By the extent of the increase in the anti-Catholic campaign conducted by the Moscow patriarchate one inevitably begins to ponder the question: is RPTs responding to a real threat of "catholicizing" of the country or to the myth of such a threat that it has largely created itself?
The myth was preceded by sad events engendered by the persistent desire of Catholics to return schismatics, as they have considered the Orthodox since the eleventh century, to the true faith. Attempts to achieve the desired end by brute force (seizure by crusaders of Constantinople, aggression by the Teutonic Order) were replaced by diplomatic intrigues (the Florentine and Brest unions), but the essence remained as before. The state of affairs substantially changed in the middle of the last century, which was theologically confirmed by decisions of the Second Vatican council. The council recognized that the Orthodox church contains grace and saves souls and so there could be no more talk about attempts to return "schismatics" to its bosom. On the contrary, familial relations should be worked out between "sister churches." However, at the same time, the Catholic church also recognized the democratic principle of freedom of conscience, which leaves to the individual the right of religious independence even to the point of changing faith. Thus the relations with the "sister church" should be based not on the ancient postulate of canonical territory but should be developed somehow differently. But how? This should be the chief topic of the dialogue with RPTs, which still has not been worked out. Reality has changed, but the deep mistrust rooted in past offenses remains.
Seeing the uselessness of calls to examine finally how "sisterly relations" comport with the principle of freedom of conscience, the Vatican decided to act in accordance with this principle. The transformation of temporary administrative structures into dioceses, which raised such a stir, was a normal step along this path. At the same time it was a sign to RPTs that it was some kind of conspiracy. This idea often arises in statements by Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz. As should be expected, "permanent residence" of Catholics in Russia did not facilitate the arrangement of the dialogue but, on the contrary, only poured fuel on the fire. The ominous spectre of the Catholic threat loomed before RPTs with new force. But just how good are prospects for the missionary activity of Catholics in Russia? Absolutely not at all.
The peak of Catholic conversions was reached in the first half of the 90s. But one should recognize that in 1991, when Catholics created the apostolic administrations in Russia, there was a strong western mood in the country. For many, Catholicism and western culture were practically synonymous. But then the stormy growth subsided. First, the effect of the novelty wore off, with which every evangelist is familiar. When the initial interest has been satisfied, the rate of the spread of the new faith slows. Second, Russian neophytes confronted regular difficulties. The West is the West. Catholicism demands discipline: obligatory attendance at Sunday mass, strict fulfillment of moral prescriptions. It is not sufficient to respect holiness of life in words; one must give up contraceptives and many other things. Besides, fearing accusations of proselytism, that is, converting Orthodox to the Latin faith, the Catholic clergy has behaved very cautiously, and the neophytes got the impression that they were not very much needed. This did not promote the strengthening of the ranks. If one compares the successes of the Catholics with the successes of protestants, they do not appear very great at all. Catholicism has been embraced mainly by educated, urban young people, while the message of Baptists and Pentecostals finds a response among the broader strata of the population. Protestants operate more vigorously and even aggressively and their message is more accessible. If Catholics in Russia are now about a half million, then protestants are double that, and their number continues to grow quickly (mainly in Siberia and the south of Russia). However these obvious successes do not evoke such a negative reaction from the patriarchate as the more modest achievements of Catholics. The myth seems stronger than the reality and engenders in the church uncertainty about its own strengths. Meanwhile, according to surveys of the ROMIR research center, 73.6% of Russians consider themselves Orthodox. True, at the same time only 51.3% of them believe in God (of the rest, some believe in a higher reason and some don't believe in anything), and only 3.6% go to church once a week. It is clear that this evidences the shallow churching of those questioned and their equation of Orthodoxy with "russianness." But at the same time this means that if RPTs takes the matter seriously, all these "Orthodox" could become Orthodox in the genuine sense of the word. It is just necessary to work on it. Instead of this, the efforts and energies are being dissipated in the struggle with the spectre of the Catholic threat. This could lead to results directly opposite of what RPTs hopes for. The louder the noise raised by the patriarchate in news media, the stronger its inferiority complex becomes. The more talk there is about the spectre, the more chances there are that it will materialize. The Internet forum of young Catholics recently told how one of them called an atheist rights advocate and asked to be told where to go with placards in support of the pope. (tr. by PDS, posted 27 March 2002)
HEAD OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH CANNOT HAVE CONTACTS WITH POPE--METROPOLITAN
OF TASHKENT AND CENTRAL ASIA VLADIMIR
Interfax, 25 March 2002
Metropolitan of Tashkent and Central Asia Vladimir does not trust the activities of the Catholic Church in Russia. "Papal missionaries in Russia talk sweetly about Christian unity and sister Churches. But St. Apostle Jacob says "does sweet and bitter water pour from one and the same spring?" How does sweetness in Russia come together with bitterness in Ukraine?" Metropolitan Vladimir said in an interview published by the Monday issue of Izvestia.
