NEWS ABOUT RELIGION IN RUSSIA

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Mormon missionaries detained on army base

FOREIGNERS GIVE SIBERIAN INTELLEGENCE SERVICES NO REST

by Igor Saskov
Segodnia, 22 October 1998

Now they are trying to preach in the military units of Krasnoiarsk province

KRASNOIARSK.  Two foreign citizens were arrested recently by agents of the Federal Security Service of Krasnoiarsk territory for trespassing on the territory of a military unit. At the present time the regional administration of counterintelligence is reviewing the question of the possibility of continued residence of these citizens on the territory.

Several days ago a sentry of the army unit no. 65400 noticed from the guard tower that two suspicious persons were approaching the fence of a military object that was opened for visitation and they crawled through the barrier and walked into the middle of the military unit. The unsanctioned penetration of the territory was at the same time recorded on the videomonitor in the guard house. At this time the sentry informed the senior officer of the squad about what had happened and he decided to arrest the strangers. A squad wen out to meet the uninvited visitors. The "guests" gave no resistance and did not try to run; they immediately produced their passports. From the documents it turns out that the men on the territory of the unit were the Finn Kari Lourence and the American citizen Ryan Workman. Both introduced themselves as missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who adherents of better known as Mormons. To the question of the purpose of their illegal penetration onto the territory of the unity they declared that they had come here for religious conversations with soldiers. But why this required that they secretly crawl through the fence the foreigners were not about to explain.

When the suspicious missionaries were taken to the guard house in order to ascertain that they were telling the actual truth, they were met by agents of the FSB and representatives of the passport and visa service. True, the counterintelligence agents were disappointed: no special "spy" equipment was found on the Mormons. In their pockets the foreigners had only harmless leaflets of religious contents. The same outcome came from a careful review of the tape made by one of the videocameras on the "perimeter" of the military unit. Counterintelligence agents satisfied themselves that the foreigners had not managed to plant on the territory of the unit any bug or apparatus for collecting intelligence information.  After all this the agents merely had to fill out forms about an administrative violation and set the missionaries free.

When a Segodnia reporter asked at the FSB of Russia for comment, he was told that in recent times cases of the penetration of military objects by foreign citizens who pass themselves off as religious preachers have been increasing.  They all maintain that they are "bringing the word of God to the lost soldiers," although they are not always getting to their military flock by legal means. What actually is being concealed behind the good intentions of the preachers cannot be said unequivocally, but counterintellegence is not able to dismiss a suspicion that some of the missionaries combine their preaching with extremely specific tasks. Nevertheless so far they have not managed to show this, or to establish that the preachers arrested among the troops are participating in spy activity.  (tr. by PDS)

(posted 29 October 1998)


Orthodox tensions with World Council of Churches

 
ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT MUST DEAL WITH "GROWING GAP" SAYS OFFICIAL
by Andrei Zolotov
Ecumenical News International

Moscow, 27 October (ENI)--A leading Russian Orthodox Church official has denied claims in German press reports that he  called on the World Council of Churches - the world's principal ecumenical organisation - to give up its search for church unity.

The German press reports caused astonishment in ecumenical circles as the unity of the church is ecumenism's raison d'etre.

However tensions within the ecumenical movement had lent credence to the reports.

Orthodox churches, most of which are members of the World Council of Churches (WCC), have in recent years criticised the organisation, claiming its activities are too Protestant and liberal.

Fr. Vsevolod Chaplin, the official reported as making the controversial remarks, told ENI last week that his comments had been "misinterpreted". Chaplin, who is a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church, is responsible for overseeing church relations with society at large for the Moscow Patriarchate's Department of External Church Relations.

"The goal of Christian unity is sacred and useful for Christendom in its current divided state," Fr. Chaplin said. "A statement that the WCC should give up the search for Christian unity is against my innermost conviction."

But he said the ecumenical movement should have the courage to face up to the "swiftly growing gap between the Orthodox and Protestant worlds" in the fields of ecclesiology and Christian morality.

Orthodox objections to liberalism within the ecumenical movement -- particularly to liberal views of feminism and homosexuality -- have been compounded by the arrival of Protestant missionaries in the largely Orthodox nations of  Eastern Europe. There are also deep hostilities in some parts of the region between Orthodox Christians and members of churches faithful to the Vatican. For many conservative Orthodox Christians, Protestants and Roman Catholics are heretics.

