NEWS ABOUT RELIGION IN RUSSIA

Copyrighted material. For private use only.


If material is quoted, please give credit to the publication from which it came.
It is not necessary to credit this Web page. If material is transmitted electronically, please include reference to the URL, http://www.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/.


Ukrainian Orthodox splinter groups may unite

UPTsKP and UAPTs CONDUCTING CONVERSATIONS ON MERGER?
Ukrainian Orthodox Church

KIEV, 5 May. At an academic and practical conference the "patriarch of Kiev and all of Rus-Ukraine, Filaret" (a former clergyman of the Russian Orthodox church, unfrocked for anticanonical activity; now head of the schismatic group "Kievan patriarchate") reported that in February 1998, on the initiative of the Fund for Spiritual Unity, headed by Nikolai Kravets, he and the "patriarch of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church (UAPTs), Dimitry" (a former clergyman of the Russian Orthodox church; now head of the schismatic group "Autocephalous church") signed a "memorandum of the primates of UPTsKP and UAPTs about unifying the churches into a single Ukrainian Local Orthodox church with patriarchal administration." The memorandum says that in advance of a "united all-Ukrainian council" the sides will conduct during 1998 "local councils of UPTsKP and UAPTs" for discussion of this question and also will conduct on equal bases a "precouncil bishops' conference" which will work out the mechanism for the process of unification and prepare a draft of a charter of a "united local Ukrainian Orthodox church with patriarchal administration."

"Patriarch Filaret," reproaching the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox church, his holiness Metropolitan Vladimir, for his refusal to sign the above-mentioned "memorandum," said: "Even the vicar bishop of the head of the UGKTs (Ukrainian Greek Catholic church) Liubomir Guzar supported the intention to create a single local Orthodox church because UGKTs stands on a position of Ukrainian sovereignty." (However, we leave this statement of Filaret on his conscience; how can one place the Church of Christ in dependence upon one or another "sovereignty"?-- ed. note)

However, despite the signature of this document, "UAPTs patriarch Dimitry" in his declaration says that the memorandum is only the confirmation of the agreement of the two "Kievan patriarchs" to support the initiative of the president of the Fund of Spiritual Unity of Ukraine, Nikolai Kravets, regarding the start of an interconfessional dialogue for a gradual drawing together of "separated parts of the Orthodox church" in Ukraine and reflects the common position of the churches and the personal views of the three persons signing the document. "The memorandum's assertion regarding the personal presence of the president of Ukraine at the signing of this working document does not accord with reality. Unfortunately in the final version of the document Nikolai Kravets made a grammatical mistake and still more unfortunately the attempt to speed up artificially the process of unification of the churches and advertise the activity of the Fund for Spritual Unity of Ukraine led to an unhealthy hoopla over the confidential document, which is a working document. . . . It must be explained that the prerogative of calling a local council of UAPTs, of which the memorandum speaks, belongs not to me personally, but to the bishops' council. According to the charter, a regular local council of our church is planned for the year 2000 and no decision about calling it earlier has been made. The patriarchal council of UAPTs, having reviewed the text of the memorandum at its last session on 9 April 1998, declined the suggestion regarding an immediate convocation of a local council and the creation of a joint precouncil commission with UPTsKP. However it proposed a more detailed program for merger of the churches in Ukraine into a single local church on the basis of which UAPTs is prepared to continue interconfessional dialogue."

"KIEV RUBBER" UNITES SCHISMATICS

At the end of April in Kiev there was a regular session of the Fund for Spiritual Unity of Ukraine." The session was held in the cradle of the fund, the office of the shareholding company "Kiev Rubber," whose president Nikolai Kravets by coincidence is the founder and president of the fund. Present at the session were representatives of the Organizatin of Ukrainian Nationalists, the League of Women of the City of Kiev, the Union of Officers of Ukraine, the League of Arts Patrons and some other small but rather harmful organizations. The session was called in the first place in response to the answer of the theological commission of the Ukrainian Orthodox church to the declaration of the fund calling for Orthodox to unite with schismatics. The theological commission's answer stressed the non-church view of Mr. Kravets on the problem of the unification of Orthodox believers in Ukraine and the impossibility of cooperation with him in this direction.

Participants at the session assembled in Kiev Rubber discussed with annoyance the "obstinacy" of UPTs and decided to try to merge at least the autocephalists of the so-called Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox church" and the self-appointed "Kievan patriarchate" of the unfrocked Denisenko, rightly suggesting that it will be easier for the schismatics to merge among themselves than to repent and return to the bosom of Mother church. The false patriarchs Filaret and Dimitry signed at Kravets' behest some memorandum which contains the murky intention of merging their communities. The would-be unifiers of Kiev Rubber also considered with satisfaction the improvement of relations between Filaret's false patriarchate and Uniates. In their opinion this is evidenced by Filaret's permitting the Uniates to celebrate this summer the 100th anniversary of the Studite monastic order of the Greek Catholic church in the ancient [11th century] Vydubitsky [Archangel Michael's] monastery which was transferred by the government to the so-called Kievan patriarchate. [The name of this monastery derives from the legend that it stands on the site where the idol of the pagan Slavic god Perun came out (vydubit=vyplyt) of the water after Prince St. Vladimir had ordered his men to cast the idol into the Dniepr river--tr. note.]

HEAD OF UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OBJECTS

KIEV. 16 May. The primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox church (UPTs), his holiness, the metropolitan of Kiev and all-Ukraine, Vladimir, appealed by letter to the prime minister of Ukraine, Valery Pustovoitenko, for an examination of the activity of the so-called "Fund for Spiritual Unity of Ukraine."

Esteemed Valery Pavlovich!

