
Such stern measures are justified by the local authorities on the basis of the provisions of the new federal law on freedom of conscience. For example, the commissioner for religious questions of the administration of Tula region, Igor Shelopaev, was irritated by the fact that in the past few years "protestants have turned educational and instructional institutions into religious center." However it is more likely that the cause arises from the fact that local budgets do not get a kopek from the rent of premises inasmuch as all agreements are oral, that is, semilegal. (Dmitry Suslov, Kazan). (tr. by PDS)
by Vadim Akentiev, Radiotsekov, Kemerovo
NOVOKUZNETSK, 7 May. Last Sunday the church of Christians of Evangelical Faith "On the Rock" in Novokuznetsk was forced to hold services outside. The director of the movie theatre cancelled its lease on the basis of an oral directive from the head of the city, Sergei Martin. The latter, besides, somewhat earlier had refused to permit this church to build its own building. According to Pastor Ilia Bantseev, the mayor is persuaded that only the Orthodox church has the right to build in his town, and although he does not oppose the meetings of the Pentecostals, they will not get a parcel of land. The convictions of Sergei Martin caused the church to lose 50 million old rubles that had been spent on preparation of the planning documents. We recall that permission for this preparation had been signed by Sergei Martin three years ago, when he still was acting mayor.
The misfortunes for the "On the Rock" KhVE church, it seems, have just begun inasmuch as its recent services outside may be considered to be administrative violations of law. Although the pastor a month ago submitted an application for conducting such an event, when the threat of eviction was raised, he never got permission from the district authorities. Despite this, the street meeting apparently got heavenly sanction since for the whole two hours two police cars were parked alongside the parishioners but the Sunday meeting come off peacefully. Besides, the Saturday snow and rain were followed the next day by clear, warm weather. And the location had been selected propitiously--the central alley of the district, where usually there are many people strolling. As always, a musical group sang and loudspeakers carried Christian hymns to the distant yards. True, the pastor at the beginning of his sermon had to explain to interested passersby and to those people who were watching from the windows of their homes that the parishioners had assembled here not by their own choice. Overall the commander of the police division was solicitous and did not begin to break up the unsanctioned event, but simply maintained order. Now the members of the church intend to hold such services regularly and they are prepared for the authorities to be quite displeased.
The State Duma has reacted to the events in Novokuznetsk. Valery Borshchev, deputy of the president of the duma committee on affairs of public associations and religious organizations, who also is the president of the chamber on human rights and president of the political consultative council of the presidency of RF, sent a letter to the governor of Kemerovo region, Aman Tuleev. In it Valery Borshchev asks that the Novokuznetsk "On the Rock" KhVE church be granted a parcel for construction. Aman Tuleev commissioned his deputy for construction Viktor Neustroev to deal with this. The latter immediately sent to the duma an extremely vague reply, from which only one thing is clear: "the head of the city of Novokusnetsk is authorized to review the determination of the question of the construction of the church." The head himself received this directive a full month ago. But the mayor's office met with silence all attempts of Pastor Ilia Bantseev to learn whether this has been fulfilled.
As regards those losses which the church bore because of the convictions of the head of the city, Sergei Martin (and we recall the sum runs to 50 million old rubles), the pastor does not want to file suit in court. Although he was advised to do this even in the regional administration, specifically by Nadezhda Kriukova, president of the department on relations with the public, the parishioners hope that the authorities will nevertheless respect their desire to resolve the conflict by peace means. Moreover, since our country, according to Ilia Bantseev, still is far from a government of law, it would hardly be possible to match swords with the mayor but rather they would create new problems for themselves, especially since in a private conversation with the bishop of KhVE churches in western Siberia, Stanislav Savchuk, the mayor of Novokuznetsk warned about the futility of attempts to sue him in court.
However there is no doubt that after several outdoors services the attention of the public will be drawn to the trials of the parishioners. Besides the Moscow program Vremechko is preparing to deal with the persecuted church. So Pastor Ilia Bantseev is writing a new letter to the State Duma to report that in the aftermath of its intervention the situation for the church has become more difficult. It is quite possible that next Sunday the administration of the district will show its diligence and the police will nevertheless be forced to resort to clubs and disperse the parishioners.
Of course, now their prayers are filled with tears. But these still are tears of thanksgiving, thanks to God that he is able to turn even such problems for believers into good. The first street service of the beleaguered church, at which there were 150 of its members, attracted around 15 passersby. They stood through all two hours, although previously they never had been at this church. At the end of the meeting five of them decided to repent and accept Jesus Christ into theri hearts as Lord and Savior. (tr. by PDS)
CHURCH "GUILTY" OF EVERYTHING, or HOW "SLANDER" REPRODUCES
by Anatoly Pogasy, Christian Legal Service
Dmitry Suslov, Radiotserkov
KAZAN. 21 February. In November 1997 two newspapers in Kazan undertook a standard attempt to denigrate the protestant churches active in the city. This time their target was the church of Seventh-day Adventists. Actually the topic of discussion was a matter that unfortunately has become typical in contemporary Russian life and dealt with the way a certain Olga Tkacheva, who was unwell mentally, first killed her son Sasha and then committed suicide. [See "Insane believer kills son"] However from somewhere the rumor arose about a link between the deceased and the Adventist church, and the secular journalists, greedy for such "sensation," couldn't pass it up. Profoundly distorting the facts, they first associated the tragedy in the Tkachev family with distinctives of the Adventist belief system and besides this lumped the Adventists with the most aggressive and criminal sects.
Not only did the accusations of the writers lacked foundation but, as we hope to show convincingly, they were simply absurd in every respect. They testify that either that the writers are completely incompetent in the matters about which they have written or all of these articles were made to order and the writers merely put their signatures on previously prepared materials. Judge for yourself.
In "Voices ordered: kill your loved one," Ilia Doronin (Vecherniaia Kazan, 18 November 1997) writes: "Valentina Tkacheva attended meetings of the Seventh-day Adventists for a long time." The same was maintained in Liudmila Kolesnikov's article "Kill yourself and your children--these are the sacrifices the Lord calls for" (Vecherniaia Kazan, 21 November 1997) and in the item by a reporter in another newspaper, Kazanskie vedomosti, Alsu Mubarashkina, "Mama declared that her son is a devil," of 19 November 1997. It is simply amazing that not one of the three reporters knows that the church of Seventh-day Adventist Christians (ASD) has a precisely defined membership and thus information about members of the church is recorded in church books. Actually--and it is very easy to confirm this--Tkacheva never was a member of the Kazan ASD church nor was she registered in the church books; moreover no member of the church knows her nor has ever seen her!
The "red thread" that goes through all three articles is the idea that Tkacheva committed the murder as a result of extended fasts and night-time prayers: "Members of this sect deprive themselves with long, so-called dry hunger . . ." (I. Doronin); "Adventist teaching includes extended abstaining when it is forbidden to drink or eat. And, of course, continual prayers which, naturally, could not but have an effect upon the psychology of this family" (A. Mubarashkina). Pinprick upon a pinprick. In contrast to Orthodoxy, Islam, and some protestant denominations, to say nothing of cults and false religious sects, where extended fast are practiced in various forms with or without the consumption of fasting food, the Adventists have no specifically Adventist teaching about fasting. Fasts are undertaken extremely rarely, in connection with some important matter, and they last, as a rule, no more than a day.
As regards "interminable prayers," the prayer life of Adventists is no different from the prayer life of Orthodox or Muslims. If one does not even open specifically Adventist literature but only learns from atheistic literature, one can read about Adventist meetings the following: "Evening meetings should begin always at the appointed hour with congregational singing and a brief prayer. . . . Such regular meetings are supposed to occur two or three times a week" (A.V. Belov. Adventizm. Moscow, 1973, p. 202). The order of Sabbath services established by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist Christians in 1932 said: "Song, reading of holy scripture, prayer, collection and fellowship, congregational or choral singing, sermon, song, benediction, a moment of silent prayer by congregation." That's the way it is; neither in the doctrine nor the practice of Adventist Christians are there either "enervating fasts," or "interminable nighttime prayers."
The item in the Kazanskie vedomosti directly links Tkacheva's crime with the teaching of the church of Seventh-day Adventist Christians: "The religious sect is guilty in all of this. . . This woman attended the 'sect of Seventh-day Adventists' and hourly instilled the bases of the "righteous" doctrine into her children." The connection of the church's teachings with the murder of Sasha and Tkacheva's suicide is indicated in the title of Kolsenikova's article: "Kill yourself and your children--these are the sacrifices the Lord calls for." These assertions reveal either the completely fabricated falsehood or the ignorance of the writers on matters of protestant teaching as a whole and Adventist teaching in particular with regard to human life. The biblical command "Do not kill" has, for Adventists, absolute force, without exception. Many young believers even refuse to serve in the army on this basis. Moreover, love for God and people, according to Adventist doctrine, is the motivating force of transformation of human relationships and it alone can bring the world to righteousness, etc.
Could such teaching lead to the idea of murder of a person, let alone one's own child? No, it cannot. One should think that the writers of the articles understood this as well, but their desire for sensation forced them to close their eyes to obvious facts.
The article by Kolesnikova deserves special attention. Beginning from the establisment of the occurance of a crime, the writer goes on to express concern about the growth of new religions in Russia, which includes the ASD church. However, to assign Adventism to the "new" religion category can be done only with qualification, inasmuch as it had spread through Russia back in the second half of the nineteenth century. Without any basis Kolesnikova assigns Adventists, one of the oldest protestant confessions of Christianity, to the category of cults that have nothing to do with Christianity (the church of Moon, Scientology, the church of Vissarion, "Children of God," etc.). While by mentioning the Adventists in the title "Dawn of crime in a new location," the writer thereby accuses them beforehand of the commission of some illegal activities, which calls into question the reputation of the church as a spiritual guide of people which instructs them to obey the state's laws.
The Kazan ASD church, naturally, is unwilling to tolerate the accusations that the reporters have made against it. On 19 February it filed in court a lawsuit against the above-named reporters and the periodical publications, for protecting its reputation and recovery of moral damages. We certainly will report the outcome of the judicial proceedings. (tr. by PDS)
PROVINCIAL PRESS ATTACKS BAPTISTS
by Evgeny Sarapulov, Radiotserkov
CHITA, 30 March. In January 1998 the trans-Baikal newspaper "Daurskoe News" published an article titled "Deceit on the Road to God." Its author was a certain D. Ivashkeev, resident of the city of Borz, Chita region, who in his article advanced a mass of accusations against the local Borz church of Evangelical Christians-Baptists.
Ivashkeev accused Baptists of sectarianism, claiming that the celebration of the 130th anniversary of the beginning of the Baptist movement in Russia was a lie. However, the most serious accusation was that "while proclaiming religious purposes, the church of Evangelical Christians-Baptists sharply separates itself from all traditional confessions. It often draws people into its midst by illegal means and devices that are non-Orthodox. It distorts Biblical teaching and interprets it in its own way. It opposes the holy sacraments, prayers for the dead, veneration of icons, fasts, monasticism, and many other things. In other words, everything that for centuries has served to unite and consolidate peoples and societies, to form Christian morality in them, and to make people benevolent, decent, tolerant, generous, happy, and pure before God and their own nation."
In a word, there were many accusations and they were rather serious. As for the facts, in the time of its existence the local Baptist church in Borz has not soiled itself in any way. In 1997 it marked its fiftieth anniversary. Citizens of the city have seen in practice that Christians-Baptists are proper and God-fearing believers. However, someone wants to slander the church.
The presbyter of the Borz church of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, V. Miskevich, wrote a response article and proposed the broadcast of a round table on the local TV stateion dealing with problems of sectarianism and faith to which Orthodox priests would be invited. But for some unknown reasons this event was postponed indefinitely. In March another accusatory article against the Baptists appeared. (tr. by PDS)
by Yuri Kolesnikov
NOVOSIBIRSK, 2 March. For the religious public of Novosibirsk, the past year of 1997 was marked by, among other things, the appearance of a brief guide, "Religion and sects in contemporary Russia," published by the Information and Consultation Center on Problems of Sectarianism of the cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky, known commonly as the "Antisectarian Center." Local mass media have stated that this guide was intended for use within the civic and military administrations.
The issuance of informational literature which can objectively reflect the various forms and types of religious devotion is certainly needed. However, unfortunately, the publication of a brief guide that bears the stamp of a clearly expressed prejudicial approach to the selection of information does not fulfill the basic need that such literature is intended to: an impartial statement of facts with citations from reliable and authoritative sources of the information included. The guide's introduction itself is filled with a spirit of the opposition of Orthodox doctrine, as the true faith, to other denominational confessions. While the opposition itself is based upon a pattern reminiscent of the usual propaganda of "agit-prop" workers, who were employed in their time by the atheistic regime in its struggle with dissident thinkers, of the type: "the cruder, the more reliable." A clear example of this appears on the fourth page which purports to be a citation from a speech of former director of the CIA Allen Dulles: "We have invested everything we have, all the gold and material might, into deceiving and bamboozling the Russian people . . . . We have created chaos and confusion in the administration of the state. Honesty and decency will be ridiculed and no one will heed them. . . . Boorishness and impudence, lies and deception, alcoholism and drug addiction, mutual fear and lawlessness, betrayal, nationalism and ethnic hostility--all of these we shall cleverly and covertly cultivate . . . and we will always focus on the youth and begin to lure and corrupt them."
