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Russia Religion News Current News Items

Local schools violate principles of religion course


A protracted dispute between the administration of school No. 15 of the village of Melentievka of Miass city district of Cheliabinsk province and some parents began after the introduction of the optional course "Foundations of religious cultures and secular ethics." In this school, only classes on the Foundations of Orthodox culture were prepared, and not from the fourth grade, as recommended by the federal Ministry of Education, but from the second grade. At the same time, according to a survey of parents of pupils of the second through eighth grades, Foundations of Orthodox culture was selected by 86%; Islamic culture, almost 2%; and Foundations of secular ethics, almost 5%. Almost 4% of parents were against all choices and about 3% said that they are indifferent, Novyi Region reports.

"Soon my daughter will go into the second grade," Mediazavod quotes one of the mothers of the first graders. "I am afraid that my daughter will receive the concept not of culture (films about the same Andrei Rublev, works of the great painters and iconographers, sculptors, poets, musicians) but 'religious vocabulary,' 'paten,' 'choir,' as I saw in one notebook. This is lopsided, a violation of the thin line. They say one boy told his mother: 'I do not want to live on earth; I want to live in heaven; they told us it is nice there.' That's the result."

The mother of two schoolchildren, a first and a third grader, reported that previously the option on the Foundations of Orthodox culture was from the first grade and it was introduced without anybody asking. "My daughter was forced to attend and she came home crying; she doesn't understand. My son began crossing himself at every church saying that that is what the principal does, who kisses the priest's hand in front of everyone."

According to the parents, the school has practically no sections and the basic focus is made on religion. "A school assembly for the Day of Knowledge, with a priest and a machine with bells, icons in the lobby, a somber and peculiar repertoire of songs for the Day of Cyril and Methodius, notebooks for the children on Foundations of Orthodox culture, with crosses, an abundance of sad words like 'death,' 'sinner,' and the 'triune God' which children cannot understand. One gets the impression that the secular state school has been turned into a branch of the church," one mother complains.

According to the discontented parents, the administration of the school began "seeking justice" for them, accusing them of an antisocial way of life, suggesting the children undergo a medical and psychological committee, and checking conditions at home.

The principal of the school, Elena Cheshuina, explains:  the Foundations of Orthodox culture is taught by a teacher of history and social studies, who received special training and the plan of the classes is based on the textbooks by Kuraev, Shevchenko, and Kharitonova, approved by the Ministry of Education of Russia. The stress is put on moral precepts and ethical standards. "The pupil cannot not study Foundations of Orthodox culture; we will not exempt anybody. We strictly follow the state standards and the current government policy; the prosecutor's inspection has not found that we have any violations. Icons are not banned from schools by law, and the presence of priests is easy to explain: their children study in our school," the principal denies the accusations. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 March 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Court protects Jehovah's Witness' rights

Interfax-Religiia, 12 March 2013

The October district court of the city of Belgorod ordered the city administration to pay compensation for moral damages to a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses for interruption of a religious event, the court's press service reports.

In September of last year the city administration gave permission for simultaneous conducting of two events in the immediate proximity of one another: a congress of Jehovists and a rally against destructive religious associations.

During the congress, the participants in the rally beat drums and chanted slogans in loudspeakers.

As one of the Jehovah's Witnesses adherents noted in his suit against the city administration and the organizer of the rally, the rally participants tried to break up the religious event with the help of drums, shouts, and chants of slogans of an insulting nature and "people with a weapon of destructive action." Thereby, as the court found, his right to profess religion freely and to participate in a peaceful public event was violated.

In his suit the man requested prohibiting the authorities from permitting events offending the religious feelings of believers and also sought compensation for moral damages.

The court ruled that the suit was well founded only in the part of the violation of the right of the plaintiff to freedom of religious confession and it found in his favor; it ordered that the organizer of the rally pay 500 rubles and the administration of Belgorod, 1,000 rubles. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 March 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

No mosque in Stavropol


The Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of Stavropol territory of Russia wants to receive from local authorities permission for construction of a mosque in Stavropol. It is about the allocation of land on the outskirts of the city, the 11 March north Caucasus edition of the newspaper Argumenty I fakty reports.