The Georgian and Bulgarian Orthodox churches have already announced their withdrawal from the WCC, while the Moscow Patriarchate is facing increasing pressure from ultra-conservative groups in Russia to do the same.

Fr. Chaplin said that only an honest effort to confront the "harsh reality" could revive theological dialogue.

"We have to look this situation in the face," he told ENI. "Why have the last 50 years in the history of Christianity, which coincided with the 50 years of the ecumenical movement [the WCC is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year] failed to become a period of growing unity and have become instead a time of greater divisions between the families of the Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and the free churches?"

One of the reasons, he said, was the failure of  Christians to sacrifice their worldly comforts  to the truth of the Gospel.

"For many of us, including the Orthodox, compromises with the values of the world around us have prevailed over the Divine Truth," Fr. Chaplin said.

One area in which there was much potential for Christian cooperation was in church policy on society. "Even if we reach the conclusion that doctrinal divisions among confessions will remain until Christ's second coming, we can still do much together in the public field," Chaplin said.

Earlier this month, the Russian Orthodox Church's synod decided to send a delegation of three representatives to the WCC's eighth assembly, which is to take place in Harare in December 1998. In the past, the Moscow Patriarchate has sent major delegations of about 25 members, led by bishops, to WCC assemblies.

Fr. Hilarion Alfeyev, a senior Russian priest in charge of relations with non-Orthodox churches, will lead a delegation with a "limited" mandate, according to a synod statement.

Fr. Chaplin said that after the assembly the Russian church's leaders would take a decision about  future participation in the WCC.  But he also stressed that such a decision should be taken jointly by all Orthodox Churches.

The Orthodox churches and the WCC have agreed that after the assembly  a "mixed theological commission" will be convened to discuss the future of Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement.
 

c. ENI

(posted 28 October 1998)


Jehovah's Witnesses trial

PROSECUTOR WOULD CLOSE WITNESSES; JEHOVAH'S WITNESS WOULD BE EXPELLED FROM MOSCOW
Kommersant Daily, 22 October 1998
 

The Golovin district court has begun a review of the case on the liquidation of the religious organization of "Jehovah's Witnesses" which is registered in Moscow and exists under this name in more than 230 countries. The "Witnesses" are charged with stirring up religious enmity, encouraging suicide and refusal of medical aid, and also compelling people to break up their families. Thus far the prosecutor's office has not succeeded in the attempt to hold the leadership of the society criminally responsible.  Details by Ekaterina Zapodinskaia

The judicial persecution of the Jehovah's Witnesses began more than two years ago, when the Savelov district prosecutor instituted a case based on article 1431 of part 1 of the criminal code ("organization of associations that infringe upon the individual and human rights"). The investiation was begun upon the request of the so-called Committee for the Salvation of Youth, which included relatives of members of the given society. Three times it was dismissed for lack of evidence of a crime, but the decision was overruled by the Procuracy General and the procuracy of Moscow after complaints from members of the committee.

Each of the complaints contained information about incidents of young people who had joined the Jehovah's Witnesses society and had changed beyond recognition: they quit work and their previous interests, became withdrawn and alienated from their relatives, and for religious reasons rejected medical treatment for themselves and their children that involved blood transfusions or medicines that contained blood.

The nineteen-year-old Witness Pavel Semitko, who was hospitalized in 1996 in Moscow hospital number 40 with acute leukemia in critical condition and who had refused transfusion of his own blood, could be saved only by reaching an agreement with his mother for the transfusion by deception. He himself preferred "to die with God." Paul's mother gave testimony that members of the society came to Pavel's room in the hospital and "worked him over roughly" to persuade him not to have the transfusion. Pavel Semitko returned to his ordinary life and now the twenty-year-old son of Svetlana Ivanova, who appealed to the Committee for Salvation of Youth, has joined the sect and become, in her words, psychologically sick. He has lost interest in life and has withdrawn from the outside world. Ivanova described for the prosecutor that the society forbade her son to fellowship with people of another faith.