Such a citation itself from an unreliable source (a reference is made to obviously propangadistic material of an overtly chauvinistic type "Awake, Russia, and Rise Up! The Ecological War against Russia," published by "Moskvitianin," 1994), placed in the introduction of an informational tool, which should not be serving as a "cold war" instrument, is improper. Moreover it expresses a painfully familiar approach of transfering guilt from the "sick mind to the healthy" in an attempt to attribute all the problems and disorders of contemporary Russia to the "external enemy." And the approach itself of several guides reminds one more of effluence of garbage than of an objective illumination of the worship forms and rituals of religious devotion that typify one or another confession. For example, the reference to the adherents of the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventists is outlined: Characteristics, History of the sect, Doctrine, Criminal activity. The category "Criminal activity" includes newspaper material of a slanderous nature which in the intention of the writers is supposed to give evidence of the criminal inclination of the particular religious confession.
Besides this, the brochure which claims to be a guide to the religious situation of contemporary Russia reveals the incompetence of the writers, who include among Russian Baptists, for example, organizations that are not characteristic for them, such as "Christian Baptists," "Baptist Dunkers," "Baptists of the Six Principles," etc.
In connection with the publication of this book the Association of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Novosibirsk, Kemerovo, and Tomsk regions prepared an appeal which will be sent to the Moscow patriarchate and Patriarch Alexis II of all-Russia with copies to the local diocesan administration and the Moscow Institute of Religion and Law. It notes, in particular, that the "contents of this guide with regard to several Christian confessions promote misunderstanding by their inaccuracy and incompetence" and that "special concern is evoked by the assertion that Baptists 'maintain a negative attitude toward civic obligations.'"
One can only regret that this brief guide "Religion and sects in contemporary Russia," which tries to promote the aspirations of the Russian Orthodox church (Moscow patriarchate) to become the general state religion, has robbed itself of what is most important, the confidence of many readers of other confessions who are offended by being associated with the adherents of the satanic cult. (tr. by PDS)
By The Associated Press (March 20th 1998)
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Two young Mormon missionaries were abducted from their post in Russia, the church said.
Andrew Lee Propst, 20, of Lebanon, Ore., and Travis Robert Tuttle, 20, of Gilbert, Ariz., lived and traveled together.
They were serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Russia Samara Mission about 500 miles southeast of Moscow on the Volga River, church spokesman Don LeFevre said Thursday. He gave few other details.
A ransom note demanding $300,000 was left on the doorstep of a church member after the men were abducted Wednesday, said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
LeFevre said the church has taken steps to ensure the safety of the other 60 to 100 missionaries in the Samara Mission, but he would not elaborate.
Russia's Federal Security Service, the main successor to the KGB, and the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for the police force, have set up a joint investigative team to search for the two men.
Police in Samara refused to comment.
``All we can do is rely on faith that they're going to come home to us in safety and that our savior is by their side at this time,'' said Roy Tuttle, Travis' father.
The Propst family expressed pride in Andrew's decision to serve the mission and said his letters over the past year ``have testified to his deep commitment.''
The church has about 57,000 full-time missionaries worldwide and six missions in Russia with 600 to 800 missionaries and more than 5,000 members.
Last year, Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a proclamation declaring Russian Orthodoxy his country's pre-eminent faith and sharply limiting the practice of some religions until they had been established for at least 15 years.
New York Times, 23 March 1998
MOSCOW (Reuters)- Two U.S. Mormon Church missionaries abducted in Russia's Saratov region were freed Sunday with only minor injuries, although no ransom was paid, officials said.
"The hostages have been freed. They are feeling all right," said a spokesman for the local Federal Security Service, a successor to the Soviet KGB.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said the two men, abducted Thursday, had been slightly hurt.
"Travis Robert Tuttle and Andrew Lee Propst were taken immediately to the police station to be debriefed and are at this time still in Saratov helping the police with their investigation," it said in a statement.
"Both men are in good condition, with only minor injuries."
The Federal Security Service spokesman confirmed the pair had been freed without the payment of a ransom but declined to give further details. The abductors reportedly had asked for a $300,000 ransom.
"We have no reason to believe that any ransom was paid," U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Hoagland said.
The hostage-takers drove to the outskirts of Saratov, the regional capital, and released the two men there, a local police duty officer said.
Tuttle, 21, of Gilbert, Arizona, and Propst, also 21, of Lebanon, Oregon, were working for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in southern Russia.
In the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert, Tuttle's father, Roy, called the release of the two men "a miracle" brought about by faith in God.
He said he learned of their release at 4 a.m. MST (6 a.m. EST) through a telephone call from church officials in Salt Lake City. Six hours later, Tuttle and his wife, Mary, had a three- to four-minute phone conversation with their son.
"He was absolutely ecstatic to be in safe hands," Tuttle told reporters. "He was in good spirits. He was thrilled beyond comprehension to know that he was alive."
by Michael Nakoryakov
The Salt Lake Tribune, Monday, March 23, 1998
When two young Mormon missionaries, Andrew Lee Propst and Travis Robert Tuttle, were abducted in the southeastern Russian city of Saratov last week, most officials and commentators in Russia and the United States agreed that, most likely, the kidnapping had nothing to do with politics or religion.
Amid Saratov's widespread poverty and apathy toward the political battles that rage in faraway Moscow, the likely scenario was some small-time criminals tried to make a quick buck by grabbing the two well-dressed, well-fed and supposedly well-off Americans.
But when, after only a few days, the kidnappers suddenly let the hostages go unharmed and without waiting for the $300,000 ransom they demanded, that version of events began to appear unbelievable.
Anatoly Pchelintsev, head of the Institute of Religion and Law of Moscow's Christian Legal Center, doesn't buy the "local hoods" version. He did not believe it in the first place, he said on Sunday.
"There is no question in my mind that it was a provocation by those in the country who refuse to accept freedom of belief and civilized coexistence of different religious denominations," Pchelintsev said from Moscow.
"Did you hear what [Saratov region's governor Dmitri] Ayatskov said on television when those boys were kidnapped? He said the Mormons had no business in his region anyway, and he'll make sure ďall those missionaries and sects' are kicked out of there in the nearest future," he said.
Pchelintsev's institute, created to monitor the religion-related laws produced by the Russian Parliament and local elected bodies for compliance with the country's constitution, has been involved for years in an uphill battle with Moscow lawmakers.
For instance, Pchelintsev sees the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations -- approved by both chambers of the Russian Parliament and signed by President Boris Yeltsin last summer -- as one of his 7-year-old institute's major defeats.
"You don't need to be a lawyer to see that a law that severely restricts the activities of most non-Orthodox denominations directly contradicts the Russian Constitution's guarantee of freedom of conscience," Pchelintsev said.
"[The Parliament] couldn't send KGB officers to arrest the missionaries in the middle of the night -- the times have changed since Stalin. So they opted to send a signal through provocations like the one in the Volga area," he said.
Not everybody in Russia agrees with Pchelintsev. The Russian Parliament may contain a significant number of Communist lawmakers, but in the case of the Freedom of Conscience bill, only a small Parliament faction -- the semi-liberal Yabloko -- voted against it.
The legislation received solid support among all the lawmakers, from communists and conservatives to liberals and nationalists.
"Claiming the abduction of the Mormons was part of a broad conspiracy to get rid of foreign missionaries is ridiculous," police reporter Andrei Shabarshov said from Moscow.
"All that happened was those [kidnappers] probably didn't realize at first what they were dealing with," he said.
"Then they saw the governor on TV, and heard about the FBI sending their agents here to help Russian cops investigate, just got frightened and decided to let the boys go rather than mess around with all that.
"Russians just love conspiracies," he said.
That might be true, Pchelintsev said, but how can one explain a strange coincidence -- only a few days ago, the usually tight-lipped Russian Interior Ministry announced through all major news media that somebody had threatened to mark the anniversary of Aum Shinri Kyo's gassing of the Tokyo subway with the release of a poisonous gas in the Moscow subway.
"That was spectacular -- we had hundreds of cops guarding every subway station, there were announcements on the radio, really scary stuff," he said.
"For two days, people were afraid to use the subway, and everybody was talking of the need to ban ďall those sects.' . . . Then, of course, nothing happened. And then -- Saratov. I just can't believe that was coincidental."
With numerous foreign and domestic sects and cults present in Russia these days, many people fail to make a distinction between established religions that have been accepted worldwide and violent doomsday cults like Aum Shinri Kyo.
But it may not be time for the missionaries to leave Russia yet, Pchelintsev said. No matter how much the authorities, together with the Orthodox Patriarchy, would like to see all of them gone, the game is not over yet.
"My message is, don't panic. I am convinced that there is a good chance we will successfully appeal the Freedom of Conscience law in the Constitutional Court of Russia. As a matter of fact, I can say right now that will happen in the fall," he said.
"So time to start packing has not come yet."
(courtesy of Ray Prigodich, Denver Serminary)
Contrasting Fates for Foreign Missionaries Kidnapped in Russia
by Felix Corley, Keston News Service
Mar 25, 1998
Worldwide attention has been given to the case of two young Mormon missionaries kidnapped on 19 March in Saratov region and freed three days later. The two 21-year-old men, TRAVIS ROBERT TUTTLE and ANDREW LEE PROPST, both United States citizens, had suffered only minor injuries during their ordeal. Law enforcement agencies in Saratov said a note demanding 300,000 US dollars had been left with a church member, but in the end the hostage-takers dumped the two men by the side of the road on the edge of Saratov without any money changing hands. In the wake of the kidnapping, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints said it had taken immediate steps to ensure the safety of its other missionaries in the region.
The fate of the two men was closely followed by the Federal Security Service and by the US State Department and the US Embassy in Moscow, as well as by the media around the world. By contrast, the fate of two Swedish Pentecostal Christians kidnapped while working as missionaries in the North Caucasian region of Dagestan has received far less attention outside their native Sweden.
The pair, DANIEL and PAULINA BROLIN, were seized late on 8 January in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, which borders Chechnya. They had been walking back to the apartment they rented in the town centre when they were seized. The Brolins, both believed to be aged 21, are from the central Swedish town of Vasteras and represent the Pentecostal church there and were students at a Pentecostal Church school.
A short video, apparently of the Brolins, was shown on Swedish television news on 18 March. 'We are here. It's going well but we want to leave. We miss you all,' said the young man in Swedish. The woman standing next to him said: 'I also want to leave. But God is good and is helping us.' The two looked healthy but expressionless. The Swedish Foreign Ministry, which has been involved in trying to secure the hostages' release, said the tape could be up to two months old. 'The video is old, filmed perhaps as long ago as January or early February,' foreign ministry spokesman JENS ODLANDER declared.
'While we are pursuing all leads, we are not at all certain who is holding the Brolins captive or even if they require a ransom as a condition for their release,' Odlander said last week. Referring to a mission to the region by representatives of the Swedish embassy in Moscow, he added: 'We are hoping that we can nail down some of the specifics during this upcoming trip and move as close as possible to the release of the Brolins.'
The Brolins' church in Vasteras had received a videotape of the couple in mid-February, apparently from the kidnappers, although both it and the foreign ministry declined to specify exactly what was on the tape. It seems this is the video that has now been broadcast on Swedish television.
The north Caucasus region of southern Russia has been plagued by kidnappings, many though not all of which have taken place in the breakaway republic of Chechnya. Chechnya's separatist authorities have pledged to stop the rash of abductions. Two British, one Russian and two Hungarian aid workers are among those still being held by various kidnappers, who often demand huge ransoms for their captives. Five Polish aid workers were released in early February after nearly two months as hostages.
Baltimore-based International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) learned on 24 March that one of their kidnapped aid workers, 48- year-old Russian citizen DMITRI PENKOVSKY, has been released to his family in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia. Penkovsky's release came following contacts made with representatives of his abductors by his wife, GALINA PENKOVSKAYA. YELENA PETROVA, the wife of the remaining IOCC captive DMITRI PETROV, is also in Vladikavkaz pursuing leads for the release of her husband.
Penkovsky and Petrov were taken against their will on 20 September 1997, after their vehicle was forced to stop near the Ingushetia-Chechnya border. They were delivering aid to refugees in the war-torn region. IOCC has been negotiating for the release of the two for some months and appealed in February for prayer and extra funds to support this. But negotiations with the hostage-takers have shown how precarious their fate is. 'We are liberated from morality,' a spokesperson for the abductors told an IOCC intermediary in mid-March. Work to secure Petrov's release continues.
