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Moscow Pentecostals win court case; continue protests


Two suits by the Moscow central "Emmanuel" church of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) against the prefecture of the Central Administrative District (TsAO) were reviewed on 14 November in the Tagan district court of Moscow, according the a report given by the press secretary of the church, Yury Popov, the a "" correspondent.

The occasion for the suit was the violation by officials of the TsAO prefecture of the existing procedure for issuing documents relative to the conduct of public events. Thus, because of the fault of prefecture employees, on 30 May and 1, 2, and 3 June, permitted demonstrations conducted by the church on Tver square across from Moscow city hall were broken up by police officers. Many picketers, including ministers of the church, were detained and subjected to administrative arrest along with numerous fines. Many placards were confiscated and destroyed. There was a deliberate attempt to sully the church's reputation along with the ministers in the eyes of the public and to exert physical, moral, and financial pressure.

The "Emmanuel" church and its parishioners demand of the government of Moscow that it return the land seized from the church, which had been designated for construction of a religious-cultural center on Vernadsky blvd., and to draw up the documentation for reconstruction and repair of a House of Culture building in Solntsevo that had been acquired by "Emmanuel" church in order to turn it into a house of worship.

During the course of the hearing, Judge Vladimir Petrovich Proshchenko found that actually employees of the prefecture had let the time expire for making suggestions for switching the event to another location. And the church was not informed about the intentions of the prefecture to change the place for conducting the demonstration.

Thus, the legality of the actions of the Moscow central "Emmanuel" church in conducting the demonstration on Tver square on 30 May and 1, 2, and 3 June was established by judicial action.

The reason for the second suit was an illegal letter by the TsAO prefecture sent to "Emmanuel" church containing the requirement that instead of a demonstration of 500 persons lasting three hours there by a demonstration of 150 persons lasting one hour.

After investigating the circumstances, Judge Proshchenko also came to the conclusion that the actions of the employees of the TsAO prefecture were illegal.

On the basis of this judicial decision, all of the numerous arbitrary changes in manner of the conduct of public events as well as their size and duration that were done by the TsAO prefecture were illegal.

According to Popov, the leadership of "Emmanuel" church hopes that these decisions of the Tagan court will put a stop to the illegal actions of employees of the TsAO prefecture and of officers of the Department of Internal Affairs of Tver district and that responsible persons will conduct themselves in a way that comports with and respects existing legislation.

On 15 November the same court reviewed an appeal by the acting prosecutor of Tver district, V.B. Sergeev, against a judicial decision recognizing the innocence of ministers of "Emmanuel" church, who were arrested on Tver square on 4 October.  We recall that five ministers of the church were illegally arrested on 4 October by officers of the Department of Internal Affairs of Tver district during the conduct of prayers on Tver square. On 18 October Justice of the Peace A.B. Kovalevskaia reviewed the circumstances of this case and ruled that the ministers of the church were innocent. Acting Prosecutor Sergeev, by a strange coincidence, took an "active" part in all of the trials concerning "Emmanuel" church and appealed any of the court's decisions that favored the arrested members of the church. This time he tried in vain to rescind the court's decision. The decision for acquittal was left unchanged. (tr. By PDS, posted 17 November 2005)


A protest demonstration "against discrimination against the rights of protestant Christians" was conducted on 13 November in Novopushkin square in Moscow by the "Emmanuel" church of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals). Around 100 persons participated in the action, Interfax reports.

As the press secretary of "Emmanuel" church, Yury Popov, reported, the basic problem that action participants are asked to be resolved is the return of land allocated for construction of a religious-cultural center on Vernadsky blvd. He said that in 1996 the government of Moscow suggested that the Pentecostals build a religious-cultural center on Vernadsky blvd and it set aside land for the construction. "They proposed, and we agreed; we did all the work and cleared trash from the site. A great deal of money was invested," Popov said, noting that later the authorities offered an alternative building site. "We consider that we have both the juridical and moral right to begin construction on the site originally offered us," the press secretary declared.

Believers held placards in their hands on which was written:  "Protestants against discrimination against believers’ rights," "Moscow central Emmanuel church against religious persecution," "Protestants for the equality of rights of all confessions." (tr. By PDS, posted 17 November 2005)

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Church reunification talks in Ukraine collapse


Patriarch of Kiev and all-Rus and Ukraine Filaret Denisenko has called the clergy and laity of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church [UAPTs] to unite without the consent of the hierarchy of UAPTs. According to the Religious Information Service of Ukraine, he stated this at a press conference on 17 November.

