RUSSIA RELIGION NEWS


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Jehovah's Witness case heard by ECHR

DEAF RUSSIAN CITIZENS GIVEN A "VOICE" IN THE EUROPEAN COURT
Jehovah's Witnesses Office of Public Information, 23 September 2004

"If a person is continually oppressed, he begins to feel unworthy. A victory in the European Court would help our deaf to feel that they are not less than others, that we have the same basic rights, to put it simply, that we are people too." With these words Mr. Konstanin Kuznetsov spoke for himself and the other four victims who attended an oral hearing of their case in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

On September 9 the ECHR heard the case of Kuznetsov and Others v Russian Federation. The applicants are aggrieved that the Russian government supports the unjust actions of a Commissioner for Human Rights and the police who raided and shut down a lawful and peaceful Christian meeting of 150 deaf Jehovahıs Witnesses in the town of Chelyabinsk, some 900 miles east of Moscow.

Afterward, Kuznestov expressed gratitude that their application was treated with respect by the Court. "I could see that the Judges understood our situation and wanted to conduct the hearing in a fair and just manner. In Russia, it is almost never that a deaf person has his rights defended. So, it was amazing for our sign-language congregation to have their case heard at this high level. It had a powerful strengthening effect on us."

Mr. Pavel Laptev, representing the Government of Russia, argued during the hearing that there was no interference with the deaf meeting and that the rental contract for the meeting hall, signed by the College Director, was illegal.

"It was very unpleasant for me to hear Mr. Laptev repeat false accusations. I didn't detect any compassion or concern for us as deaf people," declared Mindiyamal Khudaygulova, one of the deaf applicants. She added, "I was particularly upset when he accused the College Director of bribery. Everyone knows he is an honest person."

 Mr Richard Daniel, Counsel for the Applicants, expressed his "deep regret that the Russian Government should continue to show such insensitivity toward these deaf victims. They deny any interference despite a significant amount of witness testimony to the contrary. They totally reject the independent evidence of their own Federal Commissioner of Human Rights and make wholly unsubstantiated allegations against the College Director."

The Judges are expected to rule on admissibility in the next few months. The background to the case and a summary of the oral hearing may be found at www.jw-media.org.  (posted 24 September 2004)

EUROPEAN COURT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS HEARS JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES CASE
Kuznetsov and Others versus Russia
ECHR

The applicants, Konstantin Nikanorovich Kuznetsov and 102 others, are Russian nationals who live in the town of Chelyabinsk (Russia). They are all Jehovahıs Witnesses.   On 6 February 1999 a lease was signed which allowed the community of Jehovahıs Witnesses to which the applicants belonged to rent the auditorium of a vocational training college and associated facilities in Chelyabinsk, in order to hold religious meetings.    On Sunday, 16 April 2000, in accordance with the lease agreement, Jehovahıs Witnesses were using the college facilities to hold a meeting for predominantly hearing-impaired Jehovahıs Witnesses to study the Bible and join in public worship. Many of the participants were elderly and also had impaired vision. The meeting was open to the public.   The applicants claim that their meeting was disrupted by the regional Human Rights Commissioner, accompanied by two senior police officers, who allegedly called for the meeting to be stopped. Mr Kuznetsov submits that, given the intimidating behaviour of the Commissioner and the police, he thought it best to comply.         The following day the Jehovahıs Witnesses group was given notice of the termination of its lease agreement with the college "because of certain irregularities committed by the college administration at the time of its signing".   The applicants unsuccessfully requested a criminal investigation into the actions of the Commissioner and the police officers. They also filed a civil complaint with the Sovietskiy District Court of Chelyabinsk, which was dismissed on the ground that the applicants failed to show the causal link between the Commissionerıs arrival and the premature termination of their meeting.   The applicants complain ­ under Articles 8 (right to respect for private life), 9 (freedom of religion), 10 (freedom of expression) and 11 (freedom of assembly) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination) ­ that they were prevented from holding a religious meeting following undue interference on the part of the authorities and that they were victims of discrimination on account of their religious beliefs. They also rely on Article 6 (right to a fair hearing).