The two British aid workers, CAMILLA CARR and JON JAMES, who had been working at a Quaker-sponsored children's home in Grozny when they were abducted last July, were the focus of attention during Chechen PRESIDENT ASLAN MASKHADOV's visit to Britain in early March. He met British Foreign Office officials as well as relatives of the two to discuss their case. A subsequent attempt by Chechen law enforcement units to recapture the hostages failed on 16 March.
There has been no news of the two Hungarians, GABOR DUNAIJSKY and ISTVAN OLAH of Hungarian Interchurch Aid, kidnapped in Grozny in October, although work to seek their release continues.
LAVISH AMERICAN CRUSADE HINDERED
by Roger Barker, Radiotserkov
RIAZAN, 15 February. From 25 January to 7 February the largest group of Americans ever to visit Russia, 487 volunteers, visited schools, children's homes, nuseries, and children's clinics in Moscow region, Vladimir, Tula, and Belarus. They brought more than 100 tons of humanitarian aid, including prepared foods, clothing, vitamins, toys, and individual packets containing hygiene products, school supplies, and other gifts. In the course of two weeks fifteen groups of volunteers comprising from 30 to 36 persons, each in their own bus, visited more than 110 sites in 71 population points scattered about Moscow region. Four groups went to Belarus and one group each to Vladimir and Tula.
Each group of 30 volunteers was accompanied by guides and at least six interpreters during visits to the sites. The mission, headed by Josh Macdowell and known under the title "Operation Carelift-98," has organized and conducted such actions twice a year, in winter and summer, beginning in January 1992. The Mission of Josh Macdowell is one of 44 programs conducted under the aegis of "Campus Crusade for Christ International."
Beginning in 1992, seven winter and six summer missions of Operation Carelift have brought to Russia 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid and 5,000 volunteers have arrived to give aid to Russian people, especially the children in accordance with the command of Jesus Christ. They visited hundreds of hospitals, children's homes, nurseries, and clinics, bringing material aid and the Good News to hundreds of thousands of Russians who need not only material food but also spiritual food. They spoke a language of hope and love.
In 1998 the work of the mission and distribution of humanitarian aid was made more difficult because many forms of aid were impounded at Russian customs. In the course of the first week the groups arrived with only some food products, books, and bracelets for distribution. Customs impounded for a week the toys intended for the children, and when the mission Operation Carelift was completed on 7 February, three containers with humanitarian aid still were being held by customs. (tr. by PDS)
by Olga Pestereva, Konstantin Levin
Kommersant-Daily, 2 April 1998
A sensation was created by an article in the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung reporting that acting prime minister of Russia Sergei Kirienko belongs to the sect of Scientology. German reporters learned about this from the director of the Saint Ireneus of Lyons Center of the Moscow patriarchate, Alexander Dvorkin, who in turn learned of it from a docent of Nizhny Novgorod University, Evgeny Volkov.
The story turned out to be quite simple. In 1995, when Sergei Kirienko was president of the Nizhny Novgorod bank Guarantee, the managers of the bank, along with many Nizhny businessmen, participated in a seminar of the Hubbard College, one of the institutions of the Scientology church. One of Sergei Kirienko's former university teachers, docent Evgeny Volkov, learned of this incident from acquaintances, who at the time knew a lot of dark things about Scientology. Volkov said that he then phoned Kirienko in order to preclude his being influenced by the American totalitarian sect. "We got together and I explained it all to him and gave him materials. He understood everything and instructed his secretary to hold all calls from Hubbard College," Volkov reported. "This was around three years ago and we have not met since them."
Volkov said that the Hubbard college has been operating in Nizhny for a long time. When in February 1993 Boris Nemtsov was invited to the opening of the college, he requested all materials, reviewed them, and . . . he did not go. Evgeny Volkov stressed that simple participation in the week-long seminar in itself could not be a basis for considering a person a member of the sect.
This "passing," in Evgeny Volkov's words, episode from the life of Sergei Kirienko was described by the docent to many people, including Alexander Dvorkin, an American citizen who is famous as an opponent of sectarianism as a whole and Scientology in particular.
The office of Berliner Zeitung was informed about the contacts of Sergei Kirienko with Hubbard College by Dvorkin. Incidentally, three days after the publication one of the writers of the article was no longer employed by the paper but had "retired." Dvorkin himself categorically denies that he inspired the article in Berliner Zeitung. He says: "This weekend Berliner Zeitung contacted me for comments as a specialist on Scientology. I gave my comments, not as a representative of RPTs but as a private individual." An official representative of RPTs emphasized that Dvorkin did not express the opinion of the church but spoke as a private individual.
Natalia Ivantsova, one of the former leaders of the Nizhny Hubbard college, recalled that Kirienko did not ever participate in the seminars of Scientology. The administration of the college suggested to the administration of the Guarantee bank that it study the administrative technology of Ron Hubbard, but Kirienko personally did not go to the seminar, although he did not forbid his coworkers from doing so.
Kirienko himself considered the report about his membership in the sect of Scientology as "plain stupidity," which could be published only on April First, and he refused to comment upon it. (tr. by PDS)
NEMTSOV CONSIDERS ACCUSATIONS POLITICAL TACTIC
ITAR-TASS/ Pravoslavie v Rossii
MOSCOW, 31 March. Acting first vice premier Boris Nemtsov is not surprised that a political campaign has been devised against the candidate for the post of premier, Sergei Kirienko and that, in particular, he has been accused of ties with the American religious sect "Church of Scientology," also known as "Hubbard College." "I expected something like this. It is simply that now Sergei Kirienko is in such a position where such information had to come out. He probably expected it and is hardly surprised," Nemtsov told reporters today.
According to information from the German paper Berliner Zeitung, three years ago Kirienko, at the time the head of a bank in Nizhny Novgorod, participated in a week-long seminar of the Church of Scientology, which was officially registered in Russia. Such participation is "not forbidden," Alexander Dvorkin, head of the Holy Martyr Ireneus of Lyons Center of the Moscow patriarchate, told an ITAR-TASS reporter today. The center deals with matters of religious sects. However, Dvorkin stated, "this sect is considered extremely aggressive and dangerous and all its members are united in complete loyalty to the ideals of the sect. In Germany the sect has been placed under surveillance of the secret police. It is considered to be not a religious but a commercial organization whose goal is wealth and power. In Greece is was prohibited at the beginning of this year."
The name of the organization comes from the name of the American fiction writer Lafayette Ron Hubbard, who suffers from paranoia and has declared war against the "world conspiracy of psychiatrists." Thus, in particular, he has asserted that the mass extermination of Jews by Adolf Hitler was not organized by the Nazi regime but by a "secret union of German psychiatrists." (tr. by PDS)
COURT HANDS DOWN ITS DECISION IN CASE AGAINST UNIFICATION CHURCH
26 May 1998
On May 21, 1998, in the Kuzminsky District Court of Moscow the final hearing of case No. 7C "N.V. Babkin, N.K. Russkikh and others vs. the Unification Church of Russia concerning compensation for moral damage" took place.
In several interviews with the mass media the plaintiffs insisted that they had presented undeniable evidence of the destructive effects of the Unification Church's activities on themselves and their adult children who are members of the Unification Church. The chairman of the St. Petersburg Inter-regional Committee for Defense Against Totalitarian Sects, N.K. Russkikh, insisted that the Unification Church had caused her severe moral damage by "zombie-izing" and committing "psychological assault" on her adult daughter. She and the other plaintiffs stated that their children becoming members of the Unification Church had caused them physical and moral damage.
In the course of the case the plaintiffs could produce no evidence of any damage suffered by them because of the Unification Church. The Director of Public Prosecutions in the Office of Public Prosecutor of Moscow's Kuzminky and Presnya Districts produced no evidence of any legal violations by the Unification Church. The psychological examinations of the plaintiffs' adult children carried out by psychologists from the Legal Expert Medical Service of St. Petersburg City Administration confirmed the absence of signs of "dependent mental disorder," and the psychologists' report pointed out that conflict situations had existed in the families long before the children joined this church.
The court dismissed the plaintiffs' case.
May 26, 1998 (courtesy of Konstantin Krylov)
by Mikhail Gokhman
Russkaia mysl 6 February 1997
The last issue of the "Church-Public Messenger" published an article by M. Sitnikov about the legal suit brought by the Public Committee for the Defense of Freedom of Conscience against A. Dvorkin, the author of a brochure about nontraditional religious organizations, "Ten Questions for the Obtrusive Stranger, or Handbook for Those Who do not Want to be Taken In." This brochure is devoted to the activity of new religious movements. There are many such movements nowadays. Preachers wander Moscow streets and invite youth into clubs and concert halls and they conduct seminars.
There are various attitudes towards these organizations. Dvorkin has his own opinion and he designates the newly created teachings "Totalitarian Sects" and "Destructive Cults." These include the society "Krishna Consciousness," "Church of Unification," church of scientology, "Mother of God Center," and other nontraditional religious organizations, all lumped into one ball.
It is not known whether this book has helped any of the young people reading it to escape the nets of the sectarians. But it has been read carefully by the Public Committee for the Defense of Freedom of Conscience, headed by rights defender Gleb Yakunin.
Father Gleb considered this work slanderous for religious organizations that are registered with the ministry of justice and operate legally on the territory of our country. The committee decided to appeal to the Khoroshevsky Intermunicipal People's Court of Moscow with a suit "for the defense of the honor, dignity, and reputation of a number of religious organizations and for the determination that the information disseminated by A.L. Dvorkin defaming these organizations does not conform to reality."
Actually the author of the brochure maintains that all these religious organizations deprive people of material worth ("Incidentally, without this the sects could never survive," he writes). However there are no known cases of legal action against members or leaders of these religious organizations for crimes against property.
Dvorkin accuses all these organizations of force, beating and violence against members. In his accusations he goes even further: "The goal of all totalitarian sects is to win power. . . They amass means, increase their influence, and are preparing to seize power." They "will not hesitate to use force against a person or group of persons who are inconvenient to them. In essence we are dealing with a mafia-like structure."
Whether all these accusations by Dvorkin apply to sects is not proved; but all of them easily apply to the Communist party. However, there is nothing in the book about this sect. Why? That becomes clear a bit later.
Understanding quite well that he is not likely to win his case, the author of the brochure decided to go another route. On 31 January in the Marble Hall of the Central House of Journalists there was a press conference: "The Moscow Patriarchate: Reply to the Insinuations of Gleb Yakunin."
"Yakunin and Totalitarian Sects Against Moscow Patriarchate" was the title of the press release distributed to the reporters.
This writer cannot remember such security in the House of Journalists, even though press conferences have been held there by more important persons than the American missionary Dvorkin. Three times in the space of twenty meters from the entrance hefty young people demanded documents from reporters. In the crowd a mighty man with a round face and complex past, priest Oleg Steniaev, was distinguished. He quite recently won fame as a specialist in exorcising demons and converting sectarians, before which he basically showed up at various political demonstrations and actions, from "Pamiat" to "Democratic Russia."
Dvorkin's press conference was sanctioned by the presence of the director of the Publishing Department of the Moscow patriarchate, Bishop Tikhon Emilianov of Bronnitsy and Archpriest Dimitry Smirnov, dean of the Orthodox faculty of the Military Academy of Strategic Missile Forces, and also Fedor Viktorovich Kondratiev, a professor of the infamous Serbsky Institute. Incidentally, the latter was not so long ago accused of persecuting political prisoners. The professor, however, denied these charges: "I never was an expert witness for those who were charged on so-called political articles but I always was concerned with this problem," Kondratiev declared. "I can firmly maintain that the opinions spread in those year that psychiatric terror existed in our country and that there was a punitive psychiatry are the fabrication of those people who now are defending the totalitarian sects. This is slander which was used for antisoviet purposes and now is used for anti-Russian goals."
Bishop Tikhon declared that with the blessing of the patriarch, the publishing department of the Moscow patriarchate will join the Dvorkin case as a third party on the side of the defendant.
The participants in the affair were adamant. If the case is lost "the further collapse of Russia" will follow, according the Professor Kondratiev.
Drawing preliminary conclusions, Father Gleb Yakunin said: "It is not surprising that such a fuss is being raised when the date of the trial has not been set and there is no assurance that there will be a trial. Such a hysterical reaction speaks about the weakness of Dvorkin's position. It is no accident that this slander emerged at the same time as the launching of the attack on the existing law of 1990 (which I also worked out as a member of the committee on freedom of conscience). It is natural that communists and supporters of Zhirinovsky are leading the attack on religious minorities." (trans. by PDS)
EXPLOSION IN SYNAGOGUE; THREE UKRAINIANS INJURED
Holiday turned to tragedy
Moskovskii komsomolets, 15 May 1998
It seems that serious interethnic conflict is slowly flaring up in the capital. Passions had still not settled down in Luzhniki, where last week Russian merchants killed an Azerbaijani, when a new unexpected outbreak of violence followed, this time affecting Jews.