"The episcopacy of the Kievan patriarchate appeals to the clergy and laity of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church to unite with the Kievan patriarchate without its hierarchy. Our church is prepared to accept both parishes and clergy into membership in the Kievan patriarchate in order to create in Ukraine a united local Orthodox church," the hierarch said.

He reported that because of the position of the UAPTs episcopacy, the agreement regarding unification between the two churches reached in September and October of this year had been broken .

The patriarch reported that the leaders of UAPTs advocated unification in words, but in deeds they have done everything in order that it could not be achieved. With this goal, after reaching agreement regarding the conducting of a joint unification council [sobor] and the organization of a joint precouncil commission, bishops of UAPTs began putting forward demands that contradicted the letter and the spirit of previously signed documents.

Patriarch Filaret noted that bishops of UAPTs had tried to place the blame for disruption of the unification of the churches upon UPTs of the Kiev patriarchate, but all these accusations are baseless.  "We compromised and agreed with many of the conditions, but they (UAPTs) created such conditions so that there would be no unification," the patriarch said. He is convinced that if UAPTs wishes to unite, there should be no kinds of conditions at all." The issue is not the conditions, but the lack of desire by UAPTs to create a united local Orthodox church," Filaret thinks.

He noted that the overwhelming majority of bishops of UAPTs had begun putting forward demands whose essence was singular:  the precondition of unification must be the retirement of the primate of the Kiev patriarchate, which coincides entirely with the position of the Moscow patriarchate.  "We could not accept such conditions, since this would lead not to a strengthening of the Kiev patriarchate but to its destruction. If the Kiev patriarchate accepted such conditions, it would be destroying itself," the patriarch is convinced.

The primate noted that it was during the time of his rule that the Kiev patriarchate had become twice as strong, from 1200 parishes in 1995 to around 4,000 today.

Besides, he said, fulfillment of such demands would lead to destructive consequences in the Kiev patriarchate, and a struggle for power would begin. "They want to put our church on the path not of strengthening the local Orthodox church, but of self-destruction, discord, and enmity," he noted.

The primate of UPTsKP is persuaded that "external forces" are behind these actions. "Our neighboring state and the Russian church do not want Ukrainian Orthodoxy to be united and for a unified local church to be created. For the Moscow patriarchate, it is more desirable that there be discord in Ukraine not only in the political atmosphere but also in the church field. These forces have done everything possible so that there would not be unification," the patriarch said.  According to him, unification of the churches without the consent of the UAPTs hierarchy would not lead to a contradiction. "I think that our call cannot lead to tension, since this will be a voluntary transfer of UAPTs parishes to the Kiev patriarchate," he said.

At the same time, the patriarch noted that sooner or later Ukrainian Orthodoxy will be unified into one local church. To the question of when this will happen, Patriarch Filaret said: "The Lord God knows about that." (tr. By PDS, posted 19 November 2005)

by Mara D. Bellaby,
AP Worldstream,Kiev, Ukraine, Thu, Nov 17, 2005

Talks aimed at reuniting two breakaway Ukrainian Orthodox churches have collapsed, church officials said Thursday, dealing a serious blow to efforts to create a single independent Orthodox Christian church in this ex-Soviet republic. 

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarchate and the much smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church began formal reunification talks in May, in what was seen as a first step toward reuniting this predominantly Orthodox nation under one church. 

The move was also seen as an effort to lessen the dominating influence of the Russian Orthodox Church. Representatives from both churches, however, said the talks have collapsed and the blamed each other, saying unacceptable demands led to the breakdown. 

"It wasn't a unification, but annexation," said Deacon Taras Soluk, a spokesman for the Autocephalous Church, based in the western city of Lviv. "We support unification but in equal conditions for both of the churches." 

Patriarch Filaret, who heads the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarchate, accused the leaders of the Autocephalous Church of "inconsistent and non-constructive positions" but he said he believed the two churches would eventually unite. Asked when, he answered: "Only God knows this." 

He said a key stumbling block was who would lead the united church. The Autocephalous church had proposed that an entirely new leader be chosen by casting lots, Filaret said - a demand he would never agree to. "This wouldn't lead to the strengthening of the Kiev Patriarchate but its destruction," he said. 