Recently in the Ukrainian mass media a widespread advertising campaign has been conducted by the so-called Fund for Spiritual Unity of Ukraine, which is headed by the president of the shareholding society "Kiev Rubber" Nikolai Kravets. The main goal of the fund, according to Kravets is "facilitating the creation of a single Ukrainian local church which will unite not only Orthodox but also Greek Catholics."

The theological commission of UPTs already has given its assessment of this "unification activity" as violating the canons of the Orthodox church. Unfortunately, Kravets, a chemist by education and not a theologian, continues to promote his dilettantish ideas. As primate of UPTs, I am disturbed that in the newspaper of the executive departments of the Ukrainian state, in the issue of 7 May of this year, there was an article which announced the "unification initiative" of the president of Kiev Rubber. Does this mean that the state executive authority supports the idea of the uncanonical "union not only of Orthodox but even Greek Catholics"?

In my view, this would be a dangerous precedent of violating the provision of the constitution of Ukraine concerning separation of church and state. We all must obey the laws of the state. The people of God obey also the commandments of God and church canons, that is, Orthodox canons. It is a great shame when a person who is ignorant of these laws begins a campaign which will only disorient the people of Ukraine. The less nonchurch people interfere in church affairs, the sooner Ukraine will have a united local church. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Ukrainian Orthodox Church

(posted 4 June 1998)


Christian politics in Ukraine

FIRST CONGRESS OF ALL-UKRAINIAN ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIANS
Ukrainian Orthodox Church

KIEV, 24 May. On Saturday, the All-Ukrainian Association of Christians (VOKh) conducted its first congress. The constituent congress had been held on 26 February 1998. The head of VOKh, president of the shareholding trust "Ukrainian Financial Group" Valery Babich noted in his speech that VOKh "is a political party which has as its goal the defense of the social interests of citizens and it will facilitate the creation in Ukraine of a society which is guided by Christian ideals and values." In his words, the party will strive to unite political organizations of Christians of various confessions and also consolidate Christians for political action. VOKh also will direct its energies into work with youth and work in the countryside.

The head of the party expressed the hope that VOKh "will expand to world level." The chairman of the State Committee on Religious Affairs, V. Bondarenko, who participated in the work of the congress, expressed the opinion that although political activity "is not always natural for Christians since their basic goal is the salvation of souls," the idea of an association of Christian-oriented forces with the goal of bringing about Christian ideals in politics will benefit society. He expressed the hope that VOKh will cooperate with all Christian churches without exception.

The head of the Republican Christian Party, Nikolai Pokrovsky, expressed the hope that VOKh will facilitate the creation of a coalition of Christian parties of Ukraine. In his turn, the head of the Ukrainian Republican Party, Bogdan Yaroshinsky, expressed the hope that VOKh will be able to unite the diverse Ukrainian Christian parties.

The congress adopted the by-laws of the Spiritual Rada of VOKh, which will be a representative consultative body, intended to join the forces of religious organizations in the national and spiritual rebirth of Ukraine. The council comprises two chambers, upper and lower. The upper chamber is the supreme administrative body, whose membership consists of the president of VOKh and the directors of religious centers. The lower chamber includes the directors of religious societies, religious educational institutions, missionary societies, monasteries, religious brotherhood, and other religious, public, and charitable organizations.

At the time of Babich's address, the vice president of the Christian Democratic Party of Ukraine (KhDPU), Sergei Kirichenko, who attended the congress in the place of the president of KhDPU, people's deputy of Ukraine Vitaly Zhuravsky, accused Babich (who earlier had been the head of KhDPU) of "exploitation of Christian ideas for personal goals" and "stealing funds of KhDPU." After this he was ushered from the hall. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Ukrainian Orthodox Church

(posted 4 June 1998)

ALL-UKRAINIAN ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIANS MEETS
by Svetlana Stepanenko, Radiotserkov

SLAVIANSK, 10 June. A new political party has appeared in Ukraine which is called the All-Ukrainian Association of Christians. The foundation of the program of this party is the premise that all spheres of the life of society should be built on Christian principles: love of God and people, honoring parents and elders, not lying, not stealing, not murdering, not breaking up the family, not coveting or appropriating what is another's.

At its first congress the head of the recently formed All-Ukrainian Association of Christians, Valery Babich, noted that members of the party are striving to construct a Christian state in which all are equal before God irrespective of religious confession, color of skin, race, convictions, sex, language, or social and economic satus. He also stressed that in his opinion the government should recognize the church as an important part of society and that economics should represent a market system with restricted governmental regulation.

The concluding document of the congress was an appeal to the Ukrainian people in which participants of the forum called all who are trying to live by biblical commandments to unite. Representatives of the clergy, science and art, and state and public organizations emphasized that "it is impossible any longer to observe in silence the degradation of public morality, the destructions of the educational system, the decline of national industry, the dispersal of the educated portion of the population, and the impoverishment of the village." The participants of the firse congress of the All-Ukrainian Association of Christians called their countrymen to stand "With God--for huamnity, for nation, for Ukraine."

Leaders of other political organizations which call themselves Christian expressed the hope that in the upcoming presidential elections their parties will have the possibility of agreeing on questions that deal more with principle and uniting their efforts for strengthening the state. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 12 June 1998)


Statistics from Siberia

VARIETY OF RELIGIONS IN CHITA
by Yury Kolesnikov, Radiosterkov, Novosibirsk
2 June

The department of justice of the Chita regional admistration provided the following information on registration of religious associations as of 1 January 1998. In all, in the region that are 59 registered religious association, including 25 Orthodox parishes, 4 Old Believer communities, 5 Buddhist societies, 1 Muslim society, and 24 congregations of other beliefs, incuding Bahai faith, Society of Krishna Consciousness, Jehovah's Witnesses and 21 protestant associations.

