RUSSIA RELIGION NEWS

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Local schools inaugurate Orthodox studies despite secular status

INCREASE IN CRIME LEADS TO STUDY OF ORTHODOXY IN SCHOOLS
Portal-credo.ru, 9 May 2007

Because of the growth of criminality, school children in Ulianovsk will study "Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture" in all eleven grades, beginning 1 September 2007.

During a city-wide conference held in Ulianovsk, titled "The spiritual and moral training of children and youth in the family, schools, and extracurricular sphere," the director of the city administration of education, Liudmila Sloenko, issued a statement about changes in the curriculum that will be introduced into the city schools at the beginning of the 2007-2008 academic year, a Portal-credo.ru correspondent reports.

In the course of recent round tables, conferences, and other events in which the administrators of the city education system and school principals participated, L. Solomenko explained, a document was adopted regarding the introduction of "Fundamentals of Orthodox Culture" [OPK—Osnovy pravoslavnoi kultury] into every school of the city as an "academic component."

The course of study of OPK is to be made "comprehensive," in other words, the new subject is to be studied by school children from the first through the eleventh grades. The only variation to be provided for is the option of a particular school to select an "expanded" version of the OPK course. Thus, in addition to the study of OPK proper there could be "Fundamentals of Ethics" or "Fundamentals of the Church Slavonic Language."

The director of the city school system says that the study of OPK by school children has become urgent because of the growth in the crime rate among children and youth, violence in families, and a general decline in morality (Ulianovsk is a city where youth from various city districts wage continuous war against "outsiders").

"All courses will provide for the common education of children of all confessions. There is not contradiction here," the director of the school system of the mayor's office of Ulianovsk declared. But she also acknowledged that there is a problem with preparation of the teaching staff for this subject and there is a shortage of teaching resources.  The administration plans to resolve the latter problem by purchase of literature that has already "been published and recommended by the Ministry of Education."

Mikhail Zherebiatiev, a political scientist and religious studies expert of the International Institute of Humanitarian and Political Research, commented for Portal-credo.ru on the newest Ulianovsk initiative by saying:  "Actually there is no limit to the ingenuity of advocates of OPK." According to the expert, "the hitch in the consideration of a legislative initiative by the Russian federation Ministry of Education to eliminate from federal education law the division of academic disciplines into three components—federal, regional, and local—quickly led to the activation of advocates of OPK." At the same time, the researcher noted, since the critics focused on the regional component, "supporters of OPK strategically focused on the lower level where it would be much more difficult to eliminate OPK since school principals and local school administrations are able to cite regularly the opinion of a certain number of parents, who will in all circumstances speak in favor of OPK."

However, M. Zherebiatiev think, "by taking a reasonable approach at the level of the schools, over time a compromise may be achieved that will be in accordance with the standards of the law, whereby it would be possible to study the subject on an extracurricular basis."

"But, by means of a 'top-down' initiative," the expert thinks, "even the federal Russian Ministry of Education will not be able to eliminate OPK from the local school. Such initiatives, the more they occur, will prevent even the existence of an 'academic vertical,' when pupils and their parents are dependent upon teachers, curriculum supervisors, and principals—especially now in conjunction with the universal introduction of standardized state examinations—and when the overwhelming quantity of persons in the parental 'swamp' are simply indifferent to the problems of civil rights, given contemporary Russian conditions."

Mikhail Zherebiatiev also expressed the assumption that "the sluggishness of the lower house of the Russian parliament in reviewing the suggestions of the Russian Mininstry of Education, which were drafted almost six months ago, may be connected, on one hand, with the attempt of the 'party of power—United Russia' in the current grand election cycle (in contrast to its actions in 2003-2004) to exploit the Orthodoxy theme, and on the other hand, with the fear on the part of the federal government in general that the elimination of the regional component as such will lead to the elimination from school curriculums of the study of the languages of the ethnic groups of Russia, which would elicit dissatisfaction within the electorate."

In addition, the expert pointed out, "the federal authority at the level of the presidential administration is now, most likely, inclined to 'gently' prevent a general introduction of OPK into schools because of the potential conflict arising from the initiative of the Russian Orthodox church, so as to give the pro-Kremlin political parties maximum freedom of maneuver on the religious question as they court the electorate. And although the leadership of United Russia has not spoken out in favor of OPK, the very presence within the Russian ruling class of a tendency to seek ideas that enjoy support within the electorate creates an extremely unstable situation and weakens the position of the presidential administration." (tr. by PDS, posted 11 May 2007)

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Moscow Orthodox protest protestant school

DEVOTIONAL CROSS BLESSED AT CONSTRUCTION SITE OF A PROTESTANT INSTITUTE IN MOSCOW
Interfax, 7 May 2007

Orthodox activists protesting against the construction of the Russian-American Christian Institute (RACI) near Babushkinskaya metro station erected a devotional cross at the construction site on Sunday.