A powerful explosion shook the walls of the synagogue at 2 Vysheslavets Lane Wednesday evening. This was not simply an act of intimidation; everything points to the fact that the terrorists were thirsting for the blood of the parishioners. The bombers had carefully studied the Jewish religious calendar. The thirteenth to fourteenth of May is the national holiday Lag ba-'Omer. The holiday is devoted to the memory of Simeon ben Yojai, one of the most famous sages and ancestor of the Kabbala. Hundreds of hassidic believers attend the synagogues on these days.
The nazis made one miscalculation--the time. The peak time of attendance at the synagogue came at seven p.m. and by 11:10, when the bomb went off, almost everyone had left. Around twenty people remained on the third floor, while the children who had participated in the holiday (in all around 100 attended) had gone to the bus stop.
The explosive charge equivalent to a kilogram of TNT was placed on the ground in a corner of the building. It is still not clear how the criminals detonated the infernal device; probably with a timer mechanism. A large piece of brick foundation was torn up at the base and a large hole was blown in the wall.
In order to injure as many as possible the sadists had filled the bomb with shrapnel. The brunt of the explosion was taken by the vehicles parked at the synagogue: a Chevrolet, five Zhigulis, and a Volga belonging to the Center of International Trade.
Experts found 25 fragments in the rooms. Besides this, bricks blown out of the wall hit sheds in which construction workers were living (repairs were underway here), and three workers from Ukraine were slightly wounded. To the credit of the believing citizens remaining in the synagogue, they were not frightened. "Alas, we were morally prepared for such incidents," the head of the news service of the Moscow synagogue admitted. Actually, clergymen don't get used to such "attention."
In 1992 the synagogue burned down and in August 1996 a strong explosion occurred near the walls, which in design was almost identical to yesterday's device. But the impact then was not so powerful. It cannot be ruled out that the two explosions were the work of the hands of the same people. Incidentally, five days before the incident, the telephone rang at the synagogue. An unidentified person declared that in the near future the building would be destroyed. But nothing dangerous was found in the course of an inspection of the premises. Nevertheless the leadership of the synagogue informed visitors of possible terrorism.
Nor did the vandals restrict themselves to the bomb explosion; on the walls of the building next to the synagogue a slogan "Moscow without pigs" had been spray-painted along with the six-pointed star. Despite the explosion, yesterday a previously planned procession of Jews in celebration of the holiday was held nonetheless, moving from the synagogue to Suvorov Square. Here the parade participants boarded busses and went to continue the holiday in Istrina district in the suburbs, a bit removed from the dangers of Moscow.
Incidentally, the television hastily reported that the procession was a "protest demonstration," like that of the Azerbaijanis. But the believers stated that they were not protesting against anybody. The misfortune had merely united them; many more people came for the holiday than had been expected.
In addition to the religious interpretation, according to which the prime suspects were apparently skinheads and other nazi organizations, the police worked out several others. As for the victims of the terrorist act: "we have no suspects," a representative of the synagogue told MK. "It is another matter that after the explosion in 1996 the newspaper Russkii poriadok published the addresses of other Moscow synagogues with the schedule of services and holidays which, apparently, guided the organizers of the terrorist act."
In principle, the terrorist act at the synagogue could have been organized by representatives of any oppositional organization. It is impossible to rule out the possibility that fascists could have planted the bomb. In recent time among the "brown" organizations someone has begun to circulate rumors that certain young radicals have been trying to resurrect the "legendary" legion of the "Werewolf." In 1994 this organization tried to conduct a series of terrorist acts in Moscow. But it was headed off in time. Now the legionaires who were left at large after the breakup of the organization have created a neonazi group "Russian Aim" which has as its goal cleansing Moscow of blacks, people from the Caucasus, and Jews. The warriors of this organization take pride in their recent attack upon an employee of the USA embassy.
It cannot be ruled out that the terrorist act was organized by leftist radicals who call themselves the "Revolutionary Military Council of RSFSR." We recall that last year they conducted a series of terrorist acts in Moscow. In particular, the monument to Peter the First by the sculptor Zurab Tsereteli was mined. The director of the security service declared to MK in an interview that the problem of the Revolutionary Military Council had been resolved, but the leader of the radical wing of the Komsomol, Pavel Bylevsky, considers that the "idea has spread to the masses. Several groups calling themselves revolutionary military councils have been created." (tr. by PDS)
ISLAM IN TATARSTAN
by Geoffrey York
The Globe and Mail (Canada), May 5, 1998
KAZAN, Russia -- In the ancient heart of Islam's most northern outpost, a giant new mosque is slowly rising toward the sky. Turkish construction workers are clambering over the half-built brick minarets, just a few metres from government offices in a historic Russian fortress near the Volga River.
The massive mosque is a symbol of Russia's Islamic revival. More than 400 years ago, a legendary old mosque on the same site was destroyed by Ivan the Terrible during his brutal conquest of the Tatar khanate at Kazan. Today an Islamic crescent is displayed on the tallest tower in the fortress, signalling the rebirth of the religion.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, pundits warned that the Islamic revival could pose a formidable challenge to Russia's political leaders. The Tatars, the second-biggest ethnic group in Russia, were seen as one of the most likely challengers. Their oil-rich republic, about 700 kilometres east of Moscow, occupies a strategic territory in the Russian heartland. But in the confrontation between secular and religious authorities in Tatarstan, the Islamists have suffered a crushing defeat. While their mosques are expanding, their political influence is weakening. They have proved no match for the authoritarian tactics of the shrewd ex-Communist leaders who still control this region. "We lost, and the state has won this game," says Gabdoulla Galioullin, the former head of the Tatarstan Muslims.
Mr. Galioullin, a fiercely independent mufti, was elected the leader of the region's estimated one million Muslims in 1992. He often clashed with the Tatarstan government. But in February the government called a meeting of the Muslims, stacked it with handpicked delegates and paid for their travel expenses. The delegates obediently voted to depose the mufti and replace him with a pro-government loyalist. "I was not considered politically reliable to the state," the mufti said in an interview in his office in a nineteenth-century mosque in the centre of Kazan.
The defeat of the Islamists is a testament to the power of Russia's regional chieftains. Tatarstan's president is Mintimir Shaimiyev, a veteran Communist Party functionary who served as the Communist boss of this region when the Soviet Union was still alive. Like many other governors and presidents across the country, Mr. Shaimiyev rules his region with an iron fist, brooking little opposition from any independent political or religious groups. In 1995, dozens of militant Muslim students threw a scare into the president when they stormed and seized a former Islamic college in Kazan and occupied it for five days, defying the armed riot police who surrounded the building.
The students insisted that the building must be converted to a madrasa, as it was before the 1917 revolution. "It was like a revolt, a political bomb," Mr. Galioullin said. "It was a shock to the state. It was the first time since 1917 that anyone had taken this kind of action." The Muslims won the skirmish, and the building became an Islamic college again. But the rebellion prompted Mr. Shaimiyev to launch a crackdown on the Islamic movement. Their leader, Mr. Galioullin, was subjected to criminal charges and lengthy police interrogations. He was prohibited from leaving the city for eight months. Since then, the pressure has tightened.
Of the 22 mosques in Kazan, only nine are considered to be independent of government control. The region's secret police, a former branch of the Soviet KGB, closely monitors the activities of the independent mosques. The police wiretap their telephones and recruit informers in the mosques. Only the most loyal imams are allowed access to broadcast time on the local television channels. The independent mosques are plagued by financial problems. Their newspaper was forced to close last summer because of a shortage of money. There is still no Islamic university in Kazan, so the imams must travel to Uzbekistan for their religious training. Friday prayers are often led by visiting Muslim clerics from Turkey. "In the villages and remote areas, the salary of the imams and the heating and electricity is all paid by the state," Mr. Galioullin said. "That might be why they can control us."
Mr. Shaimiyev, meanwhile, has consolidated his power as the dominant figure in Tatarstan. When he ran for re-election in 1996, not a single candidate dared to oppose him. He won a Soviet-style victory with 97.5 per cent of the vote. Shortly afterward, the Tatarstan constitution was amended to allow him to seek a third term in office in 2001. After his election triumph, Mr. Shaimiyev issued a presidential decree making it illegal for the media to insult him. Fines of up to $8,500 can be levied against anyone who insults him in public. Such incidents are unlikely. The president maintains tight control over all of the local media. Last week, the sole remaining opposition newspaper in Tatarstan was forcibly shut down. A local court ordered the paper to be closed because of an obscure technical violation -- it was registered as a Tatar-language publication, yet it was publishing in both Russian and Tatar. The biweekly newspaper, Golden Horde, was published by the main Tatar nationalist group, known as Ittifak.
Once a major rival of the president, the Tatar group has been forced to the sidelines. "I can't even hold a meeting of our members because we don't have a building," said Bernard Kasimov, chairman of the Kazan branch of the 4,000-member association. "We had a building, but it was taken away from us. Then our bank account was closed because we have no office. They're trying to destroy all opposition."
The Muslims are philosophical about their fate. Unlike the more militant Islamic separatists of Chechnya, the Tatar Muslims are isolated in the centre of Russia, thousands of kilometres away from the nearest Islamic nation. They have intermarried with their Russian neighbours for centuries. After more than 70 years of official atheism in the Soviet era, they see the Islamic revival as a slow and gradual movement. It will take many years for Tatarstan to achieve political and religious freedom, Mr. Galioullin said. "This was a totalitarian state," he said. "We were always afraid to express our opinion. It was inborn. And the fear is still inside us."
(from Johnson's Russia List)
RIGHTS DEFENDERS AGAINST THE LAW
They see the Russian Orthodox church as the main threat to society
by Maxim Shevchenko
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 16 April 1998
The Moscow representation of the influential American conservative Heritage Foundation conducted a round table on the burning issue "The Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations: Experience of Practical Implementation." Participants included all those who have taken principal roles in the business of preparing and implementing the law (representatives of the presidential administration, Andrei Loginov, the governmental administration, Andrei Sebentsov, and the ministry of justice) and in the business of resisting the law and critiquing its basic provisions (Gleb Yakunin, Sergei Kovalev, Yuri Rozenbaum). There also were attorneys who have prepared the appeal to the Constitutional Court on the claim of the incompatibility of several articles of the law with the standards of the constitution (Vladimir Riakovsky, Anatoly Pchelintsev).
The round table began with a speech by Andrei Loginov who briefly set forth the views of the presidential administration on the situation which has developed in the country after the law's adoption. This situation, in his words, gives assurance that finally in Russia the preconditions for the organization of a legal religious space have been established. Mr. Loginov's claim evoked a stormy reaction from the perpetual dissenters. Sergei Kovalev and Yuri Rozenbaum began to demand from him specific names of people who, in their words, had "put the president up to" the new law, implying that it was Loginov himself, who enumerated a long list of names of representatives of the confessions who worked on amending the law.
Then the floor was given to duma deputy Sergei Kovalev. Having called his colleagues in the duma, who had adopted the law, ignorant, he immediately demonstrated his own erudition by expressing the thought that "some times in its history the Russian Orthodox church has bowed not before Christ but antichrist." Such a line also was supported by other participants of the discussion. On the whole the speeches of the perpetual rights defenders created the impression that for them the entire issue of the implementation of the law comes down to the desire to express their opinion as sharply and persistently as possible about the Moscow patriarchate in particular and RPTs as a whole and to "shield society from the totalitarian influence of the church." The address by Fr Vsevolod Chaplin, who stressed that from the point of view of "tens of millions" of Orthodox the old law on freedom of conscience of 1990 did not express the true situation in the country and required change, was met with the obstructionist retorts from Gleb Yakunin and Sergei Kovalev and some others who are less overt and offensive opponents of the Orthodox church.
It fell to the lot of one of the authors of the old law, Andrei Sebentsov, who was accused of virtual juridical incompetence, to support Loginov's opinion that on the whole the law was good, though he admitted that several provisions of the law need reworking. He also justly pointed out the absence from the round table of the president of the duma committee on relations with public and religious organizations, Viktor Zorkaltsev, who would be able to elucidate many nuances. Against the general background of criticism of the law, the speech of attorney Vladimir Riakovsky represented an exception who, in contrast to many, did not address a word of criticism against RPTs but adduced concrete examples of ignorance and illegal actions by Russian civil officials with regard to representatives of several Russian confessions. (tr by PDS)
RESTRICTIONS ON RELIGION GET UNEVEN ENFORCEMENT
by Beverly Nickles in Moscow
Christianity Today, April 6, 1998 Vol. 42, No. 4, Page 20
Recent legislation that limited religious practice in Russia may not be fully enforced because of unresolved constitutional issues. But some local Russian leaders, citing provisions in the new measure, have sought to inhibit minority religious groups.
Official guidelines sent throughout Russia recommend a soft approach in dealing with religious organizations. Some of the clauses of the official advisory stand in sharp contrast to the controversial law passed last fall (CT, Nov. 17, 1997, p. 66).