The grandson of Elena Riabinkina and his wife, who had become Witnesses, now do not acknowledge their relatives and friends nor general holidays. According to Riabinkina, "a great ideological transformation of personality takes place in the sect and the fear of the expectation of the end of the world is elevated. In sermons the sectarians are exhorted with the need to make voluntary contributions to the needs of the sect." The daughter of Tatiana Deriabina joined the same society, according to the mother's testimony, and she does not acknowledge general human standards and codes of conduct. In her eyes her mother has become and enemy. Deriabina's four-year-old grandson is taken by his mother to the meetings of the sect in order to be cured of his epilepsy. And the young mother Olga Lebedeva, who became a Witness, has tried by all means to kill her infant son. The judicial investigation has found her irresponsible. However, the prosecution has no proof that she became irrational as a result of fellowship with the Witnesses.

"Those who are not with us are with Satan"

The years-long investigation of the criminal case against the Jehovah's Witnesses has led to its abandonment. In the conclusion of her presentation, the investigator for specially important cases, Elena Solomatina, wrote that although the society has not committed any crimes, it has violated the constitution and the law "On freedom of conscience." The prosecutory of the norther districy Alexander Viktorov petitioned the courl to prohibit the activity of the society.

In the prosecutor's opinion, the Jehovah's Witnesses offend the sentiments of representatives of other confessions by calling in the literature all who do not profess their faith "goats" and Satan's adherents. He considers that the society promotes the destruction of the family in cases when one of the members of the family refuses to adopt the Witnesses' faith. As an example he cited the story of the youth Natalia Zhuravleva.  On her person was found a declaration (which children of members of the society are required to carry) in which was written:  "On the basis of our convictions, the family of Jehovah's Witnesses refuse blood transfusions." Meanwhile her father Yury Zhuravlev categorically opposed the mother's involving the child in the activities of the society.

One of the basic arguments of the prosecutor against the Jehovah's Witnesses is the illegal attraction of children into the activity of this organization. According to its charter principles, only adults may become Witnesses. However in its book under the title "Conduct of services in organized manner," it says: "Baptized preachers who attend school may conduct services during vacations or when there are no classes because of secular holidays." According to informatin of the prosecutor, attraction of children into the organization is often carried out without the agreement of the second parent and any attempts to return the child to an ordinary life are viewed by the society as satanic interference.

However, Jehova'hs Witnesses deny all the prosecutor's accusations, considering them persecution of sincere believers (of which there are more than 50 thousand in Russia). The director of the Moscow office of the society, Sergei Vasiliev, noted in an interview with a reported that placing the interests of God higher than personal interests, as the Witnesses do, does not at all mean that one must quit work or family or hobbies:  "We have not prohibitions. A person follows Holy Scripture and does what pleases God. It is not we but the Bible that does not permit divorce, personal life outside marriage, or smoking as things that corrupt the flesh and the spirit. Nevertheless the accusations against us are based, as a rule, on conflicts within families."  To the reporter's question whether Witnesses really are preparing for the imminent end of the world, Sergei Vasiliev answered:  "The Bible says nothing about the end of the world, but about the culmination of the evil system of things. We preach that God will intervene in human affairs, but we do not set a specific date."

At the next court session on the Jehovah's Witnesses case the department of justice of Moscow will participate, which registered the society at the end of 1993. As long as the trial is in progress, the Moscow authorities have refused to confirm for the society the right of owning a parcel of ground on which to is standing a House of Culture (Mikhalkov street, no. 26) which it bought from the Peter Alexeev Factory. The attempts of the prosecutor to contest in court the factory's right of ownership of the building and thereby to keep it from the Jehovah's Witnesses have ended in defeat.  (tr. by PDS)

(posted 27 October 1998)


Trial of Unification Church continued

CREATING THE PRESUMPTION OF GUILT
by Konstantin Krylov
20 October 1998

On 15 October 1998 in the Admiralty Court of St. Petersburg, Russia, the hearing of the Unification Church affiliated youth organization CARP vs. the Justice Department of St. Petersburg City  Hall took place. Pursuant to the demands of anti-cult activists, the activities of CARP  had been investigated by the Justice Department at the end of 1995. Based on  the results of the examination, the Justice Department warned CARP  that it considered its liquidation possible because it supposedly  conducts illegal activities.

Following Russian law, CARP considered the warning to be groundless  and illegal and disputed it in court early in 1996. Art. 239-6 of the Civil Procedural Code obliges the court to process the complaint within 10  days. The Justice Department was supposed to produce evidence to  serve as proof for its warning. The representatives of the Justice  Department never came to the court or submitted any documents. The  students requested that the hearing begin, but in vain. The hearing  only took place on 15  October 1998. During the hearing the  Justice Department neither produced any evidence nor was able to  answer any of the questions of the representatives of CARP about  specifically what law was violated and how. The representative of the  Justice Department only stated, "We know that CARP is not a good  organization, but we cannot prove it."