Among the protestants, the 14 registered congregations of Christians of Evangelical Faith prodominate. Evangelical Christians Baptists are united in five congregations. Seventh-day Adventists have one society as does the "New Apostolic Church. "Analysis of the reregistration of already existing societies in 1991 and of registration of new societies shows that the peak of the emergence of new societies was reached in 1994 and 1995, with 4 and 5 societies respectively. In the main, these were associations of Christians of Evangelical Faith. "RPTs here exceeds protestants in number and in the quality of their trained cadres and, consequently, in the results of this work," according to an employee of the department of justice who presented the statistical data to the Radiotserkov reporter. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 3 June 1998)


Search for religious harmony in south Russia

PROBLEMS OF IMPLEMENTATION OF NEW LAW
ITAR-TASS/Pravoslavie v Rossii

KRASNODAR, 3 June. Problems of the practical application in Kuban of the new federal law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations" were discussed today at a territorial conference. Participants in the conference work included representatives of thirty religions, directors of the administrations of cities and districts, and scholars.

The leadership of the region is trying assure that in Kuban where people of various religious confessions and more than 100 nationalities life interconfessional peace and calm will be maintained. The head of the administration on religious affairs of the territorial administration, Laris Zub, told a ITAR-TASS reporter that now within the boundaries of Krasnodar territory there are 519 religious associations of 32 confessions active. In this year alone an Orthodox church in Vyselka was consecrated, a building was transferred to the Armenian Apostolic church in Krasnodar, and the construction of a Catholic church was begun.

It was the opinion of participants of the conference that the new law "should not infringe on the rights of individual believers and should block the way for the penetration into our country of totalitarian religious associations." (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 3 June 1998)


Fallout from Thessaloniki conference on ecumenism

WALKING A TIGHTROPE
by Alexander Maliutin
Moskovskie novosti, 19 May 1998

At the beginning of May the pan-Orthodox conference in Thessaloniki, Greece, ended. The main question discussed there was the attitude toward ecumenism. Ecumenism is the movement for union of the separated Christian churches which arose in the protestant West in the beginning of the current century. Traditional churches--Orthodox and Catholic--at first viewed it cautiously. In 1948 representatives of a number of local Orthodox churches, meeting at a conference in Moscow, adopted a sharp resolution against ecumenism.

However thirteen years later the Russian Orthodox church (RPTs), in the footsteps of Greek Orthodox churches, joined the World Council of Churches, the largest ecumenical organization of the world. Catholics still are distancing themselves from the ecumenical movement, considering that it undermines the Catholic idea of the union of Christians of the whole world under the leadership of the bishop of Rome.

In recent years the participation of Orthodox, especially RPTs, in the ecumenical movement has been called increasingly into question. There are two reasons for this. First, WCC under the influence of the protestant majority has begun to decide questions whose raising, from an Orthodox point of view, seems to be bizarre: ordination of women as priests, homosexual marriages, and common prayers with non-Christians. Second, the political situation in Russia and other countries of the "eastern bloc" has changed and their churches need suport from "western brothers" substantially less. In addition, within the "eastern churches" conservative tendencies have begun to dominate. Today, it seems, it is possible to say that within the Orthodox world there are three leaders of antiecumenmism: the Georgian (it quit WCC last year), Russian, and Serbian Orthodox churches. It was on the initiative of the latter two that the pan-Orthodox conference in Thessaloniki was convened.

However in the Orthodox East there exists serious opposition to the antiecumenists. It comprises primarily the Ecumenical (Constantinopole), Alexandria, and Antioch patriarchates and also the Greek church. Conflict between them and the Slavic churches, led by RPTs, became the main clash of the Thessaloniki meeting. The delegation of RPTs, headed by Metropolitan Kirill Gundiaev, advanced the idea of the necessity for a radical reorganization of the World Council of Chruches which would reflect the opinion of Orthodox to a greater extent. Metropolitan Kirill, a veteran ecumenist and very active participant in many general assemblies of WCC, at Thessaloniki proposed a boycott of the regular eighth general assembly scheduled for December of this year in the capital of Zimbabwe, Harara. Metropolitan Kirill's report received a hostile reception from many conference participants, who detected in it the attempt of RPTs to achieve hegemony in the Orthodox world. Representatives of the Ecumenical patriarch, who do not want to break with the ecumenical movement, even hinted at the possibility of a rupture with RPTs if it insists on its harsh position.

The conference communique stated: "We request all Orthodox churches to send official delegates to the eighth assembly of WCC for the purpose of expressing their concern. . . Orthodox delegates will not participate in ecumenical services, common prayers, and other religious ceremonies at the assembly. Orthodox delegates will not participate in voting procedure except for certain issues affecting Orthodox."

It seems, however, that in the present situation it is preferable for Orthodox functionaries to sit on two stools rather than going all the way to the destruction of WCC or a break with it. In the latter case not only would "Orthodox unity be placed in doubt and the broad flow of financial aid from "western brothers" cease, but also "at home," within the Orthodox churches, "schismatic and extremist groups" would win, since they have made a name for themselves precisely by the criticism of the official church leadership for its participation in the ecumenical movement. It is no accident that the participants in the Thessaloniki meeting condemned not only ecumenists but also their zealous opponents. The communique of the meeting says: "Delegates unanimously condemned those groups of schismatics who are using the topic of ecumenism for criticism of church leadership."

