Pentecostal minister punished for evangelism


Rambler Novosti, 18 October 2016


In Kemerovo in the Kuzbass, the pastor of the unregistered "New Generation" church, Andrei Matiuzhov, was fined 40,000 rubles on the basis of the "Yarovaya Law" for illegal missionary activity, the website of the chief directorate of the Russian Ministry for Internal Affairs for Kemerovo province reports. This decision was made by the Zavod district court of the city on Monday, 17 October. The basis was part 4 of article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law (conducting missionary activity with violation of the requirements of legislation on freedom of conscience and freedom of religious confession and on religious associations). The court considered to be a violation the fact that the pastor had not informed the administration and the Russian Ministry of Justice for Kemerovo province about the creation of the church and had not registered it, while he conducted worship services and delivered sermons.


"Every day up to 200 parishioners have assembled in the church," the website of the MVD said.


Matiuzhov said that the court session was conducted with violations: in particular, a certain woman, who was not identified, and whom the pastor saw once at a worship service, made a video in the courtroom, although this is forbidden. The video was posted on the channel "New Generation Church Kemerovo" on YouTube, in which a "bishop" criticizes the judicial proceedings. "Of course, I am not a lawyer and I cannot, let's admit, speak clearly in legal terms, because for me they are, to be honest, magical terms," Matiuzhov warned, and then he began to quote the Bible. "We must clearly understand that the whole world is under the power of Satan, and only Jesus Christ can liberate people from the yoke of slavery," he added.


Matiuzhov thinks that he is doing a thing pleasing to God. He bears the good news and destroys the kingdom of Satan, and for this "the devil strikes his heal."


In the video the pastor assures that he is accused not only for the worship services in his own home, but also for missionary activity on the Internet.


"I preached on the Internet, and they found me guilty of the fact that I conducted illegal missionary activity, plus I conduct services in my own home. It did not matter that I have permission for missionary activity and that these points that they state in the indictment are not legitimate," Matiuzhov complained.


The "bishop" promised that he will appeal the sentence. He called his trial a "tribunal": "My accusers were not there. There was only the judge and I and some woman. She had come to the service in our house, all of which she recorded with a camera."


Matiuzhov noted that it is forbidden to record in the courtroom, but the woman recorded, without identifying herself and without explaining her actions. "I did not have the opportunity to defend myself before those who accuse me."


"Even Jesus had the possibility before Pilate against the Pharisees," Matiuzhov said. "In a country that calls itself Christian, persecution has begun for preaching the good news."  The pastor is sure that "spiritual bonds" do not come through these things.


Similar criticism of the "Yarovaya Law" was voiced by a representative of the Reformed Orthodox Church of Christ the Savior (Kiev archdiocese), Sergei Zhuravlev, who was arrested in August in St. Petersburg for preaching in a Messianic Jewish congregation and fined 5,000 rubles. He called his persecutors "Christ's persecutors" and promised to pray for them.


The SOVA Center for News and Analysis notes that at the end of September, a Ukrainian citizen, Irina Tishchenko, a leader of the family and women's ministry in the "New Generation" movement in Pershotravensk of Dnepropetrovsk province and Kharkov, who visited the Kemerovo "New Generation" church and publicly greeted Matiuzhov's wife on her birthday, was fined on the basis of part 5 of article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law. The court's ruling says that Tishchenko did not have permission for conducting missionary activity from the "New Generation" church.


The teachings of the "New Generation" church are related to the so-called "third wave" of neo-Pentecostals, which is also called "prosperity theology." The Russian Orthodox Church criticizes it as "a magical occult movement that proclaims that a true Christian should be healthy, happy, and rich."


The "New Generation" was characterized as a totalitarian sect in an official statement of the Latvian Committee for Combating Totalitarian Sects (published in 2007 on the website of Daugavpils and in a study by Alexander Dvorkin, "Sect Study. Totalitarian Sects. Experience of Systematic Research."


The package of laws, among other things, regulates missionary activity, restricting the possibility of preaching outside church buildings, and it forbids preaching in residences and recategorizing residences as non-residential in order to conduct religious activity. It became known as the "Yarovaya Package," although not only deputy Irina Yarovaya were its authors, but also the chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Defense, the United Russia [senator] Viktor Ozerov, as well as other lawmakers from United Russia, Aleksei Pushkov and Nadezhda Gerasimova.


The first person whom it was attempted to hold administratively accountable on the "Yarovaya Law" was a Krishnaite from Dzerzhinsk, Vadim Sibirev, who was talking about his faith in the city of Cherkessk (Karachay-Cherkesia) and giving out religious literature to two passers-by. But the magistrate court of Cherkessk on 15 August closed his case for lack of evidence of crime. Since then, the number of such cases and fines assessed by courts on missionaries has grown, and even in Moscow there has appeared a rights advocacy analytic center that brings together some "Orthodox lawyers" who betray preachers to the police.  (tr. by PDS, posted 19 October 2016)

Background article:

Orthodox zealots exploit anti-evangelism law against non-Orthodox
October 10, 2016
Pentecostal believer punished on testimony of spy
September 29, 2016

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