"We are still unable to get a positive resolution either from the territorial or the city authorities. Our meeting with officials on this matter is scheduled for March. The discussion will certainly be difficult since it is very hard to find free land on the outskirts of Stavropol," the regional mufti, Muhammad Rahimov, said.

According to information in the publication, in the past two years eight mosques have been built in the territory, most easily in villages. At the same time, there has not been an active mosque in Stavropol itself for several decades.  A building that was built in 1905 for this purpose in the center of the city was turned into a museum and gallery for Stavropol artist Pavel Grechishkin.

Recently it has been learned from media reports that entrepreneurs in Stavropol bought land for constructing a shopping center, but instead of this they began building a mosque. The prosecutor's office issued a warning regarding the unacceptability of misuse of the parcel of land, Interfax reported.

Rakhimov stated that he has heard nothing about building a mosque on the outskirts of Stavropol. "The construction of such a worship facility can begin only after our board files the appropriate application. But nobody has talked with us about this," he emphasized. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 March 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Vandalism in church of Arkhangelsk

Interfax-Religiia, 11 March 2013

At night, unidentified persons broke into the sanctuary of the Alexander Nevsky church in the annex of the St. Artemy of Verkola monastery in Arkhangelsk and desecrated it. The incident happened in the night of 6 March, the press service of the Arkhangelsk diocese reported.

Liturgical books were strewn about the altar area, a lectern was overturned, and the altar was moved from its place. Police officers were called to the scene, who conducted all the necessary investigations.

This is not the first case of vandalism confronted by the clergy of the annex of the St. Artemy of Verkola monastery. On Halloween night in 2002 unidentified persons set fire to the frame of the Alexander Nevsky church that was under construction. They managed to localize the fire in time. In 2004 a fire was set in a church building at night. The fire nearly killed the abbot of the annex and three employees. A cat was crucified on a cross on the doors of the church and pentagrams were drawn.

In the night of 24-25 August 2012 vandals cut down a veneration cross that had been erected at the church in honor of the holy martyr Viktor in Arkhangelsk. The shrine was installed across the street from the annex of the St. Artemy of Verkola monastery, at the site of a church that was demolished in soviet times.

The annex of the St. Artemy of Verkola monastery is located on the outskirts of Arkhangelsk and it conducts active social work. The annex provides aid to homeless persons who have been released from prison, victims of drug and alcohol addiction, families in poverty, and victims of fire. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 March 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Patriarch upset by news media criticism

Interfax-Religiia, 7 March 2013

Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Kirill expressed surprise over the opinion that a stern dictatorship exists in the Russian church. "Against the background of all that we have within the church today, statements in the hostile and biased news media regarding a stern vertical and dictatorship allegedly existing in the church seem strange," the patriarch said on Thursday at a session of the Supreme Church Council.

He recalled that there is active in the Russian church an Inter-council Presence created several years ago which is an advisory body helping the highest ecclesiastical authorities in planning the most important decisions. This structure includes not only bishops and clergy but also laity.

"It is hard to imagine how it would be possible to discuss serious matters and make very important decisions, including those issued in the form of fundamental documents, if the Inter-council Presence did not exist. The mechanism operating today in the Russian church for discussing conciliar documents is unprecedented," the primate emphasized. He said that all this "methodology of openness and conciliarity," on one hand permits the use of the potential that exists in the church, and on the other hand it provides the possibility for hearing very many voices.

"And you know how free the discussion is in the Inter-council Presence and at the bishops' council; everybody stands up and says what he thinks needs to be said. There are no restrictions and nobody offends the patriarch thereby. The patriarch is open to hearing these voices," Patriarch Kirill emphasized.  (tr. by PDS, posted 12 March 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Muslim creed examined for extremism

Interfax-Religiia, 7 March 2013

The Novo-Savinov district court of the city of Kazan ruled that a local resident, Danil Bagautdinov, was a participant in an unsanctioned action—an auto rally—on 26 October 2012 and fined him 10 thousand rubles, the press service of the MVD for Tatarstan reported.

On 26 October, Kazan police detained about 20 cars that were driving along the streets of the city with black flags on which were written in white Arabic script: "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger."