It is not hard to observe that it is church conservatives in recent times who have made a storm within the Moscow patriarchate. Examples of this include the reprisals against priests Georgy Kochetkov, Veniamin Novik, and Vladimir Lapshin, and the covert protection of the Radonezh society and the whole "rightist" church press. This gives confidence to the conservative opposition, which is using increasingly demanding tones in communication with the church hierarchy. Obviously the "new ecumenical politics" has become a balancing act between two dangers: the danger of "undermining the authority" of church leadership in the event of complete renunciation of ecumenism and the danger of schism within the church in the event the demands of the "right" are ignored. (tr. by PDS)

READERS' RESPONSES
Moskovskie novosti, 2 June 1998

"Walking the tightrope" (MN, no. 19), the article by Alexander Maliutin concerning the attitude of the Russian Orthodox church to the ecumenical movement stated: "At the beginning of May the pan-Orthodox conference in Thessaloniki, Greece, ended. The main question which was discussed there was the attitude toward ecumenism. The delegation of RPTs, headed by Metropolitan Kirill Gundiaev, promoted the idea of the need for radical reorganization of the World Council of Churches which would reflect the opinion of Orthodox to a greater extent. Metropolitan Kirill, a veteran ecumenist and very active participant in many general assemblies of WCC, in Thessaloniki proposed a boycott of the regular eighth general assembly, scheduled for December of this year in the capital of Zimbabwe, Harare."

Properly speaking, the ecumenical movement has nothing in common with Christianity. What has changed as a result of Orthodox in this council of churches? Have they ceased venerating icons and the Virgin Mary? The same can be said about any denomination. Each one is maintaining its own doctrine, irrespective of whether this doctrine corresponds to the teaching of the apostles and prophets or not. The essential issue for any denomination is its own denominational teaching. And they do not repudiate their teachings in ecumenism. They are united formally but in essence they remain enemies of each other. In Jerusalem, in Antioch, in Ephesus there was only one church, the Christian church, and people have thought up all these denominational labels in order to separate themselves from the others. Was the apostle Paul a Catholic? Or the apostle Peter Orthodox? Or the apostle James a charismatic? In the Bible it is written that "the disciples in Antioch first were called Christians." In ecumenism it is not that way; there they do not bear the pure name but add to it. "Christians of Evangelical Faith-- Baptists," "Christians of Evangelical Faith--Pentecostals," "Orthodox Christians," etc.

S. Pavlenko.

Dear S. Pavlenko.

You write: "Properly speaking, the ecumenical movement has nothing in common with Christianity." For some reason all members of WCC confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is True God and true man and that God is one God glorified in the Trinity. This is not a union of Christians with Muslims. The Orthodox church is the church completely independent of WCC. It cannot fail to be disturbed by the departure of many WCC members from the "moral" (not doctrinal) teachings of Christ, and thus the conference mentioned in the report was held. As to the first topic, ecumenism. This word can be understood in various ways. If it is a renunciation of the faith and recognition of a new syncretistic pseudofaith, they such ecumenism is unacceptable for Orthodox. WCC arose so that representatives of various confessions, who are not so much the cause as the victims of these painful divisions that exist in the Christian world could fellowship with one another without hostility and testify concerning their faith and help one another as possible. May God grant that such a possibility remains.

Victor Soudarikov.

The article touches on two problems, the problem of the existence of ecumenism proper and some intrigues that swirl about it, the struggle for power in the Orthodox world, etc. The idea of ecumenism, perhaps, is not bad in itself; however, from the point of view of the true believer, it is rather doubtful. It is clear that the contradicitons between Catholicism and protestantism are too strong to be removed by way of conferences and consultations. It is one thing to treat one another civilly and not to accuse one another on every occasion of aiding the forces of darkness, and it is quite another thing to try to reconcile diverse creeds. As regards RPTs, here everything is clear: worldly intrigues have long been the sole meaning of its existence.

Kopernik.

(tr. by PDS)

Russian text: Khozhdenie po kanatu

(posted 3 June 1998)


Tenth anniversary of historic turning point

TODAY IN HISTORY
Moskovskie novosti, 2 June 1998

June 3. Ten years ago today, in 1988, the festival session of the local council of the Russian Orthodox church, devoted to the millennium of the baptism of Rus was opened with a celebrational divine liturgy in the Trinity cathedral of the Saint Sergius-Holy Trinity Lavra in Zagorsk (now Sergiev Posad). In the evening, the in presidium of the celebrational assembly held in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow sat party and soviet leaders who previously had not appeared at such types of events. (tr. by PDS)

(posted 3 June 1998)


Nationalist paper supports antiecumenist stand

KONSTANTIN DUSHENOV: "ORTHODOX MAKE FIRST STEP TO COMPLETE RUPTURE WITH ECUMENISM"
Metaphrasis, No. 11, 18-24 May, 1998

Decisions of the pan-Orthodox conference held 29 April to 2 May 1998 in the Greek city of Thessaloniki can be called fateful. The main result of the conference was this: Orthodox finally have made the first step on the road to complete departure from the ecumenical movement.

The final document of this conference has been called an "Orthodox ultimatum" by religious observers. Essentially it confronts the leadership of the World Council of Churches with a harsh choice: either the reorganizatin of WCC, which will lead to the virtual liquidation of its present structure and give the Orthodox the right of veto or the unanimous departure of Orthodox churches from WCC and the destruction of this organization. What happened in Thessaloniki must be acknowledged as the first great victory of the Orthodox-patriotic forces of Russia in the last 35 years. However the partial nature of such a decision is obvious. Extremely powerful world forces have an interest in seeing that Orthodoxy worldwide continue to succumb slowly to the forces of ecumenism, so as to restrain and, if possible, destroy the recreation of Great Russia. (tr. by PDS) (Sovetskaia Rossiia, 21 May)

Russian text at Metaphrasis

(posted 3 June 1998)