There have been "beatings of Orthodox priests and believers, arson, and cordons of UNA-UNSO gunmen that barred Orthodox believers from the seized churches" in Ukraine, he said. "Pope John Paul II does not denounce such actions." "The Roman Catholic Church has played an evil role in the life of our motherland all throughout Russian history," he remarked.
The Pontiff "is not so much a religious figure as a stern and cunning politician of the anti-Orthodox and anti-Russian type, who acts under the disguise of a pious elder" and assigns about$ 500 million for strengthening his dioceses in Russia, the Metropolitan said.
Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Alexy II cannot meet with the pope even to accept the miracle-working icon of Our Lady of Kazan, he said.
"Just imagine Osama bin Laden, who happens to find an autograph of Abraham Lincoln and decides to present it to President Bush personally. Lincoln is a national hero of the United States, but shaking hands with "the number one terrorist" would mean outrage upon the memory of the victims of September 11 for the chief of state. It is the same for the Patriarch, who cannot neglect the sufferings of Orthodox believers from Uniate violence for the return of sacred Orthodox objects," Metropolitan Vladimir said. (Copyright 2002 Interfax News Agency, posted 27 March 2002)
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The Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Kievan patriarchate (UPTsKP) accused adherents of the Ukrainian Orthodox church that is under the jurisdiction of the Moscow patriarchate of provoking disorders that occurred on 24 March in the village of Kalynivka in Vinnitsa province.
A statement from the press service of the Kievan patriarchate, whose text was transmitted by the "Interfax-Ukraine" agency on Tuesday, says that the disorders occurred last Sunday when a church that was built in Kalynivka was supposed to be consecrated by the head of the Orthodox church of the Kievan patriarchate, Filaret Denisenko. According to the account of the Kievan patriarchate, local clergy of supporters of the Moscow patriarchate "incited" their parishioners "not to allow the consecration of the church of the Kievan patriarchate."
Around 200 persons "not only tried to break up the consecration but also tried to beat up the Kievan patriarch and his retinue," the press service claims. The Kievan patriarchate accuses Metropolitan Makary of Vinnitsa, a bishop of UPTs of the Moscow patriarchate, of organizing the disorders and "inciting interreligious hostility."
The Kievan patriarchate called Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to bring to account "those guilty of inciting interreligious conflicts."
Meanwhile, "Interfax" is not reporting at the present time the reaction of representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate to the accusation. Also at the present there is no information from other sources giving an account of the events in Vinnitsa province.
After the fall of USSR, three Orthodox churches have been operating in Ukraine, including the Ukrainian Orthodox church under the jurisdiction of the Moscow patriarchate and the church of the Kievan patriarchate that separated from it. Supporters of the church of the Moscow patriarchate have the reputation of being advocates of the pro-Russian orientation of Ukraine. Adherents of the Kievan patriarchate are considered supporters of a line directed toward distancing Ukraine from Russia. Between the two churches extremely tense relations have developed in recent years and often various conflicts have arisen. (tr. by PDS, posted 27 March 2002)
FOLLOWERS OF RIVAL ORTHODOX CHURCHES CLASH IN CENTRAL UKRAINE
BBC Monitoring International Reports, 25 March 2002
Presenter The forthcoming election of 31 March is politicizing everything. A clash between the Orthodox believers of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Kiev Patriarchate has taken place in the town of Kalynivka, Vinnytsya Region. A church built at the town cemetery was not consecrated as a result.
