Russian parliament considering changes in religion law


Vzgliad, 17 September 2020


"We understand that the amendments are aimed, in the first place, at combating extremism and terrorism on religious grounds, but the struggle with extremism and terrorism should be conducted without causing damage to confessions that are traditional for Russia," Yonten-Gelong, the administrator of the Central monastery (Khurul) of Kalmykia, declared to the newspaper Vzgliad, commenting on the draft law "On introducing changes into the federal law 'On freedom of conscience and religious associations.'"


"We are alarmed by changes that are proposed for the introduction of point 5 of article 24, which says that clergy who have received religious education abroad must undergo certification in Russian religious educational institutions and before starting religious or educational activity in Russia must receive additional professional education," Yonten-Gelong noted. He is a member of the Public Chamber of Russia and the senior administrator of the Central Zhurul of Kalmykia.


He said that at a recent conference of Buddhist organizations of Russia, in which representatives of four schools of Tibetan Buddhism (Sakya, Nyingma, Kagyu, and Gelug) participated, Buddhists criticized the new amendments to the law "On freedom of conscience and religious association," which "were developed without taking into account the traditions of several religious denominations and confessions, such as Buddhism."


"Historically, in the course of many centuries, clergy of traditional Buddhists of regions of Russia received education abroad, primarily in Tibet and now in India and Mongolia. Also the majority of religious teachers who now provide Buddhist education in Kalmykia, Buryatia, Trans-Baikal, Tyva, and major cities (Moscow, St. Petersburg) are graduates of monastic universities located in the territory of India, Nepal, China, Mongolia, and other countries," the representative of the Central Khurul of Kalmykia emphasized.


In Kalmykia itself there now are no registered religious educational institutions for Buddhist clergy. Therefore believers are concerned that in the event of the adoption of these amendments, Buddhism in this region will cease its existence, because no clergy will remain who will have the right to conduct religious and educational activity. "The clergy in Buryatia and Tyva were educated abroad, including the teachers in the Buddhist institute that is operating in Buryatia. The adoption of the amendments will affect detrimentally the revival and development of Buddhism in traditionally Buddhist regions and in Russia as a whole, where there now are functioning hundreds of Buddhist organizations connected with religious teachers from India and other countries," Yonten-Gelong said.


The amendments require careful revision, taking into account the opinions and interests of traditional confessions and representatives of their religious organizations, the representative of the Central Khurul of Kalmykia thinks. "The struggle with extremism and terrorism should be conducted without causing damage to confessions that are traditional for Russia, which constitute an integral part of our common historical heritage," he declared.


On Wednesday, the State Duma Committee for the Development of Civil Society and Affairs of Public and Religious Associations recommended the adoption on first reading of the draft law "On introducing changes into federal law 'On freedom of conscience and religious associations.'" Hearings are scheduled for 22 September. Among other things, the draft law provides for clergy and "personnel of religious organizations," who receive religious education abroad, a mandatory recertification in Russian educational institutions. Without that, they will not be able to engage in educational and religious activity.


"For the second reading of the draft law, the committee, along with the Ministry of Justice and the expert community, will consider the possibility of certain corrections of this requirement, for example, with respect to leaders of religious organizations of traditional confessions. Probably the requirement of certification is superfluous for them," the chairman of the committee, Sergei Gavrilov, told RIA Novosti. He noted that now the provisions of the draft law apply to all representatives of the clergy and religious personnel who receive foreign religious education.


"Retraining and certification will be conducted by Russian religious educational organizations. Not by state universities but specifically by confessional religious institutions," he clarified. The amendments themselves, according to the deputy, are aimed against "the promoting in Russia of an extremist ideology of a religious orientation by persons who have undergone training abroad."


Previously, the State Duma Committee on Development of Civil Society and Affairs of Public and Religious Associations issued a statement in which it is noted that the draft law will help to carry out government monitoring of the activity of religious associations. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 September 2020)

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Russian parliament to consider changes in law regulating religion
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