Orthodox zealots exploit anti-evangelism law against non-Orthodox



Activists of the Orthodox Rights Advocacy Analytic Center in Moscow detained and turned over to the police eight persons who were preaching in the electric trains going to Yaroslavl and in the Yaroslavl station, the SOVA Center for News and Analysis reports. Orthodox vigilantes demanded that the detainees be held accountable for illegal missionary activity in violation of the "Yarovaya Law."


The incident occurred on 7 October 2016. The detainees were turned over to personnel of the transportation police, but just two were taken to the department of the directorate for internal affairs at the Yaroslavl station. The website of the Orthodox lawyers says that the detainees were "like Jehovah's Witnesses or neo-Pentecostals." The activists complain that the police are concerned only with the two sects.


"Representatives of the sect, two of whom had earlier been convicted for selling drugs, flatly refused to acknowledge which organization they are from, inasmuch as in the case of admission of the religious organization's responsibility for conducting missionary activity in the absence of a license they face a fine of up to one million rubles. In addition, the detainees appealed to the fact that they were distributing exclusively the New Testament in the synodal translation of the RPTs," the activists' website says.


Oleg Vladimirtsev, the coordinator of the Orthodox Rights Advocacy Center, who operates with the Orthodox monarchist association "For faith and Fatherland," told Life that two of the detainees were men of 40 to 50 years of age who had previously been convicted of selling drugs. It was explained that the preachers had not heard of accountability for illegal missionary activity.


What is more, representatives of law enforcement agencies said that this is the first instance in their practice of holding accountable on this article. The detainees face a fine of up to 50,000 rubles.


The Orthodox activists wrote up a petition for holding the detainees accountable on part 4 of article 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law (conducting missionary activity with violation of the requirements of legislation on freedom of conscience and freedom of religious confession and on religious associations). This standard of the administrative code took effect after the adoption of the so-called Yarovaya Law, which regulates, among other things, missionary activity, restricting the possibility of preaching outside of church buildings, and prohibits preaching in residences and recategorizing residences as nonresidential in order to conduct religious activity.


The Orthodox rights advocacy analytic center, judging by the website and accounts in social networks, is occupied specifically with "Orthodox jurisprudence." "Brothers and Sisters! If you encounter a difficult situation and need legal support, Orthodox lawyers can render all forms of legal aid. . . . Please repost. God help us," the advertisement of the center says. In comments on the website, visitors write denunciations with advice about where it is best to catch Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow province.


In response to the action of the Orthodox advocacy center, an article was published on the "Orthodoxy and the World" website by the theologian publicist Sergei Khudinev, in which "forays" by Orthodox "vigilantes" or "activists" against "sectarians" were condemned.: "This is generally clear. A person who joins himself to some group (tribe, palace gang, fans of a certain team, etc.) tries to fit in and to show his loyalty, expressing hostility to the other group (the alien tribe, gang from neighboring court, fans of another team). It is also clear that this has nothing to do with faith, Orthodox or otherwise."


"Moreover, this has nothing to do with faith, the church, or the salvation of souls, except harm. Attacks on sectarians with the aid of police, attempts to somehow frighten them and display hostility to them, are not a testimony to Orthodoxy. They are testimony against it," Khudiev explains.


In the opinion of the writer, "the struggle with sects look like a lack of faith and not its manifestation." "The church's ministry, including ministry to people who have been deceived, is a ministry of love. If you still cannot relate to it, that means you cannot. But in no case should you yield to xenophobia and aggression in zeal for the true faith," he is sure.


In the account of the Orthodox center in the social network VKontakte on Monday, 10 October, "Orthodox lawyers" published a rebuke: "And what will the gentlemen say theoretically about the thousands of people of broken fates; about the victims whose lives were trampled by these wolves in sheep's clothing, concealing their evil and violence against people by Christian symbols and quotations from Sacred Scripture? One should not be deceived by Jehovists or Baptists, Pentecostals or Scientologists, Mormons or Adventists. These are sects (although with various degrees of danger) who are conducting on Russia territory destructive and subversive activity in all directions, penetrating into all spheres of the life of society and the state, trying to legalize themselves by all means under the guise of "simply Christian," and the main thing is they make claims on the lives and souls of our fellow citizens. And our obligation as Christians and simply honest citizens is to inform and defend our neighbors from this plague that is vigorously penetrating our country."


The first person whom they tried to hold administratively accountable under the Yarovaya Law was a Krishnaite from Dzerzhinsk, Vadim Sibirev, who discussed his faith in the city of Cherkessk (Karachay-Cherkessia) and gave out religious literature to two passers-by, although the Cherkessk magistrate court on 15 August put an end to his case for lack of evidence of a crime.


In August, in St. Petersburg, an archbishop of the illegal Ukrainian Reformed Orthodox Church of Christ the Savior, Sergei Zhuravlev, was fined for preaching to prostitutes and drug addicts.


In September, a Baptist pastor of the church in Orenburg province was accused of organizing an unsanctioned children's picket. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 October 2016)

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