Correspondent The head of the Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, Filaret, was to personally consecrate the new temple at the cemetery in Kalynivka. But he did not manage even to step out of his car. For several hours, a special police detachment was restraining a raging crowd.
Followers of the Moscow Patriarchate are unhappy about the fact that the Kiev Patriarchate priest was to consecrate the church at the cemetery. Kalynivka's believers say that this church is not canonical.
A woman captioned as a supporter of the Moscow Patriarchate, speaking in Ukrainian These people gathered today not to beat somebody or swear at somebody. They have gathered to prevent defilement of the church.
Passage omitted: Priests accuse each other and the local authorities; the church was built by a local businessman
The consecration has been postponed until the beginning of April. There is hope that passions will calm down by that time.
2120-2320; video shows an aggressive crowd at the cemetery, policemen, priests, the church (Copyright 2002 BBC Monitoring, posted 27 March 2002)
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Last evening police officers broke up a worship service in the "Kingdom of God" church of Christians of Evangelical Faith at number 9 Godovikov street in Moscow, at which there were around 100 persons present.
The pastor of the church, Aroldo Martinez, reported that last evening twelve persons stormed into the church, two in police officers' uniforms and the rest in civilian clothing. One of them had a dog and another was clearly drunk. For some reason the "guests" broke down two doors with their feet, although, the pastor said, they could have entered without doing so. Only one of the intruders identified himself by name and rank, FSB Inspector S.V. Kuzmin. The rest refused to identify themselves, saying that their names were state secrets.
The pastors were told that the operation of checking documents was being conducted supposedly within the limits of Operation Arsenal, which, in its turn, is part of Operation Vikhr-Antiterror. The intruders inspected the documents of the pastors, one of whom, Evgeny Ochirov of the city of Reutov in Moscow province, was told that he "does not have the right to be here." They also checked the church's documents and seized a medicine cabinet in order to search for narcotics. In the course of this whole time believers who were arriving for the service were prevented from entering the premises of the church. The service itself was hopelessly disrupted.
As was later explained, the "documents check" was conducted by police officers on the initiative of FSB. Attorneys of the Slavic Legal Center believe that the actions of conducting the check fall under article 148 of the criminal code (preventing the performance of religious activity). The leaders of the "Kingdom of God" church intend to request of the prosecutor's office that a criminal case be opened under this article.
Several hours after the inspection a stone was thrown through one of the church's windows by a group of teenagers; a letter was attached to the stone containing threats against the church. The pastors who were spending the night in the building called police and one of the teenagers was arrested.
In addition information has been obtained that a demonstration against the "Kingdom of God" church is planned for 19 March. Such an event directed against the church was already conducted in September of last year.
We ask that this report be circulated as widely as possible among all persons who are not indifferent to matters of respect for constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens in our country, especially matters of freedom of conscience and religious confession. (tr. by PDS, posted 27 March 2002)
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The Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate (UPTsMP) will not participate in any kind of joint prayer with other confessions. On the initiative of the leader of an electoral block, Yuliia Timoshenko, and with the support of a majority of religious confessions and societies, millions of people today conducted a joint all-Ukrainian prayer in all cities and towns of Ukraine.
In accordance with this initiative, Ukrainian citizens, irrespective of faith, nationality, political sympathies, and other interests, prayed "for Ukraine, for us, and for our children, and for a happy future!" It is such spiritual, and not political, events that in Timoshenko's opinion will help "to feel ourselves as one nation, one people, and one family."
This was the first joint prayer in the history of independent Ukraine and the first step to the achievement of confessional peace, stability, and harmony in Ukrainian society.
The joint prayer was supported by the patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Kievan patriarchate; patriarchate of the Ukrainian Autocephalous church; metropolia of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church; Lvov metropolia of the Roman Catholic church; All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists; Brotherhood of Independent Churches and Missions of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of Ukraine; All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Christians of Evangelical Faith--Pentecostals; Ukrainian United Conference of Churches of Seventh-Day Adventists; Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of Ukraine; Administration of the German Evangelical Lutheran church; Ukrainian Lutheran church; Ecclesiastical Administration of Muslims of Ukraine; Council of independent churches; Association of Independent Charismatic Christian Churches of Ukraine; and others.