SUMMARY OF ORAL HEARING

In the case of Kuznetsov and Others v Russia, the Applicants argue that the Government of Russia agreed with the actions of Ms. Yekaterina Viktorovna Gorina, the Chairman of the Commission for Human Rights in the Chelyabinsk Region, east of the Southern Ural Mountains, when she, along with senior police officers, raided and shut down a lawful and peaceful Christian meeting of deaf Jehovahıs Witnesses.

Representing the Government of Russia, Mr. Pavel Laptev argued that 1) Ms. Gorina was not an appointed Commissioner for Human Rights at the time of the raid; 2) there was no interference; 3) the rental contract was void.
 
In rebuttal, Mr. Richard Daniel, Counsel for the Applicants, referred the Judges to Ms. Gorinaıs written claim to be Chairman of the Commission for Human Rights in the Chelyabinsk Region. The Russian Judge, A. Kovler, asked Mr. Laptev if Ms. Gorina was elected or appointed to her position and whether she was authorised to monitor religious activity. Mr. Laptev confirmed that Ms. Gorina was appointed by the Governor of the Chelyabinsk Region. He stated that not only did she have the right but that she should have been more aggressive and that she was at fault for not taking action to stop such meetings months earlier.

On the matter of interference, Mr. Daniel referred to the testimony of 15 eyewitnesses who heard Ms. Gorina order a senior police officer to stop the meeting.  Five of the deaf Witnesses from the sign-language congregation were present in court. Mr. Daniel argued that some major event must have occurred to make the Applicants change their routine, established over 14 months, to break off their meeting for worship and evacuate the building 45 minutes early. Mr. Daniel added: "These primary facts are not challenged by the Government." He went on to present as independent evidence the testimony of the Russian Ombudsman, Professor Mironov, who, in writing, condemned "the extremely heavy-handed behaviour of the City authorities". Mr. Laptev argued that Professor Mironov was "not a religious expert" and that "he made a mistake".

Regarding the contract, Mr. Laptev criticised the College Director for supposedly breaching his authority when he signed the contract for the lease of the meeting hall inside the college, alleging that he did so purely for financial gain. He insisted that Russian Law prevents the leasing of schools for religious meetings. Judge Kovler referred to Article 5 of the Law of the Russian Federation that allows for religious teaching in schools with the agreement of parents. He asked if this provision contradicted Laptevıs argument. Mr. Laptev insisted that there was no contradiction, merely repeating that the law prevents the use of schools for religious meetings. Counsel for the Applicants argued that Russian Law prevents the creation and activity of organisational structures that involve students and staff. The evidence, unchallenged by the government, was that the Applicants never involved students or staff at the college in religious activity. The Applicants had a legal agreement to use a room in the building, outside the normal times, when it was not used as a college. For 14 months the Applicants had paid the rent and used the auditorium without incident.

Mr. Laptev concluded by asking the Judges to declare the case inadmissible. Mr. Daniel concluded by arguing that there was a clear breach of article 9 of the European Convention.

The Judges are expected to rule on admissibility in the next few months.
(posted 24 September 2004)

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Moscow Jehovah's Witnesses case before European court

EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS REVIEWS APPEAL OF RUSSIAN JEHOVISTS
Mir religii, 14 September 2004

A review was scheduled for 9 September in the European Court for Human Rights of the appeal from the Moscow congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in connection with the decision of the Golovin District Court of Moscow of 26 March 2004 for its liquidation , which was left in force by the Moscow City Court of Appeals, "Blagovest-info" reports. Information about the results of the court session in Strasbourg has not yet reached Moscow Jehovists.