Seeing that the allegations against the student organizations were not supported by anything, the judge did not make any resolution, but  suggested that the Justice Department prepare better for the new  hearing scheduled for 27 October 1998.

On this day the same court will hear the complaint of the believers of the Unification Church of Reverend Moon about the same Justice  Department's refusal to register their religious community. This case has  not been given a hearing for almost 3 years although it should have  been within 10 days.

This very warning to CARP is being used by the prosecutor of St. Petersburg  in his liquidation claim in the City Court of St. Petersburg. It has been deemed by the court as valid and serves as evidence, because it was not found to  be disavowed by the Admiralty Court as illegal or lacking a basis.  Thus the Admiralty case is being postponed to let the City Court  liquidate CARP on the basis that this warning was a legally valid one.  Thus both the prosecutor and the Justice Department are interested in  delaying the 27 October case in order to use the warning to  liquidate CARP in the city court case postponed until 30   November for the same reason as the Justice Department's. The  prosecutor did not provide evidence of illegal activities of CARP for its  liquidation.

One possible reason for the tactics of the court lies in the visible dependence of the judges upon the Justice Department. According to  Russian law, the Justice Department appoints staff for the courts, takes  care of the financial and material security of the court system, deals  with complaints about judges, and conducts qualification examinations  when the judges are appointed to the court.

(courtesy of Konstantin Krylov)

(posted 21 October 1998)


Missionary killed; suspect arrested

 MORMON MISSIONARY KILLED IN RUSSIA

 Saturday, October 17, 1998; 10:42 p.m. EDT SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A Mormon church missionary was stabbed to death when he and a fellow  missionary were attacked by a group of men Saturday in the Russian city of Ufa, the church said.

 Jose Manuel Mackintosh, 20, of Hiko, Nev., was killed and his companion wounded. The group of men fled  after the attack in the city about 750 miles southeast of Moscow.

 Mackintosh and Bradley Alan Borden, 20, of Mesa, Ariz., were accosted after they left the home of a Mormon  family they were visiting. Borden was in stable condition in an Ufa hospital, according to a press release issued  by the church.

 Witnesses said they believed the attackers were drunk and police were called.

 ``We understand that this tragedy was a random act of violence and that there was no premeditation,'' said L.  Aldin Porter, a church official. ``Our representatives in Russia will cooperate fully with local authorities in  their investigation of the case.''

 Mackintosh had been a missionary in Russia for just over a year and Borden had arrived in January.

 In March, two Mormon missionaries were held hostage for four days in southern Russia.

 There are about 500 Mormon missionaries in Russia, among 57,000 mostly young men the Utah-based church  has deployed around the globe.

  Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

 SUSPECT NABBED IN MISSIONARY SLAY
 

 By Nick Wadhams  Associated Press Writer
Sunday, October 18, 1998; 2:37 p.m.

EDT MOSCOW (AP) -- Police arrested a suspect in a stabbing attack on two Mormon church missionaries from the  United States that left one dead and the other hospitalized in central Russia, police said Sunday.

 A group of assailants stabbed to death Jose Manuel Mackintosh, 20, and wounded Bradley Alan Borden, 20,  after the pair left the home of a Mormon family in Ufa, according to a press release issued by the church in the  United States. Ufa is about 750 miles east of Moscow.

 Borden was in stable condition at a Ufa hospital, the statement said.

 Police would not release any information about the arrested man.

 Investigators believe the stabbing was an indiscriminate attack and was not directed toward the Mormon church,  said Rais Galin, police spokesman for the district that includes Ufa.

 Witnesses said the man who killed Mackintosh was drunk at the time, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

 ``We understand that this tragedy was a random act of violence and that there was no premeditation,'' said L.  Aldin Porter, an official with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah.

 Porter said the church has no plans to pull missionaries from Russia, though missionaries may be asked to  stay in their apartments and venture out only in groups of four.

 Mackintosh, from Hiko, Nev., had been a missionary in Russia for a year. Borden, of Mesa, Ariz., arrived in  January.

 The young missionaries, dressed in white shirts and dark ties, work in pairs and are easy targets for harassment.  In March, two Mormon missionaries were held hostage for four days in southern Russia before they were  released unharmed.