Iuliia Timoshenko thanked all religious leaders for their great spiritual activity they are conducting in Ukraine and support for the joint prayer, and she expressed the hope for cooperation for the benefit of Ukraine and its people. (tr. by PDS, posted 26 March 2002)
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The press service of the Ukrainian Orthodox church reports that the participants in the press conference included the leader of the Communist party of Ukraine (KPU), P.N. Simonenko, the secretary of the central committee of KPU, V.D. Mishura, and the president of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods of Ukraine, V.B. Lukianik.
As is known, 65 people's deputies of Ukraine, members of the KPU fraction, sent an appeal to the prosecutor general of Ukraine requesting a review of the legality of the registration of the uncanonical group, the "Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Kievan patriarchate" (UPTsKP) and initiation of a criminal case over the appropriation of the property and financial resources of the Ukrainian Orthodox church by the leaders of UPTsKP.
The prosecutor general of Ukraine took the protest to the State Committee on Religious Affairs and suspended the registration of UPTsKP. The state committee rejected the protest of the prosecutor general, who now can take the case of the illegal registration of UPTsKP to court.
Speaking at the press conference, P.N. Simonenko confirmed that, responding to numerous appeals from believers about protection of their rights, KPU did initiate the statement by people's deputies directed to the prosecutor general. Simonenko noted that, in his opinion, in any event this case will go to court, where the prosecutor general will defend his protest. Simonenko expressed confidence that justice will triumph in respect to the Ukrainian Orthodox church and the prosecutor general's protest will be satisfied, since the most authoritative jurists of Ukraine have often stated that UPTsKP was registered in crude violation of the legislation.
V..D. Mishura called attention to the fact that a number of persons who participated in illegal actions with regard to the Ukrainian Orthodox church, including use of force against its clergy and believers, have voted in the Supreme Soviet with the "Our Ukraine" bloc. In particular, L. Grigorovich participated in the beating of the priest Mikhail Shuvar; she beat him on the head with an iron rod. V. Chervony and N. Porovsky were organizers and direct participants in the seizure of dozens of churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox church. The seizures of the churches were accompanied by beating of priests and believers. V.D. Mishura demanded that criminal cases be opened with regard to all these events.
V.B. Lukianik noted that the prosecutor general's protest should be satisfied in a legal way, the registration of UPTsKP should be rescinded, and churches and property should be returned to the Ukrainian Orthodox church. (tr. by PDS, posted 26 March 2002)
Copyright 2002 Financial Times Information All rights reserved Global News Wire - Asia Africa Intelligence Wire /BBC BBC Monitoring International Reports
March 20, 2002
LENGTH: 1189 words
UKRAINE: LEGAL MESS, POLITICS TO BLAME FOR LATEST CHURCH ROW - WEEKLY
BBC Monitoring International Reports, 20 March 2002
The Prosecutor-General's Communist-backed bid to rescind the registration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's Kiev Patriarchate may have turned out a welcome publicity stunt for Kiev Patriarch Filaret, but it has also emphasized the underlying legal uncertainties that have dogged the anti-Moscow wing of Ukraine's Orthodoxy ever since it split from the Russian Orthodox Church in the first years of Ukraine's independence. Patriarch Filaret's positions remain strong, but the incident may have also served as a warning for the opposition-leaning Kiev Patriarchate to toe the line. The following is an excerpt from a report by the Ukrainian newspaper Zerkalo Nedeli on 16 March; the subheadings have been inserted editorially:
Those who regarded church squabbles as a thing of the past have turned out to be mistaken. Last week, MPs and the Prosecutor-General's office have made a virtual assassination attempt on the Kiev Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, one of the three wings of Ukraine's Orthodoxy, which also includes the Moscow Patriarchate and the smaller Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church . Sixty-five MPs asked the prosecutor's office to review the church's registration documents and challenge in court as unconstitutional the 1992 resolution by the Council for Religious Affairs on changes to the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church's status which legalized the modern-day Kiev Patriarchate . The MPs also called for a criminal investigation into the alleged theft of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's property. The reaction was swift: Oleksandr Bahanets, the prosecutor-general's deputy, lodged a protest against the resolution with the State Committee for Religious Affairs and demanded that the 1992 decision be rescinded within 10 days. The protest has been turned down.