According to its superintendent, at the end of August of this year an appeal addressed to Vladimir V. Putin was sent to the presidential administration of RF, which was signed by "more than 315,000 citizens of Russia expressing profound concern with regard to the banning of Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow." Copies of the appeal were sent to Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov and Supreme Court President Viacheslav Lebedev. The signatories include 133,000 members of the Jehovist organization, and the others were sympathizers (relatives and acquaintances of believers).

The signatures were collected in less than two months, from 10 May to 27 June, and the signed sheets constitute 76 volumes. As this same source reported, the appeal of the Jehovists in the Strasbourg court was discussed on 3 September at a meeting of one of twelve members of the Brooklyn leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses, Guy Pearce (USA), with active members of the Moscow congregation of this denomination, in which 841 persons participated, including heads of congregations, their wives, and other ministers. At this meeting Guy Pearce stated that after he returns to New York he will inform the leadership of the denomination about the situation that has developed for their Moscow fellow believers. He was in Moscow in the course of a trip to St. Petersburg for business of the Jehovist organization.

Previously, on 26 March, the president of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, Vasily Kalin, stated in a declaration made "in the name of more than 133,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, including 11,000 Witnesses in Moscow" that the decision of the Golovin District Court of the Northern Administrative district of the capital for liquidation of the Moscow congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses is considered "non-objective, baseless, and illegal." The official status of the Russia-wide administrative center of Jehovah's Witnesses, which is registered with the Ministry of Justice of Russia, as well as the status of 400 local congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses, which are registered throughout the country, remain unchanged, he is confident. "The unfortunate decision of the Golovin court could lead to the set-back of religious freedom in Russia by 500 years. We have no doubt that competent representatives of authority will take measuresto defend the constitutional rights of Jehovah's Witnesses in Moscow," Kalin thinks. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 September 2004)

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Religious groups respond to victims of massacre

MOSCOW ORTHODOX DIOCESE ORGANIZES VISITATION OF VICTIMS FROM BESLAN IN MOSCOW HOSPITALS
Portal-credo.ru, 15 September 2004

With the blessing of Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus, the diocesan Commission for Church Social Activity of the city of Moscow arranged visitations of hospitals to which victims from Beslan had been sent. "Blagovest-info" reports, citing the "Miloserdia.ru" web site, that the overwhelming majority of victims are Orthodox Christians. In talking with priests, many of the wounded and their relatives expressed a desire to make confession and receive communion.

Not only spiritual consolation but also material aid has been provided the victims in the name of the Orthodox church. Priests and laity have drawn up lists of necessary items for each person in order to alleviate their situation as much as possible. On 13 September financial aid was given to victims in accordance with their condition, ten thousand rubles per person, and everyday items were purchased. The total amount of material and financial aid exceeds one million rubles.

In particular, priests visited the Russian Children's Clinic, where eight persons, including five children, received the sacrament of baptism. Spiritual and material help was also given to the wounded who are in the Semashko Central Clinic, the Hematology Center, the Institute of Pediatrics and Children's Surgery, the Burdenko Institute of Neurosurgery, and the Vishnevsky Institute of Surgery. A monastic priest from the Valaam annex visited the Speransky State Children's  Clinic, who was requested by the victims themselves. A priest of the church of the Transfiguration of the Lord in Tushino visited the wounded located in State Clinic No. 67.

Five children are in the Morozov Children's Hospital, two of whom are in resuscitation. They were visited by an Orthodox priest who is of Ossetian nationality and by priests of the St. Dimitry Nursing School. One girl was baptized and two received communion.

The commission continues to follow the fate of the victims and is trying to help all who have needs. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 September 2004)

RUSSIAN MORMONS PROVIDE MATERIAL AID TO VICTIMS IN BESLAN
Portal-credo.ru, 15 September 2004

Twenty-five thousand US dollars [three-quarters of a million rubles] donated by members of congregations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) in Russia were sent to provide aid to victims of the terrorist act in Beslan. "These monies were used to obtain respiration equipment for intensive therapy for the Beslan city hospital," "Blagovest-info" was told by an adviser for the East European representation of this religious movement, Andrei Filimonov.