In the meantime, however, the new law provides a ready means for discrimination against minority religious groups, including most Christian groups that are not Russian Orthodox. According to World Churches Handbook, there are about 23 million Russian Orthodox believers among Russia's 147 million people. However, research by Anatoly Rudenko, head of the Russian Bible Society, projects that at best there are 3.3 million practicing Christians, including Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants.
CONSTITUTIONAL CONFLICT: The temporary guidelines openly state that the new law contradicts the Russian Constitution by taking away citizens' rights. The new law requires annual re-enrollment of already registered religious entities that have existed in Russia fewer than 15 years. Specifying a time frame violates the federal constitution, which bans retroactive legislation. During the 15-year period, new religious groups operate with limited rights. The temporary guidelines suggest that for reregistration a religious group need only inform local authorities of its intent to continue. But they fail to protect underground churches, most of which have existed for more than 15 years but were never registered during the repressive Soviet era.
It is unclear if the final guidelines on the religion law will reflect the perspective of the temporary guidelines. So far, officials call the temporary guidelines an "internal document" without legal standing.
Also, the law does not provide for legal re-establishment of congregations disbanded by the Soviets following the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.
RESTRICTIONS IMPLEMENTED: Some Russian officials have taken advantage of the ambiguity, demanding that certain religious groups be shut down.
For example, in Jaroslavl, about 150 miles northeast of Moscow, local authorities have repeatedly threatened to close the Christian Center of the New Generation, a Pentecostal group, even though it conducts its activities in accordance with the new law. Church leaders have been told that, until reregistration, they must cease publishing their newspaper and producing audiotapes. They cannot purchase or distribute religious literature, and they cannot send missionaries.
Established by ten people in 1991, New Generation today has 1,500 members and eight congregations.
In addition to threats, some municipal officials are finding other ways to put pressure on non-Russian Orthodox churches.
In the city of Klin, about 40 miles north of Moscow, evangelical Baptist church pastor Anatoly Sokolov says the government increased his church's annual tax bill threefold. Failure to pay taxes could result in confiscation of church property. According to Sokolov, Orthodox churches are required to pay only 40 percent of their assessed taxes.
Another common method of hindering ministries is to raise the rent beyond a church's ability to pay. Most non-Orthodox congregations meet in rented facilities because construction costs are prohibitive or they have been denied permission to build. Other tactics include charging exorbitant permit fees and demanding bribes.
In the past, Moscow itself has been fairly immune from abuses of religious freedom. But current events in the capital point to increased hardship.
Local policy toward religion became clearer after Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov in recent months issued a series of decrees. A strong contender for the next presidential election, Luzhkov openly supports a more powerful role for the Moscow patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Luzhkov created a hierarchy of religious confessions. Russian Orthodoxy, Muslims, and Jews are considered "highly esteemed." Representatives from these groups make up an official council to decide all religious issues, placing minority groups at a distinct disadvantage. Luzhkov also gave the Moscow patriarchate preferential treatment by exempting it from paying taxes on any of its buildings and lands.
NEW WARNINGS: Western leaders and Russian activists have not abandoned efforts to ensure full religious freedom in Russia.
In January, a delegation of religious-freedom advocates arrived in Moscow for face-to-face meetings with Russian officials. According to U.S. Rep. Chris H. Smith (R-N.J.), the delegation made it clear that abuses of religious rights would damage financial and diplomatic relations between Russia and the West.
Soon after, a group of high-ranking Russian officials attended a Heritage Foundation event in Washington, D.C., where they repeated reassurances that they intended to use the regulatory process to avoid implementing unconstitutional provisions in the law.
But Anatoly Pchelintsev, director of the Institute of Religion and Law in Moscow, accuses Russian officials of "saying one thing in America and another in Russia." On Voice of America, Pchelintsev said, "I believe that if we don't defend freedom of religion now in Russia we will not have a democracy." Pchelintsev warned that once the regulations are implemented, there will be "massive violations of human rights and freedom of religion."
There are more than 80 U.S.-based Protestant mission agencies operating in the Russian federation, with more than 1,100 personnel serving in the country.
Copyright(c) 1998 by the author or Christianity Today, Inc./Christianity Today magazine.
RELIGION IN RUSSIA
The following information is posted on the web page of the Russian embassy in Washington.
With nearly 5,000 religious associations the Russian Orthodox Church accounts for over a half of the total number registered in Russia. Next in numbers come Moslem associations, about 3,000, Baptists, 450, Seventh Day Adventists, 120, Evangelists, 120, Old Believers, over 200, Roman Catholics, 200, Krishnaites, 68, Buddhists, 80, Judaists, 50, and Unified Evangelist Lutherans, 39.
Many churches and monasteries have been returned to the Church, including the St. Daniel Monastery, the current seat of the Moscow Patriarchate, the spiritual and administrative center of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Some statisticians estimate the percentage of believers at 40 per cent of the entire Russian Federation. Close to 9,000 communities belonging to over forty confessions had been officially registered in the country.
The majority of religious Russians are Christians. The country has over 5,000 Russian Orthodox churches. Many are built anew or under repair on parish and local budgets money.
Among the several more ambitious projects is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, erected in Red Square to commemorate the liberation of Moscow by Minin and Pozharsky's militia, pulled down in 1936, and recently rebuilt from scratch. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, demolished in 1931, is restored. Patriarch Aiexis II described its rebirth as "a sublime act of piety and penitence."
Russia had 150 Roman Catholic parishes, two theological seminaries and an academy before the revolution of 1917. All were suppressed in the Soviet years, and the believers -- ethnic Lithuanians, Poles and Gennans -- were banished and seattered about Siberia and Central Asia. 83 communities have reappeared by now, and 123 bishops ordained to be administratively subordinate to the Papal See. The theological seminary, Mary Oueen of the Apostles, opened in Moscow.
The two million Protestants have 1,150 communities.
The nineteen million Muslims, the second largest religious community in Russia, have over 800 parishes and mosques, mostly in Bashkortostan, Daghestan, Kabarda-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Tatarstan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya. The Muslim Board for Central European region has been re-established. The Moscow Muftiyat, an independent ecclesiastical body, is responsible for the Moscow, Vladimir, Ivanovo, Kostroma, Tula, Tver, Nizhny Novgorod, Kaluga, Yaroslavl and Kaliningrad regions, and Sochi, the renowned seaside resort in the Krasnodar Territory.
Buddhism is widespread in Buryatia, Kalmykia, Tuva, and the Irkutsk and Chits regions. The Russian Federation currently has ten datsan monasteries, with the total monastic body approaching 200. Another ten monasteries are under construction.
The Russian Federation has 42 Jewish communities. Moscow accounts for over 10 per cent of Russian Jews, and has three synagogues, one of which is Hasidic.
MOSCOW, 27 April (Radiotserkov).
Based on the magazine Watchtower one can conclude that the total number of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia and Ukraine is approaching a half million. Each year their numbers are growing at a rate of 28 and 20 percent, respectively. In 1997, the total number of people at the Evening of Remembrance was 324,710.
According to information of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, its members in Russia number 5,000, united in seven missions. (Liliia Solomonova, Moscow).
THIRD CONGRESS OF UNION OF CHRISTIANS OF EVANGELICAL FAITH OF RUSSIA
by Lilia Solomonova, Radiotserkov
MOSCOW. 7 March. From 3 to 5 March the third regular congress of the Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith Pentecostals (KhVE) of Russia was held in Moscow. The motto of the congress was "Strive to preserve unity of the spirit in the bond of peace." The congress was attended by heads of all protestant denominations, public and political leaders of Russia, the assistant chief of staff of the presidency of the Russian federation, Loginov, members of the government, and others.
The basic issue at the congress was the inclusion of charismatic and other churches under the juridical "roof" of the Union of KhVE of Russia. This matter ignited serious disagreements among participants of the congress and only through the wise leadership of Vladimir Moiseevich Murza (who was reelected bishop of the Union of KhVE RF) was the blaze of conflict extinguished.
The post of assistant to the bishop of the union was filled by the pastor of the "Christian Church" of the city of Rostov-on-Don, Pavel Okara, who, in the opinion of the members of the presidium of the union, will be able to create the necessary balance between the Pentecostal and charismatic movements in Russia. The talented and young (41 yrs) Okara represents the radical wing of the Russian Pentecostals and has proven himself in the creation of a large church (more than 600 members) in Rostov and of a Christian store. He is a good family man, with five children. At the present time Okara is moving to Moscow where he will become pastor of the Rodnik church and is being groomed for the post of chief bishop of the union of KhVE of Russia.
Data from the presidency of the Russian federation shows that the number of Russian citizens who are of the Pentecostal-charismatic confession of faith as of January 1998 is 730,000. (tr. by PDS)
SEVENTH ANNUAL JESUS MARCH
by Lilia Solomova, Radiotserkov
MOSCOW, 27 May. On 30 May the seventh annual Jesus March will be held in Moscow. This year the Jesus March is being conducted under the motto "Prayer for the Persecuted Church." Its route will go along the central streets of Moscow and will begin on Arbat Square at the monument to N.V. Gogol from where the columns will pass along Znamenka and Bolshaia Yakimanka streets and come out at the main entrance of Gorky Park. There a street meeting will be held with a musical presentation with choirs and music groups from Moscow and the suburbs. Among them will be the churches "Dew," "Word of Life," the Church of God, and others. At the meeting the pastors from these churches will speak along with representatives of the Russian Orthodox (Moscow patriarchate), Lutheran, and Baptist churches and representatives of the international organizations Jews for Jesus and Salvation Army. As the organizer of the march, assistant pastor of the Dew church, Sergei Koleshnia, told the Radiotserkov reporter, last year in 1997 around 7,000 persons participated in the Jesus March. "This year we have received notices about participation from churches and religious organizations which previously had not attended the march. So we hope that this year there will be around 10,000 participants," he added. The Jesus March will also be held in Vladimir and Smolensk. (tr. by PDS)
TWO BISHOPS ARE GOOD BUT FOUR ARE BETTER
Nezavisimaia gazeta--religiia, 15 April 1998
The official newspaper of the Vatican, Osservatore Romano, reported on 23 March that the Roman pope had named two new bishops in Russia. Such a decisive fortifying of the structure of the Catholic church in Russia may be called without exaggeration one of the biggest events of religious life of the year. However even a month later the report has remained without comment in Russia.
A brief informational memo from the Vatican embassy in Russia noted that the "main motive for these nominations was profoundly pastoral . . . as the Holy See wishes thereby to help the two apostolic administrators in the spiritual nurturing of individual and continuously developing congregations." Archbishop Tadeus Kondrusevich, the head of the apostolic administration of the European portion of Russia, explained that he is the only Catholic bishop in a territory of 4.5 million square kilometers. Catholic parishes are scattered throughout practically the whole of this territory and the bishop is physically incapable of visiting his flock often. The problem is that the number of Catholic parishes is small and visiting them during the week is senseless, so all visits must be on Saturday and Sunday. Archbishop Kondrusevich thinks that this is a substantial impediment to serious pastoral work.
This is the first time since the opening of the apostolic administrations in 1991 that the Vatican has decided to strengthen substantially its presence in Russia. At the time the Vatican's decision evoked a negative response from the Russian Orthodox church. The new appointments, in all likelihood, passed through certain agreements. We have learned that Patriarch Alexis II was personally informed about the intended appointments. Besides this, the Russian Orthodox church was notified by an official letter from the papal council on Christian unity. Archbishop Kondrusevich called the Orthodox reaction "normal," although he noted that the nuncio had been engaged in contacts with the Russian Orthodox church. The Moscow patriarchate refused to comment on the position of the Russian Orthodox church.
As is known, the Catholic structures that exist in Russia are not permanent. The Catholics themselves call them "transitional," since the basic form of church adminsitration is the diocese, while in Russia only apostolic administrations are operating. In the official version, the transformation of administrations into dioceses is being held up by the impossibility of creating effective administrative structures. But the main reason, apparently, is the sharply negative attitude toward this on the part of the Russian Orthodox church. The creation of Catholic dioceses within Russia is viewed as proselytism, which is condemned by both Catholics and Orthodox. The appointment of titular bishops is a skillful diplomatic move which will permit killing two birds with one stone: continuing the development of church structures and not damaging relations with the Russian Orthodox church. The consecration of the new Catholic bishops in Russia is scheduled for the end of May or beginning of June. In all likelihood, it will occur in the cities of Marx and Novosibirsk. Catholics do not rule out the possibility that representatives of the Russian Orthodox church will be invited to the ceremonies. Despite the tense official relations, contacts on a personal level remain cordial. (tr. by PDS)
NEW CHURCH IN SIBERIA
by Yuri Kolesnkikov, Radiotserkov
NOVOSIBIRSK, 13 May. At the end of May the Novosibirsk Christian Presbyterian church plans to conduct a celebration opening its recently erected building for services. The grand construction with a four-story building in Gothic style is a real architectural decoration for Novosibirsk. The hall for conducting meetings of believers accommodates up to 200 persons. Besides this, there are facilities for a Sunday school, guest rooms, and storage space for equipment.
