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Representatives of diverse religions against terrorism

By Andrei Zolotov
Ecumenical News International
ENI News Service / 20 May 1998

Moscow, 20 May (ENI)--In a rare example of solidarity, representatives of Russia's leading faiths have united in their condemnation of a recent spate of vicious attacks on places of worship across Russia.

Leaders of Russian Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic churches appeared at a press conference yesterday, 19 May, alongside Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist leaders to condemn terrorism and growing sectarian and ethnic-based violence. [text of statement]

The meeting followed a bomb attack on 13 May on a synagogue in Moscow. Two construction workers were injured when the bomb exploded outside the Lubavitch Maryina Roshcha synagogue in the northern part of central Moscow at 11 pm on the eve of a major Jewish festival, Lag B'omer.

The synagogue's Rabbi, Berel Lazar, told ENI that it was a "miracle" that nobody had been killed as dozens of young Jewish students had left the building just minutes before the blast, which blew a large hole in a brick wall and shattered windows.

Jewish leaders said the explosion was an act of anti-Semitism by neo-Nazis, who have become increasingly visible in Moscow. They accused the government of not doing enough to control the violence.

But, according to the Interfax news agency, officials from the Federal Security Service have said there is no evidence that an extremist organisation is responsible.

This is not the first attack on the Maryina Roshcha synagogue which is the main place of worship for the Hasidic movement in Russia. The original wooden synagogue was burned down in December 1993. The modern brick building which replaced it was also bombed in August 1996.

Despite mass migration to Israel in the past 10 years, Russia's Jewish community, variously estimated at having between 500 000 and 1.5 million members, has experienced a national religious revival since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Lubavitch movement is one of the most active in persuading Jews to practise their religion, and also plays a strong role in social projects.

Rabbi Lazar said that 15 000 Moscow families belonged to the Maryina Roshcha synagogue.

President Boris Yeltsin described the bomb attack a "barbaric act". He called for swift action by the police to find those responsible, according to his press secretary, Sergei Yastrzhembsky.The Moscow city authorities have publicly condemned the attack, stressing that they would continue to do their utmost to guarantee safety and equal rights to all religious communities in the city.

Patriarch Alexei II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and the most prominent religious leader in the country, issued a statement on 14 May expressing his "indignation and concern" over the bombing. He called on all citizens and the government to "think very seriously" about the attack and other recent acts of violence against places of worship, including an arson attack on two Russian Orthodox Churches in the Kostroma region north-east of Moscow.

"Society must resist these acts in a most decisive way, with all the force of the law," the patriarch said in a statement. "The people who stage such acts must know that they commit sinful and criminal deeds. They can try to justify their acts, but there is no justification for this," the church leader said.

The arson attacks in the Kostroma region were also mentioned at the 19 May joint press conference, as well as violence - sparked off by a dispute over a priceless Buddhist atlas - between Buddhist monks and local police in eastern Siberia.

An open letter - signed by Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's department of external church relations, Muslim leaders Ravil Gainutdin and Nafigullah Ashirov, the president of Congress of Jewish religious communities, Zinovi Kogan, Armenian Apostolic Archbishop Tiran, Roman Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz and Buddhist leader Damba Ayusheev - called for greater protection of religious institutions in Russia.

"We are deeply concerned by the terrorist acts directed against sacred places and the heightening of inter-ethnic conflicts in traditionally calm regions of Russia," the statement said.

The statement also mentioned the desecration of 143 graves in a Jewish cemetery in the Siberian city of Irkutsk and the alleged persecution of the Muslim community in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, in Russia's far east.

"There is no vindication for those who foment hatred or commit sacrilege, vandalism, violence and even murder," the statement said. "The words 'peace' and 'accord' will have little significance until society and the authorities are aware of their responsibilities to one another and to future generations."


We are profoundly disturbed by terrorist acts that have been committed against places for divine worship and by the exacerbation of interethnic conflicts in a number of the traditionally calm regions of Russia. Arson attacks on the churches of St. Nicholas in Sharya, Kostroma region, and nearby, the bold bombing of the synagogue in Maria's Grove and attempted arson at the synagogue in Otradnoe in Moscow, desecration of 143 grave stone in the Jewish cemetery in Irkutsk, conflict over the Buddhist atlas in Buriatia, harassment of the Muslim congregation of the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskii, the intrusion of an ethnic-confessional factor into the confrontation at the Moscow market in Luzhniki and in the city of Udomlia, Tver region: all of these reflect the bad will of theomachistic and misanthropic forces that are taking up arms against Russian believers and trying to sow interreligious and interethnic strife within our country.