 There are about 500 Mormon missionaries in Russia, among 57,000 mostly young men the church has  deployed around the globe.

  Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

(posted 19 October 1998)
 


Execution of constitutional appeal of religion law questioned

THE BUMBLEBEE
by Alexander Kolpakov
Moskovskii komsomolets, 7 October 1998

It is possible to make money out of thin air, and also from the law "On freedom of conscience," which, properly speaking, is one and the same thing. The technique of such activity is simple. One merely needs to charm the gullible. And, as life has shown, there are many of them.

Now for the essence of the matter. The law "On freedom of conscience and religious associations" which was approved by the duma and signed by the president came into effect on 1 October 1997. All believers were interested in the law, but the representatives of religions that are traditional for Russia and principally the Russian Orthodox church gained the fruits from it. The "young" religious groups and associations were left on the side, whose term of existence in the Russian land did not meet the fifteen-year qualification. In essence they all are suffering today a loss of rights, or they could: to own property, have a bank account, conclude labor agreements, and the like. Moreover, their existence requires annual reregistration such as that which is required of exiles. At the same time, the believers are told that the new law will be mild and that "no one will suffer."

Actually many are suffering. Some have been subjected to repression:  The Christian Presbyterian church "Zion" in the suburbs of Moscow, the Evangelical Lutheran mission in Khakasiia, and the "Christian church of Glorification."

To take the side of the "downtrodden and insulted" is divine work.  Among the first to respond to the voice of the suffering churches are men from the Institute of Religion and Law, the protestants Pchelintsev and Riakovsky. They prepared an appeal to the constitutional court where on the basis of the situation that had arisen with regard to the above mentioned churches the law was subjected to criticism. The appeal was filed on 1 April 1998 and reached the constitutional court on 1 July, after which it was returned on 21 July to the writers, who had deliberately "messed up" the mechanics of its formulation, and since then, right up to 10 September, it remained up in the air.  Up in the air? Representatives of a majority of human rights organizations and protestant councils who are extremely interested in having the appeal go forward declare that the delay has played directly into the hands of the writers.

Of course, he hasn't been caught; he's not a thief, but nevertheless. . . . For "advancing" the appeal the authors have sent appeals throughout the protestant world in which they beg their fellow believers for help. "Help" should be sent directly to the Institute of Religion and Law as the main outpost in the struggle with the remnants of totalitarianism. For the sake of persuasion Mr. Pchelintsev even has "shown his face," visiting the States for lectures about ten times. Crossing the ocean, by all accounts, was beneficial. While the delay in the appeal was going on, good Samaritans from Europe and USA have not ceased sending to Moscow regular sums so that Pchelintsev and Riakovsky can "resist reaction in the East." If one specifies the amount of the "pollen" collected, then the picture turns out thus:  "In October-December 1997 the organization of the work of the staff for preparing the trial in constitutional court, recruitment of specialists, and the preparation of materials, 10,000 US dollars, the organization of publications and releases to mass media on problems of the new law, 10,000 dollars, preparation and publication of the book "Religion and Nationalism," 10,500 dollars, and the like.  In all, 56,000 dollars.  From December 1997 to January 1998, the organization of work of the staff for preparation of the trial in constutional court, recruitment of specialists, and preparation of materials, 3,000 dollars.  Organization of publications and releases to media on problems of the new law and incidents of violation of rights to freedom of conscience, 2,000 dollars, and the like.  In all, 28,000 dollars, etc.  The case has gone on until September.

In the charter of the Institute of Religion and Law it says:  "The institute is a noncommercial, nongovernmental, scholarly investigative organization."  Therefore one should not gain something from it.  Nevertheless one would like to determine how much of all the means these laboring bees turned to the defense of believers' rights [there is a pun here on Pchlintsev's name which is based on the root for "bee"--tr. note]. (More in detail about this in a subsequent article).  Willy-nilly one gets the idea that a strange game is being played with the presidential administration which is persistently lobbying the interests of the Moscow patriarchate.

The constitutional court as an exempliary bureaucratic machine is extremely cumbersome and cases there are reviewed carefully and at length. The answer to the suit filed in September 1998 will come at best no earlier than the end of 1999. There will be elections to the State Duma and then for the president. . . . But will there be freedom of conscience? (tr. by PDS)

(posted 13 October 1998)
 


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