Rev. Alexander Timofeyev blessed the newly-erected cross and read an akathistos to St. George the Conqueror, whose memory is celebrated by the Orthodox Church on May 6.

Some 50 people attended the ceremony. The initiative group has informed Interfax of their intention to collect signatures against the construction of the RACI and to seek a permission to build an Orthodox chapel or church in that place.

Prayer services are to be held at the devotional cross at 15.00 every Sunday.

In March 2007, the court of appeal of the Moscow Arbitrage granted the claim of the Babushkinsky district people against the RACI. However, the administration of the institute, according to the initiative group, failed to stop the construction work.

In the last two years, the Orthodox people in the capital city have held as many as six rallies against the building of a Protestant institute within the Yauza river green zone next to the Rayevskoye Cemetery where defenders of the Motherland are buried.  (posted 7 May 2007)

ORTHODOX PROTEST PROTESTANT SCHOOL
Credo.ru,  23 April 2007

The Orthodox community of Moscow came out for a regular protest against the construction of a protestant institute in the city. Despite the decision of a court, the protest against the construction of the Russian-American Christian Institute (RAKhI) continued on 22 April on Menzhinsky Street. [tr. note:  In American publications, this school identifies itself as the Russian-American Christian University (RACU), headed by John A. Bernbaum, president.]

According to a correspondent for Interfax, about 150 persons participated in the event.

"If the administration of the institute wants to defend his right to the construction, it is still required to halt it. But the construction is continuing even more intensively than before. RAKhI is violating the law, refusing to recognize the court decision," journalists were told by one of the demonstration's organizers, Babushkinsky district resident Vladimir Kriuchkin.

In March 2007 the appeals section of the Mediator court of Moscow ruled in favor of the residents of Babushkinsky district, who filed suit against RAKhI. However, as was noted at the protest, the administration of the institute has not halted construction work.

The Sunday demonstration was the sixth in the past two years of such an action by the Orthodox community. Previously participants in these demonstrations against the construction of an "enormous neoprotestant center" also demanded building an Orthodox church on the site where RAKhI is being built, since the Raevskoe cemetery is located there in which defenders of the fatherland are buried. (tr. by PDS, posted 7 May 2007)

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Provincial Orthodox diocese attacks Pentecostals

SYKTYVKAR DIOCESE THREATENS PROTESTANTS
Slavic Legal Center, 4 May 2007

A statement by the secretary of the Syktyvkar and Vorkuta diocese of the Russian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate, Hegumen Filipp, requesting that the Directorate of the Federal Security Service (UFSB) "pay attention" to the preaching activity of an evangelist from England, David Hasavy, appears to be a regular threat, behind which is an attempt to frighten people away for evangelical churches.  This was stated in an interview at the press service of the Slavic Legal Center by the pastor of the "Spring of Life" Pentecostal church, Pavel Kudrov. The church is a member of the Association of Independent Churches of Christians of Evangelical Faith, which is a member of the Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (ROSKhVE). The church belongs to the Perm diocesan administration of KhVE, which is headed by Bishopo Eduard Grabovenko.

An article appeared in the "Krasnoe Znamia" [Red Banner] of Syktyvkar back on 13 April which slandered the protestants. It was titled "Sectarians in Komi. Easter Meetings on Friday the Thirteenth," and it was devoted to meetings which were conducted three time by the Syktyvkar "Spring of Life" church in which an evangelist from England, David Hasavey, participated. In the article the writer, Daria Shuchalina, called Hasavy a charlatan who bribes people with Easter gifts and fake miracles. The article also included quotes from the secretary of the Syktyvkar diocese, Hegumen Filipp. A representative of the diocese stressed that he recommends not attending "Easter Meetings," because Hasavy propagates "sectarianism with extremely aggressive methods of persuasion." Hegumen Filipp also reported that "the diocese has called on the FSB directorate in Komi to pay attention to the western guest, who is undermining the moral structures of the local populace." The newspaper also compares David Hasavey with Grigory Grabov.

According to the interview at the press service of SLC Pastor Pavel Kudrov said that actually there were no serious consequences of the article and it did not lead to any reactions on the part of the authorities. The article appeared in the "Krasnoe Znamia" paper on 13 April, which came out in the afternoon, and the "Easter Meetings" were held in the evening of the same day, at 18.00.  Thus the articles came out ahead of the event itself. It is noteworthy, as well, that prior to the publication of this "antisectarian" article the same newspaper published an advertisement for the "Easter Meetings"with preacher David Hasavey, which the church had placed. The office of the prosecutor, the police, and the authorities in general had no charges against the church, but the appearance of the article had a negative effect upon many people.

According the Pavel Kudrov, last year the Orthodox diocese wrote a declaration to the prosecutor's office regarding the conduct of "Easter Meetings," but this year the prosecutor's office did not disturb the church because it knows that the member of the protestant congregation do nothing illegal. This year the "Easter Meetings" with David Hasavey were broadcast on the local "STS-Komi" channel. Pavel Kudrov emphasized that the diocese's goal is to frighten people but it has no official instruments of influence. The church realizes, he says, that the article in the newspaper appeared in response to an order and thus believers do not condemn the paper for it.