There are no justifications for people who enflame hostility and commit sacrilege, vandalism, violence, and even homicide. The destructive work of the nationalistically minded and other political extremists, devil worshippers, and pseudoreligious adventurists, and criminals who are exploiting the national and even religious factor for their own purposes must be stopped.

We appeal to the legislative, executive, and judicial authorities to protect society from such phenomena which are destroying the centuries-old unity of the peoples of Russia. The words "peace" and "harmony" contain real substance only when society and the state recognize their responsibilty to each other as well as to future generations.

Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate,
Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad

Chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia,
Sheikh Ravel Gainutdin

Chairman of the Supreme Coordinating Center of the Ecclesiastical Boards of Muslims of Russia,
Sheikh Nafigulla Ashirov

Chairman of the Congress of Jewish Religious Congregations and Organizations of Russia,
Zinovy Kogan

Head of the Novo-Nakhichevan and Russian dioceses of the Armenian Apostolic church,
Archbishop Tiran

Apostolic administrator for Catholics of the Latin rite of the European part of Russia,
Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz

Head of the Buddhists of Russia,
Bandido Khamba-Lama Damba Aiusheev

(declaration tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Moscow patriarchate

(posted 21 May 1998)

Public hearings on royal relics scheduled

ITAR-TASS/Pravoslavie v Rossii

MOSCOW, 19 May. With a prayer to the "Tsar-Redeemer Nicholas the Second" the National Assembly of the Orthodox Community opened today in the center of Moscow. The assembly is devoted to the 130th anniversary of the birth of the last Russian emperor. "Like unto the sacrifice of Christ, you gave yourself for the redemption of the sin of the Russian people," the akathist to the tsar entones. The clergy and laity at the assembly spoke of the tsar-martyr who suffered for the apostasy of the Russian nation.

Not so many of them assembled today on a working day at the memorial chapel for the heroes of Plevna, about a thousand. But the prayer of the Orthodox obviously was fervent because one of the icons of the tsar which believers were holding in their hands began to stream myrrh. It was also remarkable that the procession accompanied by singing Easter hymns moved from the memorial chapel to the monument to saints Kirill and Methodius the Enlighteners, symbolically uniting the Slavic lands. They all honored our last tsar for fidelity to Orthodoxy and defense of the interests of the Slavs.

At the assembly it was announced that on 21 May in the State Duma there will be public hearings, with the participation of scholars, leaders of duma fractions, including SD president, representatives of the foreign specialist group for identification of the Ekaterinburg remains, members of the state commission on the reburial, and representatives of the procurator general's office. All specialists having conflicting opinions will have the opportunity to speak at the hearings. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

ITAR-TASS/Pravoslavie v Rossii

MOSCOW, 20 May. Public hearings on the question of the Ekaterinburg remains will be held 21 May in the Heraldry Hall of the State Duma of RF, organizers of the meeting, the Orthodox educational society "Radonezh," told an ITAR-TASS reporter today. At the hearings specialists holding diverse opinions on the personal identy of the discovered remains will have the opportunity to speak. Invitations to the Heraldry Hall have been sent to scholars, leaders of duma fractions including the duma president, representatives of the foreign specialist group, members of the state commission on reburial, and representatives of the procurator general's office.

From the very beginning of the work of the state commission scholars from various areas of science have expressed doubts that the remains found in 1991 near Ekaterinburg belong to the royal family. Almost all scholars who were members of the commission have expressed their dissent from the decision of the commission. Among them are Academic Veniamin Alekseev, director of the Urals Institute of the History of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN) , and Sergei Beliaev, senior academic associate of the Instituted of World History of RAN. Objections have been expressed by leading Russian geneticists, Professor Lev Zhivotovsky, head of the Center for DNA-identification of the Instituted of General Genetics of RAN, and Dr. Evgeny Rogaev, head of the Laboratory for Molecular Genetics of the Brain of one of the science centers of RAMN. Besides this, doubt that the remains belong to the imperial family have been expressed by anthropologists and attorneys.