The president of the Religious Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Russia, Vladimir Nechiporov, made a statement on this matter, noting in particular that "this is a gesture of love and support, as well as a sign of the rejection of violence in any of its forms."

Previously the Mormon church has often provided aid for the population in areas of natural disasters and other emergency situations. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 September 2004)

ROCOR PARTICIPATES IN AID TO VICTIMS OF TERROR
Mir religii, 14 September 2004

Medical equipment valued at 200,000 Euros was sent by plane from Germany to the Republican Children's Clinic in Vladikavkaz where physicians are fighting for the lives of more than 100 Beslan children. This is the first step in a project of aid to victims of the terrorist act in Northern Ossetia that is being conducted by the German "Foundation for Children's Aid" and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR). This was reported today to an ITAR-TASS correspondent at the ROCOR diocese of Berlin and Germany.

"We grieve for the victims. We especially suffer for the children who are wounded and sick. Emergency and practical aid is needed for the bodily and spiritual welfare of these children," said Archbishop of Berlin and Germany Mark.

According to the president of administration of the "Foundation for Children's Aid," Dr. Tizbonenkamp, it was also decided to provide support for creating in Beslan a parish therapeutic center. "Here severely traumatized children will receive help from clergy, teachers, and physicians, which will help them to survive the horrible memories of these days and to acquire new life perspectives," he stressed. The diocese of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz of RPTs is acting as a partner of ROCOR in this project.  (tr. by PDS, posted 15 September 2004)

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Moscow Jehovah's Witnesses try another legal appeal

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES ATTORNEYS SEND APPEAL TO PRESIDIUM OF MOSCOW CITY COURT
Portal-credo.ru, 7 September 2004

Attorneys for the Moscow congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses send an appeal against the decision of the Golovin court that liquidated the Moscow congregation of this religious organization to the presidium of the Moscow City Court.  "We request that the decision of the Golovin court and the resolution of the Moscow City Court that left in force the decision for liquidation of the congregation be overturned," attorney Artur Leontiev told the "Interfax" news agency yesterday.

On 16 July the Moscow City Court affirmed the legality of the decision of the Golovin court that liquidated the Moscow congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, rejecting the appeal of the defense.

Attorneys representing the interests of the congregation declared in court that "the decision of the Golovin court is illegal and unfounded, and it does not accord with standards of international law." In their opinion, in making its decision the court "followed the path of substitution of the subject matter of evidence." "The court used instances of conflicts within families as the basis for the verdict, although from the start the subject matter of the evidence was destruction of the family as a result of the activity of the association," A. Leontiev said. In his opinion, an instance of disagreement within a family cannot be a basis "for liquidation of a congregation."

In her turn, Prosecutor Tatiana Kondratiev requested the court to leave the decision for liquidation of the congregation unchanged. "I think this decision is legal and well founded, and I ask that the appeal be rejected," the state's prosecutor said.

The trial of the case of the Moscow Jehovah's Witnesses congregation began in September 1998. The prosecutor of the northern district of Moscow came to the conclusion in the course of investigating the activity of the congregation that it incites religious strife, destroys the family, and induces severely ill people to refuse medical aid on religious grounds.

In 2001 the Golovin court of Moscow issued a decision in favor of the Jehovah's Witnesses, refusing to satisfy the representation by the prosecutor's office for liquidation of the congregation. The Moscow City Court, to which the prosecutor turned with an appeal of protest, set aside this decision and sent the case back for a new review.

In the spring of 2002 a second trial began, at which it was decided to order an expert analysis of the literature distributed by Jehovah's Witnesses. However the Moscow City Court also set aside this decision, and sent the case for review in the Golovin court, which ordered the conduct of a philological and psycholinguistic expert analysis of the literature of the Jehovists. Upon its conclusion, the trial resumed.