Islamic extremists not threat in Kyrgysztan

PRESIDENT OF KYRGYSTAN PROMISES STERN MEASURES AGAINST WAHHABISM
by A. Bogdanov

BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN, 1 June (KABAR). President of Kyrgystan Askar Akaev at his latest televised press conference declared that the sternest measures will be taken against Wahhabism just as soon as any steps directed at a split in the government arise. He promised reporters that this matter is now under control and at present there is no special basis for talking about an immediate threat to the country from extremist religious tendencies. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at KABAR news agency

(posted 2 June 1998)


Another new religious building in Novosibirsk

NOVOSIBIRSK SYNAGOGUE
Radio of Siberia

NOVOSIBIRSK, 2 June. City authorities transferred to a Jewish congregation a two-story building on Kommunisticheskaia Street, in which a synagogue will be housed. In soviet times a bureaucratic institution was located here. In recent year the building was virtually abandoned. Repair of the premises will have to be done by the new hosts themselves. International Jewish organizations have promised to share resources. In the estimation of religious leaders, the congregation of Jews in Novosibirsk unites about 500 persons, including active members and supporters. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 2 June 1998)


Conscientious objectors in Russia

THREE DRAFTEES REFUSED TO SERVE IN ARMY ON RELIGIOUS CONVICTIONS
Altai Weekly Review

BARNAUL, 2 June. According to the deputy of the territorial military commissar for educational work, Valentin Shibanov, in the past five years three persons, two of them Orthodox Christians and one a Jew, have refused military service on religious convictions. Shibanov emphasized that over the past few years there have not been any attempts at abuse of religious antimilitarist sentiments on the part of conscripts. Shibanov said that several believing draftees have filed requests for alternative service. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

STUDENT RECEIVES SUSPENDED SENTENCE FOR DRAFT EVASION
RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 2 June 1998

A city court in Zheleznodorozhnyi (Moscow Oblast) has convicted Yevgenii Sheremet of dodging the draft and handed down a suspended six-month prison sentence, "Kommersant- Daily" reported on 30 May. Sheremet will serve his prison term only if he commits a crime during the next year. His case highlights the contradiction between the law on military service (which foresees exemptions from the draft only for students attending schools with state accreditation) and the law on education (which guarantees equal rights for students, regardless of whether their schools are accredited). Sheremet plans to appeal to the Moscow Oblast Court. Two years ago, that court upheld the acquittal of a conscientious objector. According to "Kommersant-Daily," a student at a private institute in Voronezh gained a draft exemption in 1996 after appealing to the Constitutional Court. LB

(posted 2 June 1998)


Ukrainian officials partial to deposed metropolitan

FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE, KIEVAN STYLE
Radonezh, May 1998

On 1 May in Kiev Daniil Chokaliuk, the false bishop of the schismatic "Kievan patriarchate" of the unfrocked Filared Denisenko, "consecrated" a cross for the top of the belfry being constructed for the Archangel Michael's cathedral. [This church was consecrated to the event of a miracle attributed to the archangel in the fourth century in the city of Colossae--tr. note.] The belfry was built by Kievan authorities urgently for the congress of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, which began in Kiev on 9 May. The hasty completion of the construction was supposed to demonstrate the "concern" of the Kievan authorities for monuments of antiquity. The consecration of the four-meter cross was attended by the prefect of Kiev, Alexander Omelchenko, upon whose initiative the restored Michael's cathedral [in the Vydubitsky monastery] had already been transferred to the so-called Kievan patriarchate. At the same time the state not only was doing nothing to facilitate the restoration of another Kievan sanctum destroyed in 1941, the Dormition cathedral of the Kievan Caves Monastery, but also did not permit the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox church to restore the cathedral on its own and its own expense.

No less preferential were the actions of Ukrainian authorities at the time of the regular session of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations which occurred on 3 May in the premises of the Committee on Religious Affairs of Ukraine. This strange interconfessional association, in the design of Ukrainian politicians, was supposed to facilitate the unification of all believers in Ukraine and put an end to conflicts on religious bases. Such an intent, obviously, is utopian inasmuch as they appointed as presider of the session that well-known "peacemaker," the false patriach Filaret Denisenko, who had been excommunicated from the church. Thus it was quite natural that no one from the Ukrainian Orthodox church was present at the session of the council. The basic topic of the session was supposed to be a discussion of questions of taxation of religious organizations. However the representative of the State Tax Administration who was invited to the session, Viktor Pavlenko, showed up unprepared for the discussion and consideration of taxation was postponed to the future.

The second question was consideration of the rules for the All-Ukrainian Forum of Christian Churches, "A harvest of justice is sown by deeds of peace," which will be held in Kiev 20-21 May. This forum was supposed to have been held in Kiev last winter. However it was postponed because the unfrocked Denisenko did not agree with the principle of proportional representation of confessions at the forum. Under such a system each confession taking part in the forum was supposed to be represented in proportion to the number of its registered parishes. Naturally, under such a system the largest delgation would have been the Ukrainian Orthodox church, and the schismatic Kievan patriarchate would have extremely insignificant representation. As a result of Denisenko's protest the head of the state committee on religious affairs, Viktor Bondarenko, made an arbitrary decision to change the system of representation to the benefit of the self-declared "patriarch of Kiev." Mr. Bondarenko ruled that at the upcoming forum all confessions participating will have the right to send fifteen persons each. A quota of fifty seats was set aside for representatives of public organizations. The unfrocked Denisenko decided to exploit this provision for strengthening his positions. Among the representatives of the public he proposed inviting to the forum leaders of the so-called "Congress of Ukrainian Intellectuals" and other overtly pro-Filaret and anti-Orthodox organizations supporting the schismatics. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

(posted 2 June 1998)


Ukrainian theologians urge tact in identification system

THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION EXPRESSES OPINION ON INTRODUCTION OF IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM IN UKRAINE
Radonezh, no. 8 (May 1998)

The regular session of the theological commission of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox church (UPTs) was held on 30 April in the building of the Kievan Ecclesiastical Academy and Seminary, under the chairmanship of His Holiness Avgustin, bishop of Lviv and Drogobych. Participants in the work of the commission included the administrator of affairs of UPTs Archbishop Ionafan of Sumi and Akhtyrka, Bishop Feodor of Kamenets and Podolia, Bishop Iov of Kherson and Tauride, abbots and representatives of the largest monasteries of UPTs, and theological scholars and laity.