Since 1992 there have been five academic conferences in Moscow, Ekaterinburg, and St. Petersburg, where scholars have presented reports whose conclusions did not correspond with the point of view of the state commission. On 19 May in the Institute of Russian History of RAN there was an academic session at which the procedure for the study of the Ekaterinburg internment was discussed. The very existence of this internment in 1918 was placed into doubt.

For the hearings, invitations have been sent to specialists who are convinced that the remains under study belong to the Romanov family: criminal prosecutor of the procurator general's office Vladimir Soloviev, medical doctor Pavel Ivanov, chief forensic medicine expert of the ministry of health Vitaly Tomilin, and president of the state commission Boris Nemtsov.(tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 21 May 1998)

Islamists in Central Asia


New law "On freedom of conscience and religious organizations" adopted in Uzbekistan

by Madina Abudlaeva
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 16 May 1998

TASHKENT. Discussion of one of the bills in the session of the Uzbekistan parliament going on in Tashkent evoked unaccustomed animation in the hall. The flacid unanimity of the deputies was shaken up by the address of the president.

According to Islam Karimov, the review of the law "On freedom of conscience" had been put off too long. First, because the former law was adopted in 1991, a year and a half before the adoption of the constitution and it had in many respects a declarative character. However, in recent time within the country and beyond its borders, forces have become active which are trying to hinder the creation of a secular state, violating the requirements of the legislation on freedom of conscience, and using religion in antigovernment propaganda. One of the latest and most convincing evidences that these concerns are not baseless was the events in the Uzbek cities of Namangan and Andizhan, and the president insistently recommended a new analysis of them.

Located in the thickly settled Fergana valley, these cities over the course of seven years already have been a hotbed of tensions stirred up by religious leaders of a different sect. While the majority of residents of the remote place approach the threshold of poverty, in the last four years in Namangan district alone, with a population of about 1.8 million, 1300 mosques have been built. However 60 percent of them have not been registered anywhere to this day. Moreover experience has shown that to undergo registration a religious organization or mosque does not need to assume any special obligations. It is sufficient to give "a lamb in fat" to the local hakim (governor) or employees of the division of the minisry of justice. Under such circumstances the majority of mosques do not pay taxes to the state, although they have extremely substantial means in their accounts. The origin of this money, in principle, should be of interest to the law enforcement agencies and local authorities, but it is not.

It is obvious that with the connivance of local authorities, these sources are financing extremist religious associations and groups which under the device of a struggle for "purity of the faith" are trying to destabilize the social and political situation in the valley. One of the warriors, a certain Takhir Yuldashev, who claims to be of emir lineage, back in 1991 openly demanded the immediate declaration of Uzbekistan as an Islamic state. The organization he created, Islomlashkarlari ("Warriors of Islam") has planned to seize power and to do nothing less than restore the Kokand khanate.

Recent events in Namangan have shown that the Fergana valley is fertile ground for the seeds of religious fanaticism. Literally on the same days when the discussion of the bill was going on, a judicial investigation of one of the cases connected with the activity of extremist religious groups and formations within the district was begun. Accusations that were submitted to the court included the illegal violation of state boundaries, conduct of battle exercises in military camps operating illegally on the territory of neighboring countries, active propaganda of the idea of the creation of an Islamic state, and organizing a conspiracy aimed at the overthrow of the constitutional order of the republic. The original goal, revealed in the indictment, of the "warriors of Islam" was the physical elimination of employees of administrative and law enforcements agencies. Their future plans include blowing up vitally important targets in the district.

As the president noted in his address, in Tajikistan the events on Dushanbe Shakhedon Square also began with an appeal to the religious sentiments of their countrymen which extended into a six-year fratricidal war whose end is not in sight. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Islam Karimov obiavil voinu


Underground organization training Islamic warriors discovered in Kyrgyzstan

by Mekhman Gafarly
Nezavisimaia gazeta, 15 May 1998

We have already written (NG, 7 March 1998) that thanks to the activity of religious emissaries from Muslim states and countries of western Europe, interconfessional conflict has matured in Kyrgyzstan. At that time NG predicted that if the efforts of the countries of the CIS are not united in time, in particular in Central Asia, then the situation simply will get out of control and the possibility of Islamic extremists coming to power in the southern republics of the Commonwealth, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgystan, cannot be excluded.