He called on members of the Autocephalous Church to ignore their leaders and move independently to join the Kiev Patriarchate. 

And he warned also said that the failure of the churches to unite plays into the hands of Moscow, which is eager not lose control over Kiev, the historical birthplace of Russian Orthodoxy. The Autocephalous' Soluk criticized calls for its church members to defect. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine's Orthodox community split into three parts, largely due to disagreements over what kind of relationship to maintain with the larger, Russian Orthodox Church - to be an equal or a daughter to Moscow. 

Ukraine's Moscow Patriarchate, which remains subservient to the Russian Orthodox Church, is the largest church operating in Ukraine, with some 10,000 parishes. 

But the Kiev Patriarchate has more than tripled in size in the past 10 years to some 4,000 parishes and 41 dioceses. The Autocephalous Church is much smaller with 5 dioceses and is located primarily in western Ukraine.   (posted 19 November 2005)

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Department of Justice contemplates restrictions on religion

By Anastasiia Kornia, Nedezhda Ivanitskaia
Vedomosti, 14 November 2005

"Vedimosti" has obtained a report by the Ministry of Justice that contains radical measures for intensifying control over religious organizations. In particular, it is proposed to stiffen the procedures for issuing entry visas for missionaries and to simplify the procedures for liquidating religious centers.

The ministry's report was prepared for the October enlarged session of the Security Council. The document's authors consider that Russia has been subjected to "foreign religious expansion." In the past ten years the number of religious movements in the country has grown from 20 to 69. To counter this expansion it is proposed to limit the flow into Russia of foreign missionaries and to regulate the registration of religious associations. The report is interesting in that it summarizes a large part of the initiatives that the government is taking with respect to religion. However, in the opinion of experts, by no means can all of them be accomplished.

The best prospects are for suggestions "to limit and regulate issuance of entry visas for foreign religious figures." The report's authors acknowledge that the experience of the Maritime territory has been positive, where over the past two years applications for visas for missionaries have been reviewed by the local office of "Rosregistratsiia." This has been done on the basis of a simple agreement with the Department of Internal Affairs of the Maritime territory, inasmuch as since 2003 the Ministry of Justice has been one of the ministries that has the right of making decisions regarding the undesirability of the presence of one or another foreigner on the territory of the country. All it would take would be to expand the Maritime experience to the whole of Russia.

Another suggestion of the Ministry of Justice could be enacted only legislatively. It consists of simplifying the liquidation of a religious organization. It suggests that the basis for liquidation could be two verdicts of a court regarding "crimes of an extremist nature," issued with regard to two of its members in the course of one year. It is also proposed to establish administrative and criminal liability for illegal missionary activity. However, according to the director of the Department of Constitutional Legislation and Security Legislation of the Ministry of Justice, Evgeny Sidorenko, these initiatives have not yet been drawn up in the form of draft legislation. Their fate, according to the bureaucrat, could be determined in the course of work on a law for combating terrorism, which has been going on in the State Duma since last year.

According to a source in the government, after simplifying liquidation, the Ministry of Justice would want at the same time to make registration of a religious organization more complicated. He said that in the State Duma amendments to the law "On freedom of conscience" already are being prepared which will specifically provide for conducting a required expert analysis by religion specialists as part of the registration of religious organizations.  Vice-chairman of the State Duma Committee on Affairs of Public Organizations, Alexander Chuev, does not rule out the possibility that amendments could be introduced into parliament by the end of the year.

Finally, the Ministry of Justice has radical suggestions, which, in Chuev's opinion, could hardly count on the approval of the duma. The report's authors note that a single confession often is represented by an "inappropriate" number of religious centers: for example, there are more than forty officially registered central ecclesiastical boards of Muslims. This, the authors of the document maintain, "does not facilitate the consolidation of the Russian Muslim community." As an alternative, it is proposed to provide for "the existence of a single central organization of one confessional identity on a given territory in the capacity of legal entity."

This innovation has evoked the most complaints among representatives of confessions. Muslims think that the problems have arisen primarily among them. "In the first place this pertains to Islam," says the chairman of the Islamic Committee, Geidar Djemal. "This is connected with the campaign to discover the forces that are destabilizing the regime." Similar concerns also are expressed by representatives of the Jewish community. "In Judaism there are many diverse trends, and among rabbis there is definite antagonism," Zinovy Kogan, chairman of the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities and Organizations, acknowledges. The president of the Institute of the Near East, Evgeny Satanovsky, agrees that representatives of eastern religions will never be able to unite:  "As regards eastern confessions—Jews, Muslims—a decentralized system is their common characteristic."