On 26 March 2004 the Golovin court liquidated the Moscow congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, "NEWSru.com" reports. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 September 2004)

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Six children of evangelical pastors perish in massacre

OF FIVE CHILDREN OF BESLAN PASTOR, ONLY ONE DAUGHTER FOUND ALIVE
Radiotserkov, 7 September 2004

The daughter of a pastor, Taimuraz Totiev , of a local protestant congregation in Beslan, who was taken hostage, is alive but she is in severe shock and depression. Her younger sister was found dead and the other three children of the family have not been found, "Blagovest-info" reports, citing the "Union of Christians" Association of Christian Churches. As "Blagovest-info" reports, all five children of Pastor Taimuzar were seized among the hostages. In addition, three children of his brother Sergey were in the school that was seized. The thirteen-year-old son of Pastor Sergey,  Azamat, was used by the terrorists as a human shield and he now in the hospital in Vladikavkaz, without eyes. Of Sergey's three children, the body of one daughter was found, his darling nine-year-old Annushka. Another child still has not been found. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 September 2004)

CHILDREN OF CHRISTIANS WHO DIED IN BESLAN WERE A LIGHT FOR OTHERS
Radiotserkov, 9 September 2004

After several days of searching, two ministers from Beslan now are persuaded that their six children, who were among the hostages in the city school, have perished. This was reported by the Russian Ministries mission. The brothers Taimuraz and Sergey Totiev, who are pastors of the Evangelical Christian-Baptist church, hoped until the last moment to find their children alive, a worker for the mission based in USA reported.

According to a report from Russian Ministries Vice-President Sergey Rakhuba, "Tragically, of eight Totiev children who were in the school, only two remained alive." Of the five children of Taimuraz and Riia totiev, four died: Larisa, 14, Liuba, 12, Albina, 11, and Boris, 8. "A daughter named Magina was found and has already been released from the hospital. She now is recovering at home," Rakhuba added. He also said that of the children of Sergey and Bela Totiev, Dzerassa, 15, and Anna, 9, died. Twelve-year-old Azamat is in the hospital; in an explosion his eyes were destroyed. "Around 1500 or 2000 people, including a multitude of Christians, came from various places to support the Totievs, who are beloved pastors in these areas," and to participate in a memorial service. The service was held in front of the Totievs' homes. Neighbors with tears in their eyes said that they feel as if the dead children were their children. In their opinion, "there were shining lights,. . . by their good conduct and sympathetic spirit."

When someone in the crowd began cursing and swearing to take vengeance upon the terrorists, Pastor Sergey Totiev, who lost two children, said: "Indeed, we have suffered an irretrievable loss, but we cannot take vengeance. As Christians we must follow the word of the Bible, which teaches us to forgive. Vengeance belongs to God."

Ministers from Russian Ministries described that as "possibly the strongest sermon and testimony that ever were delivered in this congregation." People remained touched by the words of the pastor. In reality, the dead Totiev children became shining rays for their surroundings. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 September 2004)

IRREPLACEABLE LOSS
Burials of children in Beslan
by Madina Totrova
Baptist.org.ru, 7 September 2004

Hundreds and hundreds of dead children is the final result of the drama in Beslan, where terrorists on 1 September seized a school and took more than 1,000 children hostage. Among the hundreds of dead as a result of this terrorist act was nine-year-old Arturik Dzhioev. The small boy, who had attended Sunday school, loved to recite verses and sing Christian songs, perished, as also did many of his peers in his own school.

Arturik's mother conducted herself amazingly and in a truly Christian manner in this nightmare. Irina, who with her two sons was also a hostage of the terrorists, sang Christians songs for the children and prayed for rescue. After the tragedy she said: "I  do not harbor hatred, since I know that hatred engenders hatred. I only wish that people would not remain indifferent to this tragedy, and that it will never be repeated again."