Unfortunatelly, our pessimistic predictions have begun to come true. In Kyrgystan a group of foreign citizens has been exposed which is sending youngsters to Islamic states to camps for training of religious warriors. This was reported in a briefing held on Monday in Bishkek by the recently named minister of national security of Kyrgyzstan, Misir Ashirkulov.

As reported in the official statement of the ministry of national security (MNB) of the republic distributed at the briefing, invistigative work that has been conducted provides the basis for supposing that an underground organization has been discovered in Kyrgyzstan which has engaged in illegal extremist activity and sent its followers for training in Islamic states. This organization has its own members and charter in Kyrgyzstan.

The statement also notes that at the time of the personal inspection of the foreigners, an air gun with fifteen cartridges, nine diverse passports (including Kyrgyz, Chinese, and Turkish), about 74,000 dollars, currency from states neighboring Kyrgyzstan, hundreds of audio and video tapes with summons to a jihad, and a great quantity of religious literature including many publications of an overtly extremist type were confiscated. "Extremism," the declaration of MNB says, "from whatever source, represents a threat to the national security of Kyrgyzstan. In this regard the agencies of MNB in the future will take the most decisive steps to suppress its spread in the country."

Mr. Ashirkulov confirmed at the briefing that today in Kyrgyzstan there are religious leaders who are preaching various religious tendencies, including Wahhabism, which is considered one of the most extreme tendencies in Islam. The activity of these preachers, as well as all kinds of religious groups, according to the statement of the head of MNB, will be suppressed, including "if necessary in the future joint actions with the ministries of national security of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan."

Mr. Ashirkulov emphasized that Kyrgyz counterintelligence agents are ready to participate in those measures which were planned by the tripartite union of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Russia at the beginning of May in Moscow. He said that the situation regarding the spread of Wahhabism is complicated by the presence at the present of a camp for training warriors on the territory of Tajikistan. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Sbyvaiutsia pessimisticheskie prognozy

(posted 20 May 1998)(posted 20 May 1998)

Father Kochetkov accused of violating ban

Press service of the Presentation Brotherhood
19 May 1998

Issue 7 (72), April 1998, of the newspaper "Radonezh" (editor in chief, E. Nikiforov) published in its "News" section an item titled "Did Kochetkov baptize on Great Saturday?" in which, citing informed sources, the editorial staff of the paper declared that Fr Georgy Kochetkov, in the premises of VPSh (?!) performed the baptism of a regular graduation class of the so-called public school, for which, according to church canons, if the report is confirmed, he should immediately be unfrocked, at the same time calling Fr Georgy, for some reason, a former priest.

The item also states that according to eyewitness reports around 200 members of Kochetkov's community, including the newly baptized, led by Fr Georgy took communion in the church of Christ the Savior at the Easter Liturgy.

In this matter the Presentation Brotherhood and the administration of the Saint Filaret Orthodox Christian School for Advanced Studies (VPKhSh) in Moscow are compelled to declare that all the information contained in this item in the newspaper Radonezh pertaining personally to Fr Georgy Kochetkov, the community of the church of the Dormition in Pechatniki, and the Saint Filaret school are slanderous and completely incompatible with reality.

Such action by the newspaper can only be viewed as an anonymous slander and provocation, directed toward stirring up internal church conflict and new harassment.

Fr Georgy Kochetkov did not baptize on Great Saturday, 18 April of this year, and he did not commune on Easter night, 19 April of this year, nor at any other time since 13 October 1997, as prescribed by the Moscow patriarchate.

No one can accuse Fr Georgy Kochetkov of violation of the canons and church discipline; the same applies to the twelve other brothers and sisters who are sharing with him to burden of undeserved ecclesiastical punishment. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Saint Filaret school

(posted 20 May 1998)

Novosibirsk gets another new religious building


NOVOSIBIRSK, 17 May. The construction of the largest mosque building in Siberia was finished today in Novosibirsk. As the imam-hatib of the district religious society of Muslims, Nakib Shakhirzianov, told a reporter from ITAR-TASS, the mosque will begin operating at the end of June. By that time the internal decoration of the premises is scheduled to be completed. Until now the society of Muslims of Novosibirsk has been housed in a wooden building built back in 1919. The imam-hatib noted that the mosque was erected with the support of the administration of Novosibirsk region, the mayor's office of Novosibirsk, the philanthropic Moscow fund "Filial," as well as contributions from believers.