Apart from the fact that the action had not been permitted by the authorities, during the examination of the drivers several violations were identified in the form of unpaid fines for traffic violations. Administrative cases were initiated on the basis of the violations discovered.

The flags were transferred to a religious studies expert analysis, and there are still no results. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 March 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Authorities approve mosque in Tambov

Interfax-Religiia, 6 March 2013

Tuesday in Tambov there were public hearings organized by the city duma regarding the construction of a mosque in the northern part of the city, the city duma press service told Interfax.

"The reason for the hearings was a collection of signatures among residents of the territory adjoining the site of the future location of the mosque opposing the possible construction. Residents are concerned that in the mornings in this bedroom neighborhood calls to prayer will resound from the minaret. In addition, Tambov citizens fear that sheep will be slaughtered near the mosque during Muslim holidays," the press service explained.

According to results of a survey of local residents, 896 (95.42%) persons out of 939 opposed construction of the mosque.

Representatives of the Tambov Muslim community assured citizens that it has been decided to refrain from calls to prayer, and the noise from the mosque will be no greater than now comes from the activity of the prayer hall located at the same place. Tambov Muslims have not considered a different site for the mosque.

"When city authorities in 2002 allocated the land for construction of a mosque, this was not a bedroom neighborhood," the co-chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia, Ilia Yunkin, explained at the hearings. "This was a territory on the outskirts of the city.  If we now are allowed to build a mosque at some other place on the outskirts, and then some years later it becomes a densely populated urban area, where are we going to go?"

As a result of the public hearings it was decided that there are no legal grounds to refuse the construction of the mosque. It was recommended to the head of Tambov administration, Alexander Bobrov, that construction be approved if there are no technical conditions preventing it.

The construction of a mosque accommodating 300 persons should begin at the end of May. According to the plans, the mosque will be a two-story building with a 27-meter minaret and the grounds of the building will be a bit more than 400 square meters. The architect is the chairman of the Tambov Jewish community, Arkady Farba. At the present, a Muslim prayer room accommodating 200 persons is active in Tambov.

According to the news agency's source, the hearings were attended by deputies of the city duma, residents of the regional center, and representatives of the Tambov and Moscow Muslim communities. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 March 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Russian president wants action against extremism


Vladimir Putin demanded that the Prosecutor General of RF react extremely sharply to attempts to incite inter-ethnic and inter-religious strife. In the president's opinion, "a number of radical groups are acting very provocatively," conducting public protests and spreading their idea on the Internet and openly recruiting adherents, RIA Novosti reports.

At the same time, it is not specified just which groups Putin has in mind.

"Issues of combating extremism must be within the field of your constant attention. Last year the number of such crimes grew by almost 12 percent," the president said on 5 March at the expanded college of the Prosecutor General's office in Moscow.

"They conduct public actions, they disseminate their ideas on the Internet, and they recruit supporters practically openly. Your direct duty is to respond to attempts to incite inter-ethnic and inter-religious strife and to promote xenophobia and chauvinism extremely sharply," Putin said referring to unnamed "radical groups." (tr. by PDS, posted 11 March 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Debate on mosque construction continues

Interfax-Religiia, 4 March 2013

Construction of religious buildings in Moscow is possible only by a decision of public hearings, the vice-mayor of the capital, Marat Khusnullin, told reporters during a Saturday excursion. "Construction of all houses of worship in Moscow, regardless of confession, is possible only after conducting public hearings. If the residents vote 'yes,' then there will be construction," he said.

M. Khusnullin noted that the opinion of a majority of the residents of a district will be considered at public hearings.

Last Thursday Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobianin, speaking on a broadcast from radio station Echo of Moscow, noted that a decision about construction of mosques and temples now is made not by city authorities but by agencies of local administration. "Deputies make the decision themselves, to build or not to build a church or mosque; this is a question for each district of Moscow," S. Sobianin added. (tr. by PDS, posted 11 March 2013)


The nationalist organization "Russian Patriotic Club" sent to the prosecutor of Novokusnetsk a complaint against the local administration, the SOVA Center of Information and Analysis reported on 1 March.

The occasion was the refusal of the administration to permit a rally of nationalists directed against the construction of a mosque in the Zavodsk district of Novokuznetsk. The plaintiffs note that the administration has given no reason for its refusal. The rally was intended for 3 March.