We recall that in 2006 judicial persecution of the head of the charity fund "Resurrection" and the pastor of the "Exodus" Pentecostal curch, Viktor Dudin, was initiated by the acting head of the Directorate of FSB for the republic of Komi, Mikhail Evdokimov.  The directorate considered the holding of an antinarcotic concert a violation of the federal law "On meetings, protests, demonstrations, parades, and pickets."  However in September 2006 a court of the Krasnozaton district court of the city of Syktyvkar closed the case against Viktor Dudin because of the lack of administrative violation of law.  The prosecutor's office of Syktyvkar accused Dudin of planning a musical concert which had a "clearly religious character and agitational tendency," which the prosecutor detected in the text of songs performed during the concert and in the prayers for the populace and representatives of authority of the republic of Komi that were made by Dudin at the end of the whole event. (tr. by PDS, posted 4 May 2007)

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New passports do not contain Antichrist's sign

METROPOLITAN KIRILL SPEAKS OUT ON NEW PASSPORTS
Religiia i SMI, 4 May 2007

Metropolitan Kirill has spoken out in detail about the new passports, the bar code, and the number 666.

In addition, the chairman of the Department of External Church Affairs of the Moscow patriarchate spoke out in defense of those people who refuse to carry new passports and the Individual Identification Number (INN) on the basis of religious convictions.

"You know, many people fear that the bar code, which is borne by the document so that they can be read by computer, contains three representations of the number six.  Three sixes is the number of Antichrist, according to the Apocalypse of John the Divine, and many people do not want to receive such documents, not wishing to associate themselves with this number. The Holy Synod has already several time expressed itself on this matter and has warned all believers that the code should not be equated with the seal of Antichrist, because the seal of Antichrist will be given in exchange for a renunciation of Christ. Those who renounce Christ will be given the seal, and with it the possibility of living, working, buying food, going to the stores, and the like.  Nothing of this sort is happening now. Nobody is issuing this document in exchange for renouncing your faith, and the Holy Synod has clearly said that people should not have such fears.  But on the other hand, if a substantial portion of people in our society (not only in your sector) wish not to have such a document, the question arises:  is the citizen for the document or the document for the citizen?  Is it really impossible to develop a document regime that would be unconditionally acceptable to all? Why is it necessary to put into the document something that many people wish not to accept?  And in this sense I wish once again to stress that this is not anything like the seal of Antichrist, but I have respect for the position of those people who, out of religious convictions, wish not to have such a document."  (tr. by PDS, posted 4 May 2007)

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Recriminations in case of rumors about patriarch's death

PATRIARCHAL PRESS SERVICE IDENTIFIES GUILTY IN SPREADING OF FALSE INFORMATION
Religiia v svetskom obshchestve, 3 May 2007

Several days ago news media disseminated unsubstantiated information about the death of Patriarch Alexis II. The director of the press service of the Moscow patriarchate, Fr Vladimir Vigiliansky, accused the newspaper Moskovskii komsomolets and the radio station Echo of Moscow as the culprits in what happened.

"I an not even accusing the publications as a whole but I am accusing specific people, who are behind Moskovskii komsomolets and Echo of Moscow. This was their intent and, as His Holiness the patriarch himself said today, this is nothing other than "the evil will of people."  Thus I consider that Aleksei Venediktov, the chief editor of Echo of Moscow, and Pavel Gusev, the chief editor of Moskovskii komsomolets, should be dismissed.  We will not enter into judgment against them, but I do not hesitate to declare that they are dishonorable people and that they supported the most vile rumors. I strongly doubt that they will ever apologize, since such people consider apology a sign of weakness," the priest said.

A. Venediktov and P. Gusev refuted these accusations, stating that neither MK nor Echo of Moscow reported the death of the patriarch. P. Gusev noted that such reports appeared on the mk.ru web site, but this is an independent publication and not an electronic version of the MK newspaper.

Both editors think that the caused of the situation that developed was the unprofessional work of the press service of the Moscow patriarchate.

"If Mr. Vigiliansky had properly performed his work at the time of Alexis II's absence and said where the patriarch was, which was his responsibility, the probably no unreliable information would have been forthcoming," A. Venediktov said.

At various times the Internet publication mk.ru has issued accusations against Alexis II and all Orthodox Christians. "In the last days of April there appeared on the mk.ru site unreliable information about the health of Patriarch Alexis II. Unfortunately, our correspondent gave out unsubstantiated information which had reached him from unofficial sources in Switzerland.  This was done mostly so that prayers for the health of His Holiness, the patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus, would be intensified within Orthodox Russia. Simultaneously our correspondent tried to get information from official persons in the Moscow patriarchate whose responsibility it is to comment on events transpiring within the church. However these persons maintained silence all the way to 1 May," the text of the communication says. (tr. by PDS, posted 4 May 2007)

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