Six years ago a Korean missionry U Donsu appeared in the capital of Siberia. The first small meetings were held in rented clubs and even in the apartment of the missionary himself. At the present the church has about 50 people, but, as Pastor U said in an interview with a reporter from Radiotserkov, it is counting on an increase in the number of parishioners. Before U Donsu's arrival in Novosibirsk, he ministered on Sakhalin, in the city of Yuzhno-Sakalinsk. The history of the existence of a Presbyterian church on this island, according to the pastor, goes back to 1928. (tr. by PDS)
PENTECOSTAL MERGER PROPOSED
by Lilia Solomonova, Radiotserkov
MOSCOW, 16 March. According to the press service of the United Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (OSKhVE), its president, Sergei Riakhovsky, addressed the conference of KhVE of Russia (president Vladimir M. Murza), held in Moscow on 3-5 March. He greeted its participants and proposed the creation of a single confederation of the two Pentecostal unions. According to assistant to the OSKhVE president, Mikhail Odintsov, "this proposal by Riakhovsky does not mean that OSKhVE wants to join the KhVE union."
According to information from the ministry of justice of Russia, these two Pentecostal unions will be registered within the next ten days as two autonomous organizations.
According to information of the United Union of KhVE, its members include the following Christian organizations: Russian Union "Church of God," Charismatic Association of Russia, Association of Churches "Word of Life," the Russian department of "Golgotha," and other churches of charismatic, Presbyterian, and Methodist denominations as well as "Calvary Chapel." Steve Riuter, president of the Association of Independent Churches of Russia, which comprises around 800 churches, applied for membership in the Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith of Russia (V.M. Murza), which now is being reviewed by the presidium of the Union of KhVE. (tr. by PDS)
NEWLY FORMED PENTECOSTAL ASSOCIATION MEETS
by Lilia Solomonva, Radiotserkov
MOSCOW, 27 May. On 27 May the first organizing conference of the Russian United Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith, Sergei Riakhovsky, president, began its work at the movie house concert hall at the Ismailovo complex. Conference organizer Mikhail Odintsov told the Radiotserkov reporter that 2,000 participants participants are expected, including pastors and leaders of churches which are joining the union. Today they number about a thousand. Conference participants plan to discuss projects for the next four years as well as strategy for joint activity of the churches of the union in the field of God. At the meetings, which will be held three times daily, Pastor Sergei Riakhovsky and other pastors of churches and leaders of Christian organizations constituting the union will deliver sermons and teachings. (tr. by PDS)
by Lilia Solomonova, Radiotserkov
MOSCOW, 16 March 1998. The thirtieth congress of the Union of Evangelical Christians Baptists (SEKhB) of the Russian Federation will be held in Moscow from 17 to 20 February (sic) 1998. SeKhB is an affiliation of 1200 churches comprising around 100,000 members, baptized upon profession of faith, which has existed in Russia more than 130 years. More than 400 delegations of all districts and regions of Russia will participate in the work of the congress. The congress will consider the following questions, among others, which confront Russian Evangelical Christians-Baptists:
1. Relationship of SEKhB to the federal law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations;"
2. Relationship of SEKhB to foreign Christian churches and missions active within Russia;
3. Determination of the strategy of development of SEKhB in Russia;
4. Election of new leadership of SEKhB of RF.
The congress will send messages to President B.N. Yeltsin, the government, and the State Duma. About 100 guests from Germany, Hungary, Romania, USA, Brazil, and countries of FSU are expected at the congress. Among them will be representatives of the World Baptist Alliance, Denton Lotz, general secretary, and Nilson Fanini, president.
The WBA is an association of 187 national Baptist unions and conventions representing a community of approximately 100 million members from more than 200 countries. WBA is registered with the UN as a nongovenmental organization in the role of observer and consultant. Also present at the congress will be Karl Haints Walter, general secretary of the European Baptist Federaion, and Jerry Rankin, president of the department of foreign missions of the Southern Baptists Convention (USA). (tr. by PDS)
by Lilia Solomonva, Radiotserkov
MOSCOW, 27 May. In 1991 the international organization of the Salvation Army revived its activity in Russia. The first soldiers of the Salvation Army appeared in our country before the October revolution, in 1913, and continued their work until 1923.
The Salvation Army is best known not only for preaching Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, but also for supporting people in their needs. In particular they help the unfortunate, feed the homeless, and give them necessary medical aid. At present this organization has created affiliates in 22 cities of Russia, Georgia, Ukraine, and Crimea, including Moscow, Petersburg, Rostov on Don, Tbilisi, Kiev, Donetsk, Yalta, and others. In St. Petersburg the Salvation Army opened its rehabilitation center for drug addicts and alcoholics.
In an interview with Radiotserkov reporter, the leader of the Salvation Army in Russia, Lieutenant Kenneth Bailey, declared that plans for the near future for the organization include extending activity to the north of Russia, in particular into the cities of Vyborg and Murmansk, as well as opening a representation in Kaliningrad. "In Moscow we already have six local churches and we hope that their number grows along the the growth of the number of Russians who believer in our Lord Jesus Christ," Kenneth added. (tr. by PDS)
PAT ROBERTSON'S CBN SIGNS AGREEMENT
ITAR-TASS/ Pravoslavie v Rossii
New York, 27 March. An agreement for broadcast into Russia, in Russian, of the weekly broadcasts of news about religious life in the world was concluded by the Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) and the company "International Russian Radio and TV." The CBN statement declares that the informational program "World Christian News" was shown in translation in countries of the former Soviet Union for the first time at the end of 1997, relayed for its viewers over 270 television channels. Now the weekly broadcast of news will be transmitted not in translation but with the use of announcers and reporters speaking Russian.
The program World Christian News was established in 1994. It includes reporting exclusively on the subject of religious life throughout the world, especially in such regions as eastern Europe, central Africa, Latin America, and the New East. This informational program is an off-shoot of the CBN company, which was founded in 1960 by teleevangelist Pat Robertson. (tr. by PDS)
FEDERAL AGENCIES SHARE INFORMATION ON COOPERATION WITH RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
ITAR-TASS/ Pravoslavie v Rossii
MOSCOW 27 March. Initial experience of the implementation of the provision of the new law on freedom of conscience that pertains to state support of the charitable activity of religious organizations was shared by representatives of federal agencies at a session of the Commission on Matters of Religious Associations under the government of RF.
"This question is new for the government," noted the leader of the session, vice president of the commission Andrei Sebentsov, "but it is a direct result of the enactment of the law on freedom of conscience that genuine joint activity of federal agencies with religious organizations in the business of aid to the socially unfortunate categories of the population has become possible." What's new in the problem is that hitherto religious organizations went to state agencies with suggestions for cooperation. The new law paints the problem differently--the initiative should come from state agencies themselves.
In particular, the Ministry of Health of RF has had productive experience from the signing of a cooperation agreement with the Moscow patriarchate in 1996. Help for those suffering from drug addiction and alcoholism is most critical. Thus, the approach of the Orthodox church of the Inexhaustible Cup in Serpukhov is widely known, where the clergy has worked intensively with psychiatrists and drug specialists to help those who have fallen into alcohol dependency. One of the delightful incidents, in the health ministry's opinion, is the opening of a chapel and the cooperation of the church with physicians in the Alexeev Psychiatric Hospital of Moscow.
As a representative of the Ministry of Health noted, there also is information of a negative type: in Samara region, for example, it has been necessary to suppress attempts of several religious sects, whose activity is harmful to health, to gain entrance to hospitals. In particular, after visits by such "spiritual healers," numerous cases of depression, and even suicide, have been reported.
Representatives of the ministry of labor, health, federal migration services, and state committee of youth noted in the first place the joint activity with the Russian Orthodox church, which submitted itself to state agencies a suggestion about cooperation. Although, as state officials noted, the ministries are open to joint work with all confessions. (tr. by PDS)
YELTSIN MEETS PATRIARCH ALEXIY ON HOLIDAY EVE
MOSCOW -- (Reuters) President Boris Yeltsin on Friday paid a rare courtesy call on Patriarch Alexiy II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, and said he found such meetings useful.
Yeltsin took time out from making final appointments to Russia's new government and from honoring the country's war dead on the eve of Saturday's Victory Day, which commemorates the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.
"I greet you as the Supreme Commander (of Russia's armed forces)," the robed, bearded patriarch told Yeltsin, who earlier had laid a wreath at Moscow's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
"And I greet you as the Supreme Commander of religious forces," Yeltsin joked in reply. Yeltsin told reporters before the meeting he met the patriarch regularly to discuss secular and religious issues. "Such meetings are very useful," he said.
Though he has never professed any personal religious belief, Yeltsin -- a former Communist official -- has courted the church assiduously in recent years, seeing it as a powerful symbol of Russian identity and continuity at a time of wrenching change.
Last year Yeltsin gave in to pressure from the Orthodox Church and signed a controversial law on religion, which opponents worldwide, including the president of the United States, say discriminates against other religious groups.
The patriarch's presence is sought at the planned burial of the remains of Russia's last Czar Nicholas II and his family executed by revolutionary Bolsheviks in 1918.
The Kremlin wants the burial, due to take place on July 17 in St. Petersburg, to be a symbolic gesture of repentance, hoping it will bring peace and stability to the society.
Although the two men did not talk about the issue this time, Yeltsin may try to convince the church head to take part in the funeral.
A special government commission ruled earlier this year after seven years of research that the bones found near the city of Yekaterinburg where the family had been killed belonged to Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, their children and servants.
But the church says it still has doubts about the authenticity of the bones. It has yet to decide on its participation at the ceremony.
Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov's adviser, who headed the commission, said the patriarch was unlikely to take part in the burial, which meant Yeltsin would not attend either.
"If the patriarch is not going there, there is no reason why the president should," Victor Aksyuchits told Ekho Moskvy radio. "However, the decision is not final and the patriarch still may participate."
On July 16 the bones will be transported to St. Petersburg by plane after a ceremony in Yekaterinburg.
The following day the bones will be buried after a service in the presence of relatives and official delegates, Aksyuchits said, adding that "nothing but a flood" could stop the ceremony from taking place.
During Friday's meeting Yeltsin presented the patriarch with a china replica of the Christ the Savior Cathedral as a gift.
The cathedral, a huge edifice rebuilt over the past few years after being demolished in Soviet times and used as a swimming pool, is the most visible evidence of the Orthodox Church's reviving fortunes.
The patriarch gave Yeltsin a 15-centimeter (six-inch) high golden egg.
ALTERNATIVE TO MILITARY SERVICE: JAIL
As long as there is no appropriate law, the whole country helps objectors
by Oleg Odnokolenko
Segodnia, 28 May 1998
The long delayed law "On alternative civilian service," which was adopted on first reading back in 1994, recently was consigned to the duma committee on defense (until recently a second, parallel version of the law was being prepared by the Committee on Affairs of Public Associations). True, a lot of time already has been lost in duma debates. So there is little hope that the parliament deputies will manage to review the law before vacation.
Meanwhile the need for adoption of the law was again confirmed by the spring recess. A few days ago the Antimilitarist Radical Association (ARA) again expressed its position. The members of its general council consider that alternative service must have a purely civilian character and not exceed the term of military service by more than fifty percent, while the right to "alternative assignment" should be granted on the basis of a draftee's application.
The strongest argument of the antimilitarists is article 59, part 3, of the constitution of RF, which even in the absence of a law provides a bases for any conscript to demand alternative work in place of military service. How this can be done, how a rock-hard military person can be persuaded that one's religious beliefs or convictions (most military committees do not perceive the difference between these two words) forbid bearing arms the attorneys in the staff headquarters of ARA are explaining to the draftee in extremely qualified terms.
This is the formal, but not very easy, way of avoiding the burdens of unnecessary military service. It requires special courage, definite personal wit, and good lawyers in order to resist the state machine as represented by the military committees. Out in the countryside where traditional attitudes are strong on this matter (courts do not take "conscientious objectors" seriously out there) the chances of winning such a court case are almost nil. Duma deputy Valery Borshchev, the president of ARA, is barely managing to win over draft-age Russians to his campaign of civil disobedience.
Draftees prefer less politicized means to avoid being soldiers or sailors. Whoever is a bit richer can buy his way out (isn't this why working for the military committees is so popular with officers?). Whoever is a bit simpler or poorer is driven into hiding. There are even more refined means. For example, renouncing Russian citizenship for the critical period (until about age 28). There are a couple dozen ways of more or less "honest" conscientious objection. Such instructions now may even be read on the Internet.