It is worth a mention that the 1992 unification of Kiev Patriarch Filaret's Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church has always been a subject of much controversy. And it is not just the Moscow Patriarchate or its followers who have been voicing their doubts. Let us recall that the Autocephalous Church has been the first to suffer from the strange unification. In fact, Patriarch Filaret used its legal status and announced himself and his own church as the Autocephalous Church's legal successor. As a result, the Autocephalous Church was abolished (just like the Ukrainian Orthodox Church), and its clergy have been at great pains to prove it to state officials that the church actually exists.
The legal intricacies of the decision are hard to grasp for a layman, but its upshot was that instead of a single Orthodox Church, Ukraine got three, and one of them, the Autocephalous Church, has been having a hard time trying to persuade the state bureaucracy that it actually has the right to exist.
Finalizing the legal status of the churches is of course long overdue. The aim, however, is not to abolish one of them and corral its followers into the remaining "proper" churches. The churches themselves should get their legal act together and leave the state and their own competitors without an excuse to question their legal status. This, however, is something that the churches are loath to do.
Dividing the inheritance
Ironically, it is the head of the Kiev Patriarchate, Filaret, who has always been opposed to bringing about some legal certainty to church matters. So in a sense, he has been caught in his own trap. Until recently, the patriarch did not want any legal entity status for his church "until we get a united Orthodox church". The explanation was pecuniary: the entire church property should belong to a united Ukrainian church, and granting legal status to the existing factions would legalize the de facto division of property. And that is something the ambitious patriarch did not want to accept. He relied more on his enthusiastic followers and political connections than on a proper legal base. Until now, he has been able to get away with it. He has even been the only one to have taken the liberty of openly supporting the "allowed opposition" represented by the leader of the popular centre-right Our Ukraine bloc and former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko.
Winners and losers
So why has he been taken aback by the ensuing retribution? He did not sound very confident during the interview in which he traditionally accused the Communists of plotting against him. This, however, was either a moment's weakness or a case of good acting, for Filaret surely understands: his positions are so strong that the latest incident will eventually do him more good than harm.
He will eventually emerge as the winner, because his constant warnings for "patriotic-minded Ukrainians" about the threat of anti-Ukrainian, Communist, pro-Moscow and Moscow-backed forces will have been vindicated by the latest attack. His image of a visionary will now be augmented by an aura of the victim - just a few steps short of an outright opposition supporter. He has now persuaded the public that the idea of a united Ukrainian Orthodox church has very powerful enemies. And fighting enemies is what he does best, the public cannot fail to remember that.
But what about the rest of the players in the show? They will get their reward, not quite as big as the patriarch's, but still enough to leave them satisfied. The Communists and their allies, who have taken much flak in the row, will have won some benevolence of the Moscow Patriarchate. The party's politicians have become rather popular with the pro-Moscow church's press, and the Communists are close to getting rid of their atheistic image, which is currently out of favour with the electorate.
The State Committee for Religious Affairs will have demonstrated its raison d'etre, the existence of which has recently been questioned. Even the president has subscribed to the committee's decision to protect the Kiev Patriarchate. In addition, Filaret's victory will bolster the radical pro-Filaret wing of the committee. But the fresh (or resurrected) doubts about the legitimacy of Filaret's actions back in 1992 will also serve the moderate wing's course and help them in their attempts to reach a compromise. And the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church will also get a chance to make its voice heard. If someone pushy enough manages to persuade the clergy (and most importantly, Filaret) to clear up their legislative mess, the religion committee's efforts to legitimize the churches' status may finally bear fruit.
But for Patriarch Filaret, the incident was not just a publicity stunt but a warning as well. He can no longer rely on pure enthusiasm and needs some legal certainty. He has also been shown that his pro-opposition overtures will be tolerated only up to a point. Our Ukraine might be just that point. The patriarch is allowed to be "against the Communists", but he cannot be "against the president's course", or next time the president's support may not be quite as forthcoming.
Source: Zerkalo Nedeli, Kiev, in Russian 16 Mar 02 (Copyright 2002 BBC Monitoring, posted 27 March 2002)
Russia Religion News Current News Items
On 25 March 2002 His Holiness Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus receive the honorary president of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RSEKhB), P.B. Konovalchik, the newly elected president of RSEKhB, Yu.K. Sipko, the vice president of RSEKhB, P.V. Mitskevich, and the leader of the Administrative and Legal Department of the union, P.F. Belkov.