Five societies of Muslims operate in Novosibirsk region, comprising about 70,000 persons. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 19 May 1998)

Nazi tactics: blame Jews for persecution

RFE/RL Newsline, 19 May 1998

Aleksandr Barkashov, leader of the national- socialist group Russian National Unity (RNE), on 15 May denied that his group carried out the 13 May bombing at a Moscow synagogue, Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 1998) [see "Terrorism against synagogues"]. Earlier on 15 May, Interfax quoted Moscow police sources as saying an anonymous caller claimed responsibility for the bombing on behalf of the RNE. But Barkashov alleged that the act was a "callously planned provocation mounted by the victims themselves." The RNE publishes neo-Nazi literature and claims that Jews, Chechens, and other minority groups are subjugating ethnic Russians. Regional and Nationalities Policy Minister Yevgenii Sapiro speculated during a 15 May press conference that one of Russia's parties whose members wear "black uniforms and swastikas"--a description that fits the RNE-- may have carried out the bombing, ITAR-TASS reported. LB

GROUP'S LEGAL STATUS UNCERTAIN. Barkashov's movement is registered in some Russian regions, and paramilitary units trained by the RNE have helped the police patrol the streets in a few cities, such as Voronezh. However, the Justice Ministry, which is in the process of re-registering political parties and movements, has refused to register Barkashov's movement at the federal level. In January, the RNE lost an appeal against that decision in a Moscow district court, and last month it lost another appeal in the Moscow City Court, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 29 April. High-ranking members of the movement have vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court. Even if that appeal is rejected, the RNE could still be registered later this year if it holds a congress to approve certain changes to its charter, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta." LB

Orthodox church repudiates political role

by Metropolitan Kirill,
president of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate
Trud, 16 May 1998

The year 1988, when the Russian Orthodox church celebrated the millennium of the baptism of Rus, was marked by such an outpouring of religious feeling among the population that many who had endured along with Mother-Church the persecutions and adversities that had rained down upon her interpreted the massive return of people into the churches as a miracle of God. Few could have anticipated that such a thing could have been possible in a country where over the course of the life of three generations an intentional and systematic attempt to uproot faith in God from the human heart had been made.

However, when the Russian church, just as other Christian confessions, discovered freedom of action and was able fully to perform its ministry, the question occurred to many observers: will it be able to formulate its own proper response to the needs of the time and society, a response which people of the postcommunist period expect from a Christian society? After all, in the course of almost seventy years the only form of public action permitted to us was prayer inside the church's fence.

We recall: the religious renaissance in Russia began with a severe shortage of priests, worship premises, and material resources, and chiefly with a lack of substantive practice in public activity. The church was in a very difficulty situation. First of all it was hard to get the complex church mechanism working in a new way, under a different regime. At the time many in the country urged us impatiently. For example, Gleb Yakunin and his comrades railed on us from every tribune: "Everything in the Soviet Union is being restructured; changes are everywhere; only in the bosom of the church is there no restructuring. The church is not in any condition to get involved in charity or religious education; it is not able to conduct a conversation with society; it doesn't work with mass media. The political process in general in the country does not include a dialogue with the church." Unfortunately, our critics never explained why it happened this way, why the church was slow in coming out of its stupor in which it had been kept for seven decades.

Great efforts were required to integrate the church into the life of contemporary society and to establish mutual understanding and dialogue with it and to work out the proper social, charitable, and educational programs and move on to their implementation.

But now time has passed, and today such people as Yakunin accuse us of the exact opposite. They affirm that the church asserts too much of its weight in society and that it "is present" everywhere and expresses its own opinion on all matters, that it considers itself to be a state institution. In both the first and the second instances our critics have been equally far from the truth.