We recall that in March of 2012, the Russian Patriotic Club sent to the Novokuznetsk administration a request for rescinding permission for construction of a mosque issued in February. (tr. by PDS, posted 11 March 2013)

Interfax-Religiia, 4 March 2013

Construction of mosques in Russian cities needs to be conducted with reference to the opinion of local residents and the real needs of Muslims, the head of the Council of Ulemas of the All-Russian Muftiate, the famous Muslim theologian Farid Salman thinks.

"A mosque that is built against the will of the population living near the construction site, on disputed territory, may, according to the tenets of the Quran, fall into the category of 'mosque discord,' and this is neither Islam nor the Muslim way," F. Salman stated in an interview with Interfax-Religiia on Mosday.

Along with this, he continued, centralized religious administrations that are guilty of supporting religious movements that are banned by law should be denied the right of building new mosques. "It is in the interests of us ourselves and in the interests of society and the state to avoid the creation of new platforms for broadcasting ungodly speeches under the guise of 'Islam,'" the news agency's source emphasized.

In addition, the number of mosques, in his opinion, should be determined by the number of Muslims attending the mosque. "Mosques are usually empty on week days. Therefore constructing mosques only for the sake of the great holidays (Eid and Eid al-Adha) is not quite right. On these holidays people come to the mosque who for a whole year have never looked at it," F. Salman declared.

He thinks that now protests of local residents against construction of mosques is a rather frequently met phenomenon and a "problem that unfortunately is provoked by Muslims themselves."

"The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of former fellow-citizens who come to Russia in search of work are not their fathers and grandfathers who were trained and brought up in conditions of the traditions of mutual respect and internationalism. They often get into conflicts on the basis of religious views in their own homeland. Their conduct often provokes amazement even among us, Russian Muslims," the theologian noted. (tr. by PDS, posted 11 March 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Muslim religion teacher shot

Interfax-Religiia, 4 March 2013

Mahomed Biyarslanov, a teacher in a madrasa,  was killed Sunday evening in the Dagestan village of Gubden, the press service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the republic told Interfax.

The man was killed in his home by bullets from a pistol; he received eight wounds in the area of his chest.

A criminal case under article 105 (murder) and article 222 (illegal traffic in weapons) has been opened. (tr. by PDS, posted 11 March 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Jehovah's Witnesses' building attacked

SOVA Center of Information and Analysis, 1 March 2013

On 3 February 2013 the Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah's Witnesses in the village of Krasnooktiabrsk in Adygea was damaged by vandals. Around eleven in the evening two unidentified persons broke into the territory of the house of worship, smashed windows of the building, broke door lock knobs, and damaged a drain pipe. Representatives of the congregation called the police.

We recall that a year ago, in March 2012, a similar act of vandalism was committed in the village of Krasnooktiabrsk. (tr. by PDS, posted 11 March 2013)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Moscow mayor unsympathetic to mosque construction

Interfax-Religiia, 1 March 2013

A few mosques are sufficient for Muscovite Muslims and city authorities are not planning the construction of others, the mayor of the capital, Sergei Sobianin, declares. "There does not exist a single such project that we intend to implement or permit in the near future," S. Sobianin said in a broadcast from radio station Echo of Moscow.

"The cathedral mosque is being completed, but we do not want to enlarge it in any significant way; there are already enough problems without that," the city chief emphasized. He recalled that city authorities have offered Muslims stadiums and open spaces in Moscow where they may gather.

"But they gather in a single place, at the cathedral mosque. We cannot build a mosque that accommodates tens of thousands of persons wishing to come there," S. Sobianin noted. He said that among the persons assembling at the cathedral mosque, only 10 percent are Muscovites and the rest are migrants from other regions or are foreign citizens.

The mayor believes that the cathedral mosque is quite sufficient for these 10 percent. "Building a mosque in Moscow for all who want to come from the whole country—that is overkill," S. Sobianin declared.

According to his information, the decision regarding construction of mosques and temples is not made by city authorities but by local authorities. "Deputies make the decision themselves, to build or not to build a temple or mosque; that is a question for each region of Moscow," S. Sobianin added. (tr. by PDS, posted 11 March 2013)

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