Totiev familiesYesterday, on Tuesday, funerals were conducted in the Totiev families, where the terrible tragedy took the lives of children. Of eight children, two perished, one boy is in the hospital, one daughter is already at home, and four still are listed as missing.

It is a horrible, irreplaceable loss for one family. It remains only to pray for the salvation of the fallen children and to believe that an end will sometime come to this horror.

It is a terrible shame that all hopes for a peaceful outcome of this drama turned out to be illusory. In Beslan the blood of innocent people was shed, and there cannot be any justification for what happened. But what is most terrible in what happened is the death of children. May God give all of us strength to overcome the heavy grief that has come upon us and to persevere in this sad days.

EVERYTHING IS WEEPING; THE HEAVENS WEEP, PEOPLE WEEP
by P.V. Mitskevich
Baptist.org.ru, 7 September 2004

I arrived at the Vladikavkaz airport at 17.15 and was met, along with Brother Bert, by Brother Peter Anatolievich Lunichkin and his wife Liudmila.

Rain was drizzling on the street, becoming a cloud burst. Everything is weeping: the heavens weep and people are crying. Entering Beslan, we stopped at a new cemetery where the graves were being dug by the excavator. This cemetery appeared only two days ago, after the horrible tragedy in school number one. The next day dozens of people, mostly children, were buried. I approached one of the graves. On black ribbons of the wreathes was written: "To Amiz from classmates."

Today Pastor Peter Lunichkin, along with brothers and sisters, took part in the funeral for the young boy Artur. He was nine. He was in the school along with his mother Irina Dzhioeva and brother Mark. Mama Irina Dzhioeva carried out in her arms only her son Mark. The father (Akhshar) was at home with three girls. In the evening Sister Irina came to the house of tears, the home of the Totievs, and her words were words of consolation for all those who were suffering. "Rejoice, we have hope! The Lord loves us."

Around school number one lie flowers and children's briefcases and bottles of water. . . .

We continued our journey, just 500 meters from the school, to the Evangelical Christian Baptist house of worship and right next door the homes of the Totiev families. Rain. Grief. Sorrow in the Totiev home. Brothers Sergey and Teimuraz and their father Feliks and other men were standing on the street near the house. Everyone was in black. In the courtyard were two caskets. In them were two girls in school clothes, their faces beatific, the caskets adorned with flowers. In the yard women were sitting around the caskets, two mothers, Bella and Raia, grandmothers, young and middle-aged women.

The population of the city of Beslan is 35,000. The city is located just five kilometers from the airport and 14 kilometers from the city of Vladikavkaz. The population of the city is mainly Ossetes; there are 30,000 Ossetes and the remaining 5,000 are Russia, Ukrainians, Koreans, and other nationalities. The city has several churches. The largest is the church of the Evangelical Christian Baptist union under the direction of Mikhail Konstantinovich Kodzaev. The Beslan ECB church has 244 members and the meetings are conducted in the Ossetian language.

In Beslan there also is one church of the Council of ECB Churches and a Pentecostal church, but since they are located in a different part of the city, their members' children were not in school number one. . . .

At the Totiev house we prayed and I delivered greetings from the entire brotherhood of Evangelical Christians Baptists and from all believing people of Russia and the near and far abroads. And I recalled the wonderful gospel story from the eleventh chapter of the gospel of John. Christ was summoned to the house of his friends, when Lazarus became sick and after two days died. Arriving at the house crying, the Lord Jesus Christ said: "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies still lives." Such happiness, that believing people have the faith and hope of again meeting with those who believed in Jesus Christ. How splendid that we can open our desires to the Lord and he will give consolation and strengthen and embolden. Pastor Sergey and Bella Totiev had three children in the school. Son Boris is in the hospital, in the ocular department. They brought daughter Anna from the morgue. One daughter still is missing.

Pastor Teimurqaz and Raia sent five of their children to school. Only one daughter returned home. Yesterday, on Sunday, they brought home the casket with daughter Liuba. Three children are still considered missing.