In today's Russia it is not appropriate to talk about any privileged, and certainly not about a state position of Orthodoxy. The church is not aspiring to the prerogatives of state power, because this would contradict not only its own position but the constitution of the country. Besides, the church itself has renounced any kind of participation in the political process and in power.

When the first free elections to parliament were held in our country, it was evident that the communist ideology and the corresponding means of adminitration had lost all attraction in the eyes of society. The demand for a political alternative to the communist party arose. However other strong political parties still did not exist. But the church, the only social structure that did not share the Marxist doctrine, had been in ideological opposition to the soviet regime and despite having been persecuted by it had preserved itself. People simply figured: this regime tried to overcome the church, but it did not achieve its goal in the course of seventy years. The church personifies its great and noble ideal; it has authority and general recognition; its ministers should know what should be done and how to build a new life. Lets vote from them. A broad movement of clerical candidates for office began.

If the church had decided to respond to these desires and get involved in the political process, it could then easily have received a majority in the elected offices of power at all levels. However it forbade priests from standing for office. We proceded from the principle that political engagement is not appropriate to the church; its mission consists in being equally open to and available for all people, for the right and the left and for people of any views. The only message which the church should address to society is the message of the Gospel.

Even more strange appear the continuing attempts of several activists to portray the Russian Orthodox church as some kind of state church. In the West, false and baseless interpretations of the recently adopted law of the Russian federation "On freedom of conscience and religious association" are circulating according to which this document provides some kind of "privileges" to Orthodoxy. Meanwhile there are no such provisions within its regulatory framework. I can say something more: in light of various circumstances we would not even want to have such privileges for ourselves. Perhaps this sounds strange to someone. But we understand well that at the time of the Russian empire the church was a state institution, tied in the closest way to the contemporary form of administration. But the power of the tsar fell and the church was barely able to avoid being swept out of existence in its own fall. If I am not mistaken it was the Philippine Cardinal Sin who made the noteworthy statement that if the church contracts a political marriage with some regime it faces the likelihood of soon becoming a widow.

We are profoundly convinced that the church can preserve its own identity and fidelity to its original intention only when it exists outside of political aspirations and interests without being seduced by any regime or movement that is alien to itself. I suggest that in the present time the chief political interest of our church is preserving its freedom in the future which is necessary for the unrestricted performance of its ministry in the world. On the other hand, the church is not and cannot be and should not be a political opposition. However it has the right and should have the opportunity to address the government and the people of its country in order to inform them what it considers absolutely essential on the basis of its convictions.

In discussing the position of the church in contemporary Russian society, one should not overlook that approximately 80 percent of the population of the country is baptized in the Orthodox faith. Regardless of how often they attend church or how active they are as parishioners, these people are Orthodox by definition. This historical fact now determines the substantial moral influence that the church has on the life of the state and society. It was Orthodoxy that stood at the sources of Russian statehood, its vital forces pervade the greatest products of the national culture, and in its bosom were formed the national ideal and even the language which we now speak. I think that there is nothing that could compare with the historical role of Orthodoxy in the business of forming Russia as a state and the Russians as a nation.

Sometimes we are asked how it could happen that the Orthodox faith remained whole under the conditions of totalitarian control of the individual and society in the Soviet Union and the spreading of state atheism from generation to generation by force. After all it was impossible even to imagine such things as Sunday schools, to say nothing of higher stages of religious education; almost all churches were closed, destroyed, or desecrated; and there were extremely few priests and church servants. But it was the system that fought against God that was shaken and the atheism which was propounded for decades turned to dust and people converged on the church of God. We are asked, how did this happen? Perhaps some kind of church underground existed and some deep conspiratorial structures conducted "sabotage" work among the masses?

This is our answer. When the church was deprived of the possibility of preaching, the main vehicle of its values and ideals remained the Russian culture--literature, music, architecture, and painting. Because all of our cultural heritage is profoundly penetrated with the ideals of Christianity and the ideals of the Orthodox church. And the bolsheviks were fully aware of this. That is why they fought not only with the church but also with the culture. It was no accident that they bombed churches and monasteries and destroyed icons. These were not acts of spontaneous vandalism nor some mindless "kulturkampf," but a struggle with Orthodoxy which was embedded in the national cultural heritage.