The Ministry of Defense and other power agencies are not about to do anything for objectors "as a class" because no agency is in a position to change public attitudes about a "constitutional duty." The army itself recently has become a less attractive institution: there are no guarantees that the army will not be thrown into the next "hot spot," the army is as poor as an ex-convict, and personal rules and habits rule military collectives in defiance of the codes. Draft evaders already number in the tens of thousands.
Great hopes are placed in the professional army which was supposed to be in place by 1 January 2000, according to presidential decree number 722 of 16 May 1996 (which hardly anyone noted). The achievement of this idea would make a law "On alternative civilian service" irrelevant. But everyone knows that preelection decrees become unimportant after elections. The appearance of a professional army has been postponed almost officially to 2005; professional soldiers simply are not paid. As General Vladislav Putilin states, the maintenance of a professional soldier is four times as expensive as a conscript. Even now, in a period of military reform, the budget line for "financial allowance" is funded at only 40%. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, apparently in order to avoid social catastrophe in the army, has authorized supervisors to take funds out of other expense lines.
The commanders await the appearance of a law "On alternative civilian service" with trepidation. Whatever, it will provide additional possibilities for not serving in the kind of army we now have. Even now, without the law, symptoms of massive "religiosity" are emerging among draft-age youth, in which those beliefs that forbid bearing arms predominate. Will the Ministry of Defense take each case to court? It lacks the energy and means, in the absence of firm criteria, for determining the sincerity of "religious nonviolence." In 1997 around 700 men were assigned to alternative service. Only a couple dozen showed up.
So only ex-convicts do not need to hope for either the appearance of an army with a human face or the approval of a humane law. In the past up to six percent of draftees had records. Now since last year the Ministry of Defense and other power ministries have rejected them, and its hard to imagine that these guys were upset about it. (tr. by PDS)
(1) RUSSIAN DUMA SEEKING INCREASED REGULATION OF TV NETWORKS:
The State Duma on March 18th, 1998, passed a resolution calling on the government to strengthen its monitoring of television networks, ITAR-TASS reported. The resolution charges that "certain networks, above all [the private network] NTV, harm public morality by airing material of a cynical, obscene and offensive nature." It asks the government to establish television broadcasting standards based on "traditional norms of morality, culture, and language" and to make broadcast licenses conditional on adherence to those standards. In addition, three Duma committees have been asked to draft amendments to the 1991 law on mass media that would make it possible to cancel a network's broadcasting license for airing materials considered immoral. The Duma has passed a series of resolutions calling for increased regulation of, and possible legal action against, networks.
(2) YELTSIN WANTS FREE MEDIA TO SUPPORT STATE POLICIES & TELL THE GOOD NEWS...
Yeltsin on 28 May told the top executives of Russia's three major television networks that the state has no plans to restrict media freedom but added that "we have the right to ask you to promote state policy," Russian news agencies reported. Yeltsin arranged the meeting with Kseniya Ponomareva, director-general of 51 percent state-owned Russian Public Television, Mikhail Shvydkoi, chairman of fully state-owned Russian Television, and Oleg Dobrodeev, director-general of the private network NTV after presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembskii accused unnamed Russian media of going "beyond reasonable limits" in their coverage of recent protests by coal miners (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26 May 1998). ITAR-TASS quoted Shvydkoi as saying the president wants media coverage to help "common sense and national interests triumph."
In a nationwide radio address on 29 May, Yeltsin argued that it is important for the media "not to forget to tell their readers, listeners, and viewers" good news about what is going on in Russia. He acknowledged that it is "not possible to keep quiet" about bad news but said journalists often concentrate too much on violence, crime, and catastrophes. He added that "the principle of freedom of the press does not mean premissiveness and open cynicism and does not mean irresponsibility and forgetting about professional ethics." LB
MOSCOW COURT DEFIES HIGHER COURT RULING ON RESIDENCE PERMITS.
A Moscow municipal court has ruled against a citizen who appealed against the city authorities' refusal to register him as a long-term resident of the capital, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 27 May. Andrei Inozemtsev, a native of Lipetsk Oblast, sought a five-year registration but was told that residence permits can be issued only for up to six months. The Constitutional Court has ruled that city authorities do not have the right to refuse to register Russian citizens as local residents, and Inozemtsev cited that ruling in his court appeal. The Moscow court upheld the city's registration rules, although the authorities did not send a representative to the hearings. Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov has vowed to retain the "propiska" system of residency permits, despite the conclusions of the Constitutional Court (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 13 March 1998). LB
APPEAL OF FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE LAW MOVES FORWARD
On 5 November a plenary session of the Constitutional Court (KS) of Russia was held to review the appeal prepared by the Slavic Legal Centre regarding the unconstitutionality of the provision of article 27, part 3, of the Federal Law on "Freedom Of Conscience and Religious Associations." It was decided to take the case for review by the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. This probably wont happen until later in 1999.
Russia's Justice Minister, Pavel Krasheninnikov, said in August that about 600 religious organisations had been re-registered with federal authorities.
The Russian Orthodox Church was awarded Certification Number 1 for governmental re-registration.
The Congress of Jewish Religious Organisations and Associations, underwent re-registration.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church successfully re-registered. Their registration number is number two.
PROCURATOR OF DAGESTAN OPPOSES LAW ON RELIGION
The procurator of the republic of Dagestan issued a protest against the law "On Freedom of Conscience, Freedom of Religious Confession, and Religious Organisations of RD," which he states contradicts federal legislation. Although the creators of the law insisted on its legitimacy, the procurator of Dagestan does not agree with this and reserves the right to take the case to court.
The Moscow Helsinki Group, together with two other human rights groups, released a report on 19 November asserting that numerous violations of freedom of conscience have occurred since the enactment of the controversial 1997 law regulating religious organisations, the "Moscow Times" reported on 25 November. According to the report, religious groups experience the most interference at the local level, "where legislatures have adopted restrictive measures that go even further than the federal law," the newspaper reported. The report concluded that the "legislative and administrative conditions" for "large-scale persecution of religious dissidents or of forced conversion of the population into Orthodoxy" have been created.
Keston News Service reports that local authorities in the city of Osa, Perm Oblast, are pressuring a Pentecostal congregation to formally register as a religious organisation, even though the congregation considers itself a "religious group" and refuses to seek formal registration as a matter of religious principle.
Orel Oblast Governor Yegor Stroev reversed his decision to return a church building to a revived local Catholic parish, Keston News Service reported on 20 November.
The UK-based Keston News Service on 16 September reported that two uniformed Cossacks in Anapa Krai broke up a group of Adventists who had been giving away Bibles in a public park. They confiscated 60 Bibles and detained the leader, reportedly giving him 20 lashes with an iron-tipped whip. Sergei Serebrov, a local Cossack commander, told Keston that if the Protestants continue to engage in public proselytism, then the Cossacks will whip them.
The Cossacks' manifesto against 'sectarians' warns that 'pseudo-religious preachers' are trying to persuade residents and vacationers in the resort to follow 'false doctrines', proclaims that the Cossacks 'are beginning a decisive struggle against these newly arrived preachers of schism and sectarianism, up to and including their forced expulsion from the krai'. Sergei Serebrov, a Cossack commander, told Keston that if Protestants engaged in public 'proselytism,' then the Cossacks would whip them. He said that by 'pseudo-religious' preachers they meant 'all who are against the Orthodox'.
Keston then contacted the local Cossacks' 'dukhovnik', Fr Aleksandr. The priest, who refused to give his last name, said that Russia's 1997 law on religion did not go far enough to protect the country because it still 'allows sectarians to exist'. The Adventists have filed charges with the city police - who are generally considered to have bad relations with the Cossacks - demanding the return of their stolen Bibles.
Meanwhile, in Moscow an Orthodox cleric [Fr Martiri Bagin, parish priest of All Saints' Church in Moscow's city centre] has been suspended and asked to disrobe, allegedly for his charitable work with Jews and his opposition to last year's law on religion. Fr Martiri had been running a medical centre at his church that dispenses free care to local Jewish families, as well as to Orthodox parishioners. His parish refused a recent request from the Patriarchate for a formal letter supporting last year's law on religion.
Two Mormons (one from Finland and one from USA) were arrested for trespassing on the territory of a military unit in Krasnoyarsk territory. They were caught crawling through the barrier. Both introduced themselves as Mormon missionaries and declared that they had come there for religious conversations with soldiers. After investigation, there was no evidence that they were engaged in spying and then men were released; however newspaper articles continued to voice suspicions that these missionaries, as well as other "foreign citizens who pass themselves off as religious preachers" are not only evangelising the soldiers but also spying.
In an unrelated incident, a Mormon missionary was stabbed to death when he and a fellow missionary were attacked by a group of men in the Russian city of Ufa [750 miles south-east of Moscow.] A suspect was later arrested who was drunk at the time of the stabbing. Investigators believe the incident was an indiscriminate attack and was not directed toward the Mormon church.
The case to ban the Jehovah's Witnesses, described by their opponents as a "totalitarian sect", was launched by an anti-cult group, the "Committee to Protect Youth from Pseudo-religions."
Most of the committee's members are parents of sect members. The group is known to have close ties to the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox church, as do many of the prosecution witnesses.
Over the past two years, four attempts to bring criminal charges against Jehovah's Witnesses failed for lack of evidence. But last year, when the new legislation on religion came into force, the prosecutor of Moscow's northern district filed a "presentation" to the Golovinsky court asking for the group to be banned.
Referring to Article 14 of the new religion law, the prosecution claims that Jehovah's Witnesses "instigate religious hatred" by insisting that they are the only true religion and by expressing contempt for other faiths; that they "force the break-up of families" by demanding that members make religious activity their priority; that they endanger people's lives by insisting that members refuse all blood transfusions; and that they denigrate human dignity by insisting on obedience.
The Jehovah's Witnesses fighting the case have argued that it lacks substance and that the attempt to ban them is based not on their misconduct, but on doctrinal literature and their articles of faith.
The suit is a civil one because Jehovah's Witnesses were exonerated from the same accusations under criminal law. The rules of evidence are more lenient in civil court than in criminal court.
This case is significant for all minority religions. This is the first time prosecutors have brought a case under the religion law. According to rumours circulating in Moscow rights advocates circles, this trial is the start of a new religious and political campaign and will be a precursor of a wider wave of religious oppression. Some say that after the Jehovahs Witnesses, the Church of Moon will be the next.
Moscow's Central Journalists' Institute described the case as "the most serious attack on the basic constitutional rights of Russian citizens since Russia changed over to democracy." The European Human Rights Commission and the United Nations have also shown concern. At a Moscow's Central Journalists' Institute Round Table conference on the issue the case was seen as an example of persecution for religious nonconformity, a precedent that could affect all faiths in Russia.
A councillor of the constitutional court of the Russian federation, Will Kikot, is convinced that if the court bans the activity of the Jehovah's Witnesses this will lead to a conflict with the European Court on Human Rights regarding the law "On Freedom of Conscience," which is the basis for the presentation.
Many of the prosecution's arguments reflect the accusations quoted in anti-cult literature published by the Orthodox and mainstream churches. Alexander Dvorkin is listed as a prosecution witness.
While the court rejected the application of the anti-cult "Committee for Rescue of Youth from Totalitarian Sects" to be added to the case, they are permitted to lead evidence as to their hostility to Jehovah's Witnesses. This Committee was registered in 1993. The main task of the organisation is indicated in its charter as follows: "To attain the eradication of the activity of pseudoreligious organisations for the purpose of protecting youth." Profession of Orthodoxy is an absolute condition for membership in the committee.
While the Orthodox Church is not officially commenting on the trial, some commentators say they are working behind the scenes. The Church is certainly candid in their public statements regarding the Jehovahs Witnesses. In one statement circulated by Interfax news agency, a Church official said "considers Jehovah's Witnesses a sect and does not welcome their activity on Russian territory.'' Keston News Service reported receiving a description of the Jehovahs Witnesses alleged beliefs and aims as outlined on paper headed 'Moscow Patriarchate, Holy Synod, Department of Catechesis and Religious Education'.
Meanwhile, Moscow's First Deputy mayor, V. Malyshkov, has sought to distance the City of Moscow administration from the prosecution. Speaking with the Britain corespondent for "Human Rights Without Frontiers," Mr Malyshkov said that the government of Moscow was not taking part in any court cases against any sects or religious organisations. However when challenged to say where the Moscow government stood on human rights for religious groups, stated frankly:
"We, in principle, are against any kind of sects, especially the sects that harm the people - the health of the people - like the White Brotherhood leader who has just come out of prison. There are a number of sects now in Russia."
The first hearing of the case was held on 29 September in Golovin district court of Moscow with Judge Elena Prokhorycheva presiding. The judge called an adjournment until November 17 to permit the Department of Justice of the City of Moscow to be added as a party to the case.
On November 17th the case went to court for two days, when Judge Prokhorycheva again adjourned the trial, this time until February 9th, stating that the prosecution needs more time to prepare and submit evidence to support its case.