"It is hard to comment on suggestions that are not finalized," says the vice-chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin. "But so far as I know, nobody is preparing any revolutions. We are talking about improving the law within the framework of already existing concepts. This will permit society, to a great extent, to control what happens within the religious sphere." (tr. by PDS, posted 19 November 2005)

Posted on Religiia i SMI site, 14 Jovember 2005

by Paul Goble
Window on Eurasia, 15 November 2005

 A report prepared by the Russian Federation's Justice Ministry for the October meeting of that country's Security Council calls for a series of measures that would allow Moscow to exercise far tighter control over Russian religious life than at any time since the end of the Soviet Union.

The report, as described in "Vedomosti" yesterday, urges restricting the number of missionaries coming into the country, making it easier for the authorities to shut down religious groups, and requiring that all members of one religion be subordinate to a single center

Some of these measures can be introduced administratively, while others would require legislative action. Consequently, they are not all likely to be introduced at least anytime soon.  But taken together, these ideas suggest that senior officials in Moscow have little interest in maintaining the freedom of religion mandated by the Russian Constitution.   

"Vedomosti," which did not say how it had obtained the document in question, entitled its discussion of it "Spiritual Centralism."  According to the paper, the Justice Ministry officials behind this report argue that Russia has been subject to "foreign religious expansion" and must respond now in order to defend its spiritual space.

Over the last ten years alone, the report's authors say, the number of religious movements in the Russian Federation has risen from 20 to 69, something that they see as threatening the traditional religious fabric of the country rather than reflecting Russia 's new-found commitment to religious freedom.

The report calls for "reducing and putting in order the handing ouf of entry visas to foreign religious figures," something that officials in the Russian Far East have already done as the report's authors note. Because these steps could be taken administratively, the paper suggested, they were the most likely.

The report also urges simplifying the procedures under which the government could liquidate a religious community. It proposed that officials be allowed to close any religious group if a court had twice found it guilty in the course of the year of "crimines of an extremist direction."

And the report suggests the introduction of administrative and criminal responsibility for illegal religious activity.  But both of these measures would require new laws, and Yevgeniy Sidorenko, the director of the Justice Ministry's constitutional law department, told "Vedomosti" that no such legislation had even been drafted.

At the same time, another Russian government official told the paper that the Justice Ministry would also like to make it more difficult for religious organizations to gain the official registration they need to rent or own land, open a bank account, and otherwise act as legal persons.

Aleksandr Chuyev, who is the deputy chairman of the Duma's Committe on Social Organizations, as quoted by "Vedomosti" as saying that such legislation, in the form of amendments to the law on freedom of conscience might be introduced and then approved before the end of this year.

But some of the Justice Ministry's most radical proposals are unlikely to be submitted to or approved by the country's legislature anytime soon. But because they provide an indication of the direction of official thinking, they may ultimately prove to be the most important.

The report, to give but one example, suggests that there is something wrong with a situation in which "members of one and the same religious confession are frequently represented by an inadequate number of religious centers: for example, there exist more than 40 officially registered central spiritual administrations of Muslims."

Such an arrangement, the report continues, "does not promote the consolidation of the Russian Muslim community." And the Justice Ministry proposes considering "the creation of one central organization [for Muslims, Jews and others with multiple centers] on a given territory as a legal person."

 Geidar Dzhemal', the chairman of the Islamic Community of Russia, told the paper that this proposal, which has been made by various Kremlin officials in recent months, is part of a more general "campaign searching for forces which [supposedly] are destabilizing the regime."

And  Zinoviy Kogan, the chairman of the Congress of Jewish Religious Communities and Organizations in the Russian Federation, pointed out that "in Judaism there are many different trends," something that would make the creation of a single administrative structure problematic at best.

Meanwhile, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, the deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate's External Affairs Committee, told "Vedomosti" that he and his church were not unduly concerned by the Justice Ministry's report. He said he was unaware that the government had taken any new decisions in this area.

Instead, this senior Orthodox churchman concluded, all that the report really pointed to is the fact that the Russian government now recognizes how important it is to improve existing legislation in order to "permit society to exercise a greater degree to control over what is going on in the religious sphere." (posted 19 November 2005)

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