The theological commission of the Holy Synod of UPTs reviewed the question of the attitude of Orthodox believers toward the introduction in Ukraine of a system of personal identification numbers as part of the reform of the tax system. The plans of the goverment have encountered unexpected opposition in several regions of Ukraine among portions of the population who consider this to be a sign of the advent of Antichrist (in the Revelation of John the Divine it is said that Antichrist will imprint on the right hand and forehead of those who acknowledge his authority a special seal with the inscription of his name or the number of the beast, "666"). The commission expressed its opinion that the outbreak of alarm within the population in connection with the introduction of the identification system is premature, on the basis that the "seal" of Antichrist, according to the teaching of the holy fathers of the church, is not something external, but is a voluntary act of apostasy of a person from the grace of the Holy Spirit through renunciation of the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of the world.

At the same time the commission found it necessary to ask the Holy Synod to petition the government of Ukraine not to use the number composed of three "sixes" in the electronic systems of the country, inasmuch as this offends the religious conscience of believers, and to suspend the "codification" of religious organizations and believers. The commission expressed its concern about the possibility of using global electronic systems for establishing totalitarian control of citizens. In its opinion, the inauguration of such systems can seriously undermine people's trust of the government and actually become a step on the path to the creation of a world system of control and state power. Future plans for the work of the theological commission of the Holy Synod of UPTs include discussion of problems of cloning of a person and the question of protecting the individual's spiritual world from the propaganda of violence and the amoral exploitation of natural human instincts in the mass media of Ukraine. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Pravoslavie v Rossii

AP VERSION OF STORY: Seeks reprieve from national ID

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - The Ukrainian branch of the Russian Orthodox Church has denounced a new national ID system as ``the mark of the Antichrist.''

The system introduced last fall is similar to U.S. Social Security numbers and has become more widespread in recent weeks.

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine appealed to President Leonid Kuchma, the government and parliament to change it. [English translation of synodal letter.]

According to the appeal, many Orthodox Christians regard the system ``as the fulfillment of the apocalyptic prophecy about the mark of the Antichrist and regard the identification numbers as ... `the number of the beast'.''

The Bible's Book of Revelation cites 666 as the number of the Antichrist, but some Christians believe it could be any identifying number required to transact business.

Ukrainian banks now require the numbers before paying out wages, pensions and other benefits. The synod has asked for an alternate ID system for believers and to allow them to refuse a number that contains three or more sixes.

As church leaders met, two dozen believers, mostly elderly women, chanted songs and held signs that read: ``Allow us to receive our wages and pensions without betraying our faith.''

(posted 2 June 1998)


Sympathy for book-burning bishop

RADIO RADONEZH LISTENERS DEMAND DEFENSE OF BISHOP NIKON FROM MEDIA CRITICISM FOR BURNING OF "MODERNISTIC" BOOKS IN EKATERINBURG

by Sergei Chapnin
METAPHRASIS Religious News Service

MOSCOW, 1 June 1998 (METAPHRASIS Religious News) - Until now there has hardly been any reaction to the public burning of theological books in Ekaterinburg from the bishops or lay theologians of our church, but the very same day the article by Maxim Shevchenko was published in Nezavisimaia gazeta, Radio Radonezh listeners demanded of the Union of Orthodox Citizens (UOC) that it defend Bishop Nikon of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursk against media criticisms for the public burning of books by archpriests Alexander Men, John Meyendorff, Alexander Schmemann, and Nikolai Afanasiev in Ekaterinburg. Radio Radonezh listeners also expressed their support for the decision to defrock the priest Oleg Vokhmianin who refused to repudiate those books.

Sergey Gerasimov, Radio Radonezh correspondent, said that the Brotherhood of St. Mark of Ephesus (a semi-anonymous body known for their editions of the so-called "Renewed Orthodoxy Networks" pamphlets - MF) has already expressed its support of Bishop Nikon's decisions.

The spiritual advisor to UOC archpriest Vladislav Sveshnikov, however, was less aggressive in his remarks and said that perhaps UOC will issue a statement on this matter, but the details of the whole situation still need to be clarified. Concerning the defense of Bishop Nikon he said that "there is also no need for this as, thank God, we've had a similar situation as a result of conclusions that have been reached by the commission established to investigate the activities of Fr. Georgy Kochetkov. The patriarch himself made a decision to suspend his ministry. Thus one might say that if this is the only issue, then Nikon has proceeded to act quite in accordance with those decisions made by the church hierarchy." No futher comments were made by the leaders of UOC.

Radio Radonezh is the most influential Orthodox Radio Station in Moscow and the Union of Orthodox Citizens is an umbrella organization for more than 20 groups of Orthodox orientation including the "Congress of Russian Communities" and Radonezh Brotherhood. UOC has the blessing of Patriarch Alexis. (tr. provided by author; edited by PDS for English style)

(posted 2 June 1998)


Religious renaissance accompanied by conflict

PROTESTANTISM IN SIBERIA VIEWED BY SCHOLARS AND PROTESTANTS
by Yury Kolesnikof, Radiotserkov
1 June 1998

From 26 to 28 May in Omsk there was a three-day international academic conference "Protestantism in Siberia." This was not the first event of an academic character devoted to various religious confessions. In 1994 the 600th anniversary of Islam in Siberia was marked by a conference "Islamic Civilization at the Turnb of the 21st Century." In 1996 there was a conference devoted to the 400th anniversary of Orthodoxy in the western Siberian region, and in 1997 there was an interreligious seminar "Society, Law, and Religion."