However they did not succeed in destroying everything for that was impossible. After all, if the Orthodox faith were finally to cease to exist, that would require the destruction of Pushkin, Lermontov, and Dostoevsky, and along with them all museums and all historic churches. That is, it would be necessary to destroy the people and this the enemies of God could not do. Thus the rebirth of the nation in faith has been carried out in our country within the bosom of the church itself, which has been with it over the course of the last thousand years. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 19 May 1998)

Religious proselytism in Russia

The latest issue of the Emory International Law Review (Emory University) is a special edition devoted to religious proselytism in Russia. The articles are available in electronic form.


Emory International Law Review
Volume 12 / Winter 1998 / Number 2
Proselytism in Russia

Introduction: Soul Wars, The Problem and Promise of Proselytism in Russia
John Witte, Jr.

Caesar's Sword: The 1997 Law of the Russian Federation on the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations
T. Jeremy Gunn

Russia's 1997 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations: An Analytical Appraisal
W. Cole Durham, Jr. & Lauren B. Homer

Federal and Provinvial Religious Freedom Laws in Russia: A Struggle For and Against Federalism and the Rule of Law
Lauren B. Homer & Lawrence A. Uzzell

Freedom of Religion in Russia: An Amicus Brief for the Defendant
Harold J. Berman

Reflections on Church and State in Russian History
Firuz Kazemzadeh

Protestant Missionaries in the Former Soviet Union
Mark Elliott & Anita Deyneka

Historical Heritage or Ethno-National Threat? Proselytizing and the Muslim Umma of Russia
Donna E. Arzt

Proselytism, Change of Religion and International Human Rights
Natan Lerner

Mission, Evangelism, and Proselytism in Christianity: Mainline Conception as Reflected in Church Documents
Joel A. Nichols


(posted 19 May 1998)

Reformist priest commemorates AIDS victims


by Marina Latysheva
Segodnia, 18 May 1998

Moscow patriarchate hesitates

For the past fifteen years, the third Sunday of May has been set aside as the day of memorial for victims of AIDS. It is necessary to recall those who have died and to be concerned for those who still live. Now, after fifteen years of hesitation, the Catholic church has joined up in the struggle. Pope John Paul II called all believers to use protectin in order not to infect themselves with HIV.

For Russia, yesterday was an "anniversary." Ten years ago the first Russian died from AIDS. Yesterday in the Moscow church of Cosmas and Damian there was a modest requiem for those who had died from this disease. This church is one of the few in the capital where such a requiem took place. [Saints Cosmas and Damian are patrons of physicians-- tr. note.]

Several years ago the "We and You" society for defense of the rights of victims of AIDS sent an appeal to the churches of the city, including the [patriarchal] Elokhovsk church, requesting that special requiems be conducted, but many Moscow churches refused. Of course, the Moscow patriarchate never has issued a special decree with regard to victims of AIDS. We have learned that those who have suffered from this disease are commemorated along with other deceased. However the leader of the We and You society, Mr. Kremenskoy, consider this too little. The Russian Orthodox church has great influence in our country and statements by its ministers could bring invaluable help if they were to give more attention to the problem of AIDS.

Father Alexander Borisov, the rector of the church of Cosmas and Damian on Stoleshnikov Lane, served a requiem for those who died from AIDS two years ago. According to Gennady Kremenskoy, this provoked the displeasure of the Moscow patriarchate. The priest was asked "not to make a spectacle." [response from Moscow patriarchate]

The church's attitude towards AIDS is that it is a "sinful" disease, of which the only proof is society's attitude toward it. According to a report on the violation of rights of those infected with HIV in Russia, prepared by the "Imena" fund, despite legislative prohibition, HIV patients are being fired from their jobs and physicians are refusing to treat them. HIV-infected children, whose parents have rejected them and who live in the Moscow AIDS center, are not being admitted by day-care centers, schools, and orphanages.

The current situation is explained by the fact that in our country the situation is not as complex as, for example, in USA, where AIDS affects just about everyone. "Fortunately, in our country this diseae still does not affect everybody," Gennady Kremenskoy told us. For now, not everybody. But today in Russia, every day thirty persons are infected with HIV, in many cases inside medical institutions.

The church has not been praying for everyone. The Orthdox church does not perform burial rites and church commemoration for nonbaptized people as well as non-Orthodox, heretics, and suicides. True, the church does not prohibit its parishioners to perform home prayers for these people with the permission of a priest.