We prayed together, conversed, and prayed again. Only the Lord can give consolation. A day of mourning. Everything is weeping. It is raining,  Gloomy sky, sorrowful eyes, weeping hearts. But in Christ there is hope and rest. All the relatives expressed great thanks for prayers and support. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 September 2004)

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Religious leaders express sympathy, anger over hostage massacre

LETTER FROM PATRIARCH ALEXIS II TO RUSSIAN PRESIDENT V.V. PUTIN WITH REGARD TO THE MASS DESTRUCTION OF HOSTAGES IN BESLAN

Your excellency, deeply esteemed Vladimir Vladimirovich!

News of the unprecedented brutality of the bandits who seized civilian residents, women and children in a school of Beslan, has shaken the entire world community. Removing all masks, terrorism has shown its satanic face. Having trampled down all that is sacred, without fearing God or having shame before people, the so-called "freedom fighters" have lifted their hands stained with innocent blood against children. There is not and there cannot be any justification for their insane actions.

I know how much has been done by you personally and members of the Russian government and power structures in order to preserve the lives of these people who are guilty of nothing. A supreme example of sacrificial love for neighbors and of courage was shown by people who were ready to substitute themselves for the hostages. The past days were filled with intense work, experiences, and hope. However the actions of the terrorists led to victims.

Grieving profoundly for the victims of this tragedy, the Russian Orthodox church raises prayers for the repose of their souls in the abode of the righteous. In addition we pray for the recovery of the wounded. May the Lord help them to bear with dignity the tribulation that has befallen them. It is our duty and the duty of those who have been entrusted with authority to do everything possible to alleviate their suffering.

May the Lord aid you in your labors for overcoming the consequences of such great iniquity. Remembering the victims of the tragedy, we will devote yet greater efforts for the sake of maintaining the peace and security of Russia.

With sincere respect

Alexis, Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus

(tr. by PDS, posted 4 September 2004)

Posted on the Portal-credo.ru site, 3 September 2004

ECCLESIASTICAL BOARD OF MUSLIMS OF DAGESTAN DISTRIBUTES STATEMENT
Mir religii, 3 September 2004

The Ecclesiastical Board of Muslims of Dagestan (DUMD) distributed today a statement in connection with events that have in recent days shaken all of Russia.

The appeal, signed by DUMD Chairman Mufti Akhmad Abdulaev, says that "Muslims of Dagestan have received with profound sorrow news about the series of terrorist acts against the territory of our homeland that have cost a multitude of lives and brought grief to thousands and thousands of our fellow countrymen." In connection with this, the leadership of DUMD, in the name of Muslims of Dagestan, expresses sincere condolences to relatives and friends of the victims and deep sympathy for all who have suffered.

"We cannot find the words to characterize those who committed these terrorist acts, and especially those who raised their hand against the children in the city of Beslan. Those who did this evil cannot even be called beasts." Beasts attack children only in exceptional circumstances, the statement stresses.

It is regrettable, the statement says, that the terrorists call themselves Muslims. This causes offense to the entire Islamic community and provides occasion for all those who are interested in the creation of a negative image of Muslims to talk about Islamic terrorism.  While according to the canons of Sharia, life is sacred and nobody has been given the right to infringe it and the murder of one innocent faithful follower of the Almighty is equivalent to the murder of the entirety of humanity, and if all humanity takes part in this murder, then all is subject to punishment. Islam is against the infringement of any human rights that have been granted by the Creator, the authors of the statement emphasize.

In the situation that has arisen, Muslims of Dagestan call all right-thinking people of the planet to unite their efforts for eliminating evil under the name of terrorism, no matter who originates it or what a terrorist calls himself. DUMD appeals to the power structures, who hold the "levers of force," to use all possible methods and means "for eliminating violence in any form." "And those who plan in the future terrorist acts should think about their responsibility before the Almighty for their life of all innocent people because no one can escape this responsibility," the document says. (tr. by PDS, posted 4 September 2004)

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