P.B. Konovalchik introduced the new leaders of RSEKhB who were elected at the congress of the union that was held 18-21 March to His Holiness. In the course of the conversation that was held, questions of the relations between the Russian Orthodox church and RSEKhB were discussed, along with social and other important problems of Russian society that require common efforts of the various Christian societies in the country. A positive assessment also was given of cooperation within the framework of the Christian Interconfessional Consultative Committee and the Russian Bible Society. (tr. by PDS, posted 25 March 2002)
Russia Religion News Current News Items
The head of Russian Catholics, Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, fears a union of the Russian Orthodox church (RPTs) with the state. "In tsarist Russia, Orthodoxy was the state religion, and relations between the authorities and the Orthodox church were very close. That is bad. The church should be separate from the state. Today we again are seeing such a move toward union," Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz said in an interview in "Nezavisimaia gazeta" published Monday.
The metropolitan noted that "there are attempts to revive a council or department on religious affairs." Kondruseiwicz declared: "There seems to be no intention to give power to the council on religious affairs, but everything is supposed to be filtered through there. Today there is emerging yet another point for corruption in a society that even without this is corrupted."
In addition, on the same day in an interview with the "Izvestiia" newspaper the head of Russian Catholics declared that he fears the possibility of the adoption of a law "On traditional religions," which will be officially proposed. Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz noted that "he would welcome establishment of Orthodox bishops in Italy," and expressed regret that RPTs could experience difficulties with registration of its parishes in Europe because of opposition to the Catholic church. (tr. by PDS, posted 25 March 2002)
Russia Religion News Current News Items
The fourth, concluding day of the work of the thirty-first congress of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RSEKhB) was marked by the adoption of an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin, "Blagovest-info" reports.
In the appeal to the president of the Russian federation hope was expressed for "beneficial results" of a possible meeting between Vladimir Putin and leaders of protestant denominations of Russia.
The chairman of the editorial commission of the congress, Pastor Yury Apatov, acquainted those assembled with the draft of documents adopted at the congress. The text of the draft of the appeal to the churches, in particular, said that at the present time the Russian Union of EKhB numbers 1400 local churches. It also contains a call to increase the number of evangelical Baptists congregations of Russia to 2,000 by the year 2006.
The last hours of the work of the congress were devoted to prayer. The honorary chairman of the Russian Union of EkhB, Pastor Vasily Logvinenko, gave a prayer of blessing upon the new chairman of the union, Yury Sipko and his vice chairman, Petr Mitskevich. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 March 2002)
APPEAL OF PARTICIPANTS OF XXXI ALL-RUSSIAN CONGRESS OF EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS-BAPTISTS
To Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin,
president of the Russian federation
Esteemed Vladimir Vladimirovich!
We, participants of the XXXI All-Russian Congress of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, that was held from 18 to 21 March of this year in Moscow, following the commands of Jesus Christ and showing love to our earthly fatherland, have raised prayers for the peoples of Russian and for you. We participate not only in support of the material well-being of our nation but also in the spiritual enlightenment and healing of society, education of children and youth, charitable and social ministry giving special attention of orphaned children, the homeless, and convicts, as well as people suffering from drug addiction, alcoholism, and other illnesses and vices. We firmly believe in the immutability of the standards established in the constitution of the Russian federation that proclaim freedom of conscience and the equality of all religious associations before the law. We believe that only their observance and the mutual respect and well-intentioned dialogue of all religious confessions represented in Russia will guarantee peace and prosperity for our motherland that has suffered so much. We hope that Russia will be regenerated as a great state of free people, inspired by high moral ideals. To achieve this goal we will cooperate with representatives of state authority on all levels and with all to whom the fate of our nation and fatherland is dear, and we ceaselessly pray for the strengthening and prosperity of our state.
We greatly value the efforts of the authorities directed to the achievement of the stability of our state and we are grateful to you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, for your contribution to the achievement of these noble goals. We hope for beneficial results from your meeting with representatives of protestant confessions. May the Lord bless our earthly fatherland, Russia, and you, its president. (tr. by PDS, posted 23 March 2002)
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