"Omsk gradually has become a main center in Siberia and the Far East for study of culture and religion," noted the director of the Omsk branch of the United Institute of History, Philology, and Philosophy of the Siberian department of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Siberian branch of the Russian Institute of Cultural Studies, Academician Nikolai Tomilov, PhD. The rector of Omsk State Technological University, president of the council of rectors, Academician Zhilin, doctor of technology, emphasized that the participation of academic circles of the country in the preparation of this conference was no accident. "At present, the schools of higher education are making long strides so that even in the institutes of technology not merely engineers but intellectuals are being trained," he said. "It must be recognized that to become an intellectual one must know both ancient and contemporary history. This history is expressed in its most concentrated form in religion. Without studying religion it is impossible to become a full fledged specialist."

The assistant head of the administration of the city of Omsk, Gennady Malitsky, told the conference participants in his greeting: "Although according to law the church is separated from the state, nevertheless the state cannot fail to pay attention to the processes of what is happening in the confessional sphere. Its task consists in the determination of the mechanism of relations between state and church."

It seems that the interests of the officials of the state apparatus correspond with the interests of academic workers, which assured the possibility of conducting such events in whose preparation twelve leading academic and state institutions participated along with representatives of four protestant confessions: Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, and Adventists.

At the first plenary session, Academician Abdul Nurullaev (Ph.D, academician of the Academy of Humanistic Sciences, chief academic advisor of the Russian Independent Institute of Social and National Problems) delivered a paper on "The Religious Situation in Russia and Problems of Improvement of State-Confessional Relations." He characterized the religious situation in Russia as "complex and very complicated." Academician Nurullaev noted a number of phenomena that are characteristic of the contemporary religious backgroun of Russia. "First," he emphasied, "a religious renaissance is underway which is evident in the growth of religiosity of the population and in the remarkable lowering of the age of members of religious communities. In Russia in just the past five year the number of registered religious associations has increased more than four times and in the case of some confessions their entire contingent has emerged." Further the academician noted that there is occurring a notable "change in the confessional structure of the population which is characterized by the growth of the proportion of adherents of protestantism, Catholicism, and Islam." In his opinion this is happening because of "active missionary activity and intensification of migration processes." In his paper the speaker pointed to the on-going tendency toward politicization of several religious organizations, including the Russian Orthodox church, and of Muslim religious organizations in several republics.

He noted also the growth of the influence of religion on relations among national groups, accompanied by an intensification of interethnic conflicts. "Sociological surveys conducted by the Russian Independent Institute of Social and National Problems have shown that no less that 80% of those surveyed consider that interethnic conflicts could destroy Russia," the academician said. "Three years ago our institute collected the predictions about the prospects for interreligious relations from hundreds of specialists, academic students of religion, prominent religious leaders, and state employees who deal with matters associated with religious organizations. A majority, more than 60%, predicted then the growth of religious intolerance. Unfortunately, these predictions have come true," the speaker noted. It is not a paradox, in the opinion of the academician, that along with the growth of religiosity of the masses there will be a steady decline in trust of all religious organizations within the population. "Three or four years ago sociological surveys showed that religious organizations enjoyed the greatest trust among all public institutions of the country, including the army, school, and labor unions," he said. "Today the situation has changed. A survey conducted in September 1997 showed that 27.7% of the people trusted religious organizations and 36% did not."

Further Academician Nurullaev produced data of another sociological survey conducted the the Institute of Social and Political Research of the Russian Academic of Sciences in January 1997. Here the indicators showed 27% trusted and 48% distrusted. "Obviously," the academician thinks, "religious organizations are concerning themselves with their own problems and are devoting less attention to problems of society and educating the population in a spirit of friendship and concord."

Academician Nurullaev also briefly touched on several points of the new law "On freedom of conscience and religious association," and in the conclusion of his report he made a number of suggestions which in his view could be entered into the documents of the conference. First, to address the Constitution Court with a request to expedite review of petitions for declaring the unconstitutionality of provisions of a number of articles of the law on freedom of conscience. Second, to ask the State Duma to expedite review of the draft of the law on alternative civilian service. Third, to ask the government and apparatus of the presidency of the Russian federation to use academic institutions in preparing a draft of conceptualizations of state-confessional relations and to present it for the approval of the president of the country. Finally, "to consider it worthwhile to call religious organizations of Russia in their relations with other religious organizations to be governed by the 'Declaration of Principles of Peaceful Coexistence of Religions and Religious Associations in the Russian Federation,' which was adopted in 1997 at a conference conducted by the Russian Department of the International Association for Religious Freedom."

The paper by Vladimir Solodovnikov, kandidat of historical sciences and teacher of the Moscow Theological Evangelical Christian Baptist Seminary, on the topic "Cultural and Historical Role of Protestantism" was emotional and homiletical in manner. He opened his address with the words: "We evangelical believers value this conference as a place where we can testify to our faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and our ministry to him," and he confirmed his words by the manner of delivery of the contents of his paper. In the course of his address his speech frequently was confirmed by approving voices of believers present. Solodovnikov concluded his address: "Protestantism is the likely answer to Solzhenitsyn's question: 'How can Russia be put in order?'"