In history there have been many examples where the church (both Orthodox and Catholic) refused to pray for certain people. The mortal torments of Nicolo Paganini, the great violinist who had conflicts with representatives of the church, are well known. Even 200 years after the death of Ivan Mazepa the Orthodox bishops refused to commemorate the anathematized hetman in prayers. Leo Tolstoy, who was excommunicated from the church, also could not count on church burial. Despite pressure from the military, several Russian emigrant priests did not commemorate one of the founders of the White movement, General Alexis Kaledin, who was shot at the beginning of 1918.

However the attitude of the church toward separate categories of the dead has undergone changes with time. For example, for many centuries it refused actors church burial. So that in order for the great Moliere to be buried with church rites the intervention of the king of France was required. Even then the archbishop of Paris made only minimal steps: the funeral was held at the cemetery where suicides were buried and in no church of Paris was a requiem mass said.

But times have changed. When in 1910 the noted actress Vera Komissarzhevskaia died, only the most conservative part of the Orthodox clergy spoke against her church funeral. At present the discrimination against actors has ended; they are buried and commemorated on a par with other Orthodox Christians.

Despite this, one can hardly expect that the Russian Orthodox church in the foreseeable future will make a principled change in its position on the question of the burial and commemoration of those who in their lifetime were "outside its fence" or who committed suicide. Such a decision, in contradiction to canonical tradition, could lead to church schism. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Vatican priobshchilsia

(posted 18 May 1998)

by Timothy Zolotuskii

[Note: the following announcement was sent by the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate, 20 May 1998.]

On Sunday, 17 May 1998, Fr Alexander Borisov, rector of the church of the saints Cosmas and Damian the Silverless, performed a requiem service for victims of AIDS. This was the second year in a row that this prayer service was conducted.

It should also be noted that recently, on Holy Wednesday, the Most Holy Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus, by his decree, awarded Fr Alexander Borisov a pectoral cross, with which he personally invested him in his residence on Chisty Lane. (tr. by VS)

(posted 21 May 1998)

Protestantism along south Volga

Sovetskaia Chuvashiia

CHEBOKSARY, 14 May. In USA there is a substantial organization called the Global Strategy Christian Association. It is associated with the protestant church. In the postsoviet period its missionaries have actively worked on the territory of Russia.

In 1993 a subdivision of the association called the Cheboksary Christian Center appeared in our region. It was founded by the American Allen Douglas, who recently settled in the city to achieve its goals. Retired naval officer Fedor Ivanov became the pastor of the center. As his wife Valentina told us, the family embraced this faith while they were staying on Kamchatka. Both are Chuvash, natives of Vurnary region. Valentina says that she followed her school-age daughter into this faith out of curiosity and then she became convinced of its power and even experienced healing from her diseases.

Generally speaking, healing through faith in Christ seems to be considered one of the main principles of this religion. For example, a woman came to the center who was recommended for surgery for cancer and soon it turned out that the need had gone.

Parishioners of the center believe in a living Christ who lives among us and within us. They do not respect icons or church buildings. For their services they rent the audigorium of a music school. The flock is small, barely more than 100 persons. They embrace the faith through water baptism, by total immersion, usually in the Volga, but only after reaching the age of eighteen.

This week the center marked an event; the president of Global Strategy, Howard Beame, visited Cheboksary. He participated in a regular service. He is staying in Nizhny Novgorod and directs his Chuvash fellow believers. They are having success; there are adherents of this faith also in Novocheboksarsk. Along with Beame another leader of Global Strategy from USA, Marcus Antony, arrived.

A specialist on the religious life of the republic, Leonid Braslavsky, a teacher at the Chuvash State University, considers that the activity of this center is another evidence of the advance of protestantism into Chuvashia. Before the 1990s it was represented primarily by Baptists, Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses. Now there are already about fifteen forms of protestant associations. The newest of these is the "Church of Jesus Christ." It boldly invites folk into its embrace with pamphlets titled "Healing of the Sick," which are being distributed throughout Cheboksary. The association intends to grow and it promises to its future members "two weeks of healing, salvation, and joy." (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 18 May 1998)

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