Looking at the accusations being made at the Jehovahs Witnesses in this case, we can see how similar accusations could be made against other groups:
Prosecutors tried to establish that the Jehovah's Witnesses are intolerant because they claim theirs is the one true religion, and that they offend other confessions by calling all who do not profess their faith "goats." Members of the society are accused of "exacerbating interreligious conflict" by distributing the Watchtower and Awake magazines.
They also said the group destroys families because its practice of not celebrating national holidays creates rifts between family members, and the group's refusal of blood transfusions threatens lives. One of the basic arguments of the prosecutor against the Jehovah's Witnesses is the alleged illegal attraction of children into the activity of this organisation.
Defence lawyers have countered that Jehovah's Witnesses are not forced into the religion, and stressed that the case violates the Russian Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. Burns, from the Jehovahs Witnesses legal team, said the judge refused several defence motions, including one to call foreign witnesses to establish that Jehovah's Witnesses are not a cult.
Another accusation, "infringements of the rights and freedoms of citizens," was immediately thrown out by the judge in the November 17th hearing as baseless.
Meanwhile, Nikolai Gordienko, a doctor of philosophy and professor of the Herzen Russian State Pedagogical University, has studied the Jehovahs Witnesses literature and affirmed "that it contains no violation of nor appeals for violation of the laws of the state." However Mr. Gordienko was denied the right to testify for the defence.
Jehovah's Witnesses have about 10,000 members in Moscow, and across Russia more than 250,000 are associated with this religion. They have been active in Russia for more than 100 years.
The judicial persecution of the Jehovah's Witnesses began more than two years ago, when the Savelov district prosecutor instituted a case based on article 1431 of part 1 of the criminal code ("organisation of associations that infringe upon the individual and human rights"). The investigation was begun upon the request of the so-called "Committee for the Salvation of Youth." Three times it was dismissed for lack of evidence of a crime, but the decision was overruled by the Procuracy General and the procuracy of Moscow after complaints from members of the committee.
There are two legal cases involving the Unification Church (Moon) in St. Petersburg.
Following the demands of anti-cultists, the activities of CARP (a Unification Church affiliated youth organisation) had been investigated by the Justice Department at the end of 1995. Based on the results of the examination, the Justice Department warned CARP that it considered its liquidation possible because it supposedly conducts illegal activities.
Following Russian law, CARP considered the warning to be groundless and illegal and disputed it in court early in 1996. According to law, the Justice Department was supposed to produce evidence to serve as proof for its warning within 10 days, but the hearing did not take place until 15 October 1998.
During the hearing, the Justice Department neither produced any evidence nor was able to answer any of the questions about specifically what law was violated and how. Seeing that the allegations against the student organisations were not supported by anything, the judge did not make any resolution, but suggested that the Justice Department prepare better for the new hearing scheduled for 27 October 1998.
The second week of the court hearing was dedicated to interrogations of the anti-cult
activists, who are witnesses in the court case, and their children, who are members of
The judge either dismissed the questions of CARP's lawyers to the anti-cult activists or answered these questions herself. The judge refused to accept as evidence the results of the court-psychiatric expert examination of the CARP members. According to its results, the children of the witnesses were found to be totally sane.
At the same time the court accepted as evidence a letter of Father Oleg Stenyaev, a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church and the head of the Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of non-traditional Religions, and various other negative evaluations of the teachings of the Unification Church.
So after two weeks of court hearings, submission of evidence and interrogation of all the witnesses invited by the Prosecutor, reasons for the liquidation of CARP were not found. The Prosecutor received a time-out and an opportunity to reformulate the liquidation claim. CARP was obliged by the court to submit a new portion of documents, which are not required by any law. Among those are the registration documents of the Unification Church in Russia and the USA, the list of missionaries of the Unification Church in St. Petersburg, the list of members of St. Petersburg CARP throughout the history of its existence, including information about their addresses, jobs and occupations. Judging by this, the Prosecutor may continue looking for compromising material against CARP.
The same court will also hear the complaint of the Unification Church regarding the same Justice Department's refusal to register their religious community. This case has not been given a hearing for almost 3 years although it should have been within 10 days.
Continued problems surround the issue of visas. Although the Foreign Ministry has formally endorsed a reversal in the limitations regarding applications from missionaries to extend three-month visas, which were initiated this summer, that reversal has yet to be accepted by officials in other state agencies. In fact, although a representative of the Ministry of the Interior was present at the August session of an inter-agency commission which discussed the amendments, that Ministry has not distributed the document to its own sub-units.
It seems that foreigners requesting extensions of their three-month visas in accordance with the new document are still being met with refusals. Clergy presenting one-year, multiple-entry visas may find that officials are willing to register those visas for only three months, effectively negating the mild policy favoured by the Foreign Ministry.
Unlike Protestant clergy, the great majority of Roman Catholic priests now serving in Russia are foreign citizens. (Until the early 1990s the Russian Federation had no seminary to train native-born Russians for the Catholic priesthood.) If OVIR [the registration office] continues to resist the Foreign Ministrys position, many of these priests will face the prospect of having to leave Russia four times a year simply to comply with state regulations.
Following are the amendments, "Point 54 on Religious Affairs:"
(1) Foreigners present for religious activities with the goal of missionary work, or service in religious organisations: up to three months with subsequent registration of the visa by the organs of internal affairs for a period of work exceeding three months.
(2) Foreigners present for religious activities, for negotiations with religious organisations, with the goal of pilgrimages, and similar activities: (a) single-entry or double-entry up to three months. Registration by the organs of internal affairs and by hotels. (b) multiple-entry up to 12 months.'
The consecration of the building of the Evangelical Lutheran society in the settlement of Tuim, Khakassia, was held on 19 August. The Evangelical Lutheran Mission of Khakassia became known far beyond the borders of this republic thanks to the numerous attempts of the local authorities to close the mission. In particular, it was the first, precedent-setting attempt in Russia to use the new law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" for closing a religious organisation. At the present time, according to Fr Vsevolod Lytkin, the authorities have recognised the mission as a legitimate successor of Lutheran societies which had existed on the territory of Khakasia. Evidently two police patrol cars escorted the procession of consecration.
A new congregation of Christians of Evangelical Faith has appeared in Kemerovo. Last Sunday it conducted its first service in one of the city movie houses. These were the fruits of the first evangelisation which was conducted in the very centre of the city. The mayor's office permitted the church to preach and sing Christian hymns four days in a row in front of the regional drama theatre.
The Public Committee for the Defence of Freedom of Conscience, whose president is Gleb Yakunin, has appealed to Prime Minister Primakov requesting that religious organisations be deprived of tax privileges connected with business activity and that strict controls over the flow of financial means through the Moscow Patriarchate be set. The committee alleges that the Russian Orthodox church is participating in petroleum, alcohol, tobacco, and rental business.
BLOCKAGE OF HUMANITARIAN AID
Problems with Customs have worsened. Gifts from abroad are piling up in Moscow warehouses as charities struggle to get the necessary paperwork together. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many charities arrived but the bureaucracy defeated most and only a handful of international ones are still in Russia. The rest are putting their limited resources into more co-operative countries.
Seven out of 10 pregnancies in Russia end in abortion, while 70 percent of Russian women suffer from health problems after their abortions, according to Russian Health Ministry statistics, Interfax reported.
FSB SURVEILLANCE PLANS
"Vremya MN" reported on 15 September that the Federal Security Service (FSB) is discussing the installation of special equipment enabling FSB computers to "control" communications via the Internet. FSB officials figure that Internet providers themselves would absorb the cost of installing monitoring devices.
Earlier in 1998, Uzebekistan enacted one of the strictest laws in the region regarding unregistered religious activity. On November 18, 1998, three Jehovah's Witnesses of Tashkent prosecuted for holding a private religious meeting in their home were sentenced to a fine under this law. [Their nationalities were: two Uzbekis and one Ukrainian]
The decision of the judge of Mirzo Ulugbeksky rayon of the city of Tashkent of August 12, 1998, established that the three were guilty of holding a religious meeting in their home, with about 40 to 50 people present, at which spiritual-doctrines "were expounded in a private procedure without registration by the agencies of the state administration, without permission of the administration of religious affairs and without permission of local agencies."
" each found guilty according to Article 241 of the Code of the Republic Uzbekistan and subjected to punishment in the form of a fine of 5500 soms to be paid to state revenue."
The three defendants argued in a class action suit that they have the right to a private meeting and did not violate the law by discussing a few Bible questions. Their lawyer also indicated that the arrangement by the administrative authorities and enforcement of the fine [for this religious meeting] contradicted Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as of the Declaration to Eliminate All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination on the Basis of Religion or Persuasion, and that the court violated Article 315 paragraph 3 of the Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
The judge rejected these arguments:
"In harmony with established law (the constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which does not contradict international standards) each citizen of the Republic of Uzbekistan has the right to freedom and personal inviolability, the right to conscience, and the right to confession of faith. At the same time, citizens are obliged to observe the constitution and the laws, which state that all societal organisations, including religious, should be registered through a procedure established by law." (Translation of entire ruling is available.)
Belarussian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka told visiting Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksei II that Christian values should become "the state ideology of Belarus," ITAR- TASS reported on 24 September. "We are an Orthodox country and we will always be devoted to Orthodoxy," Lukashenka told the patriarch, who is on a four-day visit to Belarus.
According to a report from the Religious Information Agency, fifty people's deputies of Ukraine have sent an appeal to secretary of the National Security Council Vladimir Gorbulin to condemn the "intolerant attitude of several local representatives of authority" toward the "Word of Faith" church of the Full Gospel.
The State Committee on Religious Affairs of Ukraine noted that it does not have any claims with regard to this particular church of the charismatic movement. However various state institutions have received many complaints about its activity from ordinary citizens, representatives of the clergy of other confessions, as well as from the "Poriatunok" committee. [Editor: "Poriatunok" is an anti-cult committee whose name roughly translates as "Salvation."] In response to these, the leadership of the state religion committee regularly turns to Ukrainian scholars and religious studies specialists for consultation and analysis of the activity of the Word of Faith church.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Sodana and Kazakh Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev signed an agreement on 24 September regulating the legal status of the Roman Catholic Church in Kazakhstan, Reuters reported. The agreement, which grants the Church full religious freedom and access to the media, is the first of its kind signed between the Vatican and a former Soviet republic.
In a recent address to the Armenian nation, Bishop Pargev Martirossian condemns the missionary activities in Armenia and Nagorno- Karabakh of Jehovah's Witnesses, whom he terms "a totalitarian sect" that poses "a most horrible threat to our people, our state, [and] our faith," Noyan Tapan reported on 17 August. He said Jehovah's Witnesses' refusal to take up arms to defend their country "undermines the foundations of our state."
The bishop also expressed concern that those countries that refuse official registration to the Jehovah's Witnesses may be considered to have violated international commitments to freedom of conscience and may consequently be refused membership in the Council of Europe. Armenia currently has special guest status in that organisation.
According to an announcement dated March 20, 1998 the National Association of Jehovah's Witnesses of Bulgaria and the Republic of Bulgaria settled a case the Witnesses had started on September 21, 1995. The European Commission of Human Rights approved the settlement on March 9.
By this settlement the government of Bulgaria undertakes to grant to the Witnesses "the public status of a recognised religion". The settlement also includes provisions for substitute civil service available to Witnesses who are conscientious objectors, and for freedom to choose medical treatment.
By a ministerial decree dated October 6, 1998, the Bulgarian Government granted the Association of Jehovah's Witnesses in Bulgaria the official status of a religious association.
This decision is the outcome of a long legal process that stretched over three years. It follows the report of the European Commission on Human Rights, dated March 9, 1998, concerning the case of the Jehovah's Witnesses against Bulgaria. The amicable arrangement specifies provisions for the development of alternatives to military service as well as the individual's choice whether to accept blood transfusions.
After meeting with Pope John Paul II, [Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban] told journalists that the new Hungarian government wants to deepen co-operation between state and Church rather than separate them. He said some of the provisions of an agreement that the previous government and the Holy See signed are incompatible with Hungary's judicial system. In order to resolve the matter, Hungary and the Vatican will set up a joint committee, Orban said.
On March 25, 1997, the State Secretariat for Cults sent out a letter to public administrations around Romania listing "the religious cults which are recognised by the Romanian State." There were 15 religious groups listed, beginning with the Orthodox. This letter specified that only these recognised cults could receive permission for building places of worship, own property, or maintain a cemetery. The legal basis for this was decree 177 of 1948.
This letter has been vigorously debated as it was a de facto announcement of recognised and non-recognised religions. Its approval listing of recognised religions appears to relegate all others to a lower status.
A legislative proposal is reaching the stage of draft law to be voted on shortly by Parliament. Problems with the law according to some analysts: Most of the law focuses on what the 16 recognised religions can do. Rights for non-registered religious groups are not clear. There is a minimum time limit before recognition can be achieved and the applying group must have as a minimum as many members as the smallest cult already registered.