In all, 92 papers were heard during the course of the work of the conference in plenary and sectional sessions. About 500 persons took part in the work of the conference, including atheist scholars and representatives of thirteen different forms of religious profession. From the academic side, 20 doctors of science, 40 kandidats of science, and several students gave addresses. Scholars and believers of five countries took part: Germany, Canada, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Switzerland. More than 20 cities of Russia were represented, including Moscow and St. Petersburg. "The main goal which we have established here is to achieve the equality of all confessions," said the presiding official of the conference, Academician Tomilov.

In concluding the work of the conference Tomilov suggested adopting a final document, a resolution. In debate on this matter the representative of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians Baptists, Vladimir Solodovnikov, declared that "after attentive study of the draft of the document, distributed to heads of delegations last night, [he] and representatives of the Omsk Association of EKhB Churches have decided not to sign the document, although Baptists always are ready for interconfessional dialogue with representatives of other religions." Further the speaker noted that "this conference has an academic and research character" and he implied that the scholars of religion attending the conference treat believers as objects of their research and this "cannot facilitate joint productive cooperation." "From academic and research motives flow incorrect views of protestants," Solodovnikov noted. "Protestantism is not a confession. It is primarily a spiritual activity. It is an attempt to return to the evangelical sources, to holy scripture." Later in an interview with Radiotserkov reporter Yury Kolesnikov, Vladimir Solodovnikov stated that the particular document practically deprived Christians of the moral right to evangelize the heathen, for example, those who profess Buddhism, since it defines them as spiritual "brothers and sisters." Also Solodovnikov pointed to the item in the resolution calling for "creation of an International Association of Religious Harmony," which he said was a "horn of the Devil." The phrasing "religious harmony" evoked a decisive protest on the part of practically all representatives of the confessions present. A minister of the Grace church of Christians of Evangelical Faith, Evgeny Rumiantsev, said in conversation with the Radiotserkov reporter that this appeal is nothing other than an "attempt to create a single religion, preparing for the arrival of Antichrist." Although later this item was changed to "creation of an International Asociation of Mutual Activity and Trust," Vladimir Solodovnikov called it "poisonous candy in shiny wrapper."

Thus, despite the adoption of the resolution in its amended form, the conference showed that there do exist definite complexities in relations among professional students of religion and believing people. "This was an academic conference and not a theological symposium. For religious scholars, religious organizations actually represent research material" according to scholar Nikolai Petrov, who deals with questions of comparative religious studies in the university in Tiumen, commenting on the speech of the representative of EKhB churches in an interview with the Radiotserkov reporter. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 1 June 1998)


Christians caught in Uzbek religious conflict

BAPTIST CHURCH IN PRISON COLONY CLOSED
by Vadim Akentiev, Radiotserkov1 June 1998

State authorities, by special order, closed the house of prayer of Evangelical Christians in Zone 25 of Special Regime in the settlement of Karaulbazar in the republic of Uzbekistan. The reasons are unknown. According to the minister of one of the local EKhB churches, Vasily Khripunov, everything happened unexpectedly and quickly. People arrived at the prison colony from the presidential council of Islam Karimov. The minister of the congregation for prisoners, Brother Aleksei, was summoned. One of the high ranking officials asked: "Is it good for you to be meeting? What if we close the house of prayer?" Aleksei answered that if the Lord permits it, believers are ready to suffer. The presidential advisor calmly stated: "Well then, we shall close it." What is amazing is that at the same time a mosque also was closed here; mosques exist in almost all prison colonies of Uzbekistan.

The house of prayer in Zone 25 appeared in 1992. The initiator of the construction was Viktor Arsentiev, one of the prisoners. He has spent thirty of his 46 years in prisons. His hatred for police agencies brought him inevitably to the seat of the accused. But in 1992 he repented and believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord prompted Viktor to devote all his enthusiasm and enormous energy to the glory of God. Thus arose his idea for the construction. The head of the colony fully supported the idea.

In 1998 more than seventy parishioners met in the house of prayer. Of them, a third were believers. Seven men recently received baptism in the real baptistry which also was built by prisoners. In general, what is operating in the colony is not a group of believers but a genuine local church. Parishioners met in the church every day. Six o'clock in the morning was the prayer hour. At 9:00 was the morning service. To it all who wished were especially conducted out of their cells. In the evening after work there was another service. According to Vasily Khripunov, strong discipleship groups were organized in the church. Many brothers are students in the correspondence courses of the International Bible Institute. Incidentally, the specifics of the special regime very much facilitate the spread of the Good News and discipleship. That is because upon the completion of half of their prison term people, as a rule, can be sent for good behavior to other colonies with a gentler regime. In those places, believing prisoners evangelize and create their own Bible groups.

It should be said that the closing of the house of prayer is one of the consequences of the struggle between the government and adherents of Islamic fundamentalism. People from the presidential council went to the colony specifically to close the mosque, and the Christians were affected in the process. The president of the republic, Islam Karimov, insists on the secular, democratic character of the state without an official ideology or religion. To the extent that the influence of Islam is growing, even covertly, social tensions also grow. According to Vasily Khripunov, local churches pray much for the president. He needs great wisdom in the complex political situation. If the fundamentalists in the end come to power, Uzbekistan will become a Muslim country. In that case the situation for Christians possibly will worsen enormously. Thus the recent incident in the colone of special regime is being taken calmly. This is not a manifestation of a deliberate persecution of believers. Prisoners still have the right to conduct private conversations with clergy. This right is prescribed by the law on freedom of religious profession. Although that is little consolation. Christians are still praying earnestly that services will be restored in their church. (tr. by PDS)

Russian text at Radiotserkov

(posted 1 June 1998)


Coprighted material. For private use only.

If material is quoted, please give credit to the publication from which it came. It is not necessary to credit this Web page.