RUSSIA RELIGION NEWS


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Christian and Muslim rights advocates work together


LACK OF PROTECTION FOR RIGHTS OF BELIEVERS DISCUSSED IN MOSCOW
Portal-credo.ru, 19 May 2005

On 19 May a press conference was held in the Central House of Journalists in Moscow under the rubric "In Russia rights of believers are not protected," a "Portal-credo.ru" correspondent reports.

The organizers of the conference included the head of the Moscow Helsinki group, Liudmila Alekseeva, a former plenipotentiary for human rights in RF and current professor of one of  Moscow's institutions of higher education, Oleg Mironov, the president of the All-Russia Fund for Education, Sergei Komkov, and the director of the Islamic Rights Defense Center, Ismail Shangareev. These four, who are rather widely known figures in close religious and public circles, also represented at this press conference the founding members of a certain "MIMPEKS" Center. (The acronym means "International and Interreligious Rights Defense Expert Analysis Center.")

At the long table gathered many more participants than had appeared previously. Besides the previously named persons there were also Professor Fedor Burlatsky, a journalist from Astrakhan, Veronika Karpycheva, the director of the Institute of Religion and Law, Anatoly Pchelintsev, the leader of the "Islamic Party of Russia," Magomed-Ali Rajabov, and Ildar Shaikhutdinov, who was involved in the case concerning membership of the "Khizbut-Takhrir" organization in Tatarstan,.

The speeches by three representatives of the late-soviet nomenklatura who were present, Fedor Burlatsky, Sergei Komkov, and Oleg Mironov, took up an inordinate amount of time--45 minutes--and produced smirks and other forms of impatience on the part of assembled reporters, who had expected to hear, finally, concrete incidents speaking about the lack of protection in Russia for the rights of believers.

These incidents came in great quantity in the subsequent speech by the director of the Institute of Religion and Law, Anatoly Pchelintsev. In his opinion, at the present time in Russia legislation on freedom of religious confession is being continually violated, which contradicts international documents about human rights. Specifically, continuous provocational actions against protestant and other non-Orthodox confessions have taken on the form of an organized campaign. At the same time, in Mr. Pchelintsev's opinion, one can clearly see behind many of these actions the interests of RPTsMP. The attorney compared the situation that is developing to 1937, although the incidents that he cited suggested another comparison--with the middle ages. Thus, for example, in the city of Eisk in Krasnodar territory, local news media reported that Seventh-day Adventists use sacrificial blood in their rituals and meals. And in the glossy textbook on "Foundations of Orthodox Culture" published in Smolensk (the fief of metropolitan Kirill) on one of the pages it says directly that sectarian protestants will soon come to an end. Mr. Pchelintsev said that he possessed a multitude of such instances.

Moreover, as noted in the course of the press conference, its organizers included representatives of the Muslim community and so it was necessary to devote approximately a third of the total time of the conference to Muslim topics. The problem of the notorious "wahhabism" was raised again in which it was noted that today, along with governmental structures, the bugaboo of wahhabism is being used by several Islamic organizations in their "differentiating" themselves from other Islamic organizations. There also were heard reports by representatives of Dagestan concerning an incident near a mosque in Derbent and of Ildar Shaikhutdinov from Almetievsk, who is accused of belonging to the "Khizbut-Takhrir" organization.

The press conference lasted about three hours. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 May 2005)

RUSSIAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES CALL GOVERNMENT TO COMBAT XENOPHOBIA AND COOPERATE WITH ALL CONFESSIONS
Interfax, 19 May 2005

The head of the Moscow Helsinki group, Liudmila Alekseeva, and the director of the Slavic Legal Center, Anatoly Pchelintsev, accused Russian authorities of cooperating with selected religions and infringing upon the rights of other confessions.

"In our country there has been observed a colossal growth of intolerance and xenophobia in both the ethnic and religious areas. All religions except for those that are increasingly more joined to the state, have suffered repression," Alekseeva said on Thursday at a press conference in Moscow. In her opinion, a prejudicial opinion with regard to representatives of Islam is being deliberately created in Russian society. "In connection with terrorist acts there has been created and supported by both the press and authorities the opinion that Islam is a hostile, aggressive religion," the rights defender thinks.

She sees in this a violation of the fundamental law of Russia. "The right to freedom of religious confession is inscribed in the constitution, and this is one of the chief human rights," Alekseeva stressed.

In his turn, A. Pchelintsev said that the property of religious organizations "confiscated during the time of soviet rule, is now being returned primarily to the Russian Orthodox church." He also expressed worry at the growth of intolerance by society with respect to representatives of other confessions, condemning the actions of "false patriots, who set fire to synagogues and houses of worship."

As an example, Pchelintsev cited arson at the Baptist church in Chekhov, outside Moscow, and many other acts of vandalism which have been committed under the slogan: "Get the sectarians out of Russia!" In addition, the rights defender called attention to growing persecution against Muslims, saying that "people are being arrested on the street because of their nonslavic appearance and they are being humiliated and searched."

Pchelintsev also mentioned problems in obtaining visas involving Catholic and Baptist clergy and representatives of the "Salvation Army" organization. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 May 2005)

REPRESENTATIVE OF INTERRELIGIOUS COUNCIL OF RUSSIA CALLS RIGHTS ADVOCATES NOT TO INSULT RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
Interfax, 19 May 2005

Disagreement with the claims of a number of rights defenders that the authorities of the country are cooperating only with selected religions and are restricting representatives of other confessions was expressed at the Interreligious Council of Russia. "It is not at all surprising that once again so-called rights defenders are trying to protect the rights of religious minorities through insults directed against the Russian Orthodox church," the executive secretary of the Interreligious Council, Roman Silantiev, told "Interfax" on Thursday.

This is the way he commented upon the statement of the head of the Moscow Helsinki group, Liudmila Alekseeva, that "all religious (in Russia, "IF"), except for those that are increasingly more joined to the state, have suffered repression."

He called attention to the fact that "the criticism of the church continues to be made precisely by that organization whose representatives supported the organizers of the 'Beware, Religion!' exhibit, militant atheists who hate pathologically all forms of religiosity."

According to Silantiev, "in the past fifteen years thousands of Orthodox Christians, including dozens of priests and church workers, have perished at the hands of religiously motivated extremists, primarily the adherents of so-called wahhabism and satanism. Many Orthodox churches were destroyed and many parishes have been completely devastated, and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to become refugees," the agency's interlocutor said.

"In this regard," he continued, "I would like to ask the esteemed rights defenders whether they have any information about protestant pastors, Catholic priests, pagan shamans, or neohindu gurus who have been killed in the name of the Orthodox faith. How many scientologists or salvationists (adherents of the "Salvation Army," "IF") were forced because of actions of Orthodox extremists to abandon their property and flee from Russia?"

The representative of the Interreligious Council also expressed amazement that the alleged restrictions of Muslims and Jews are not being talked about by their religious leaders but by people of "indeterminate confessional affiliation." (tr. by PDS, posted 20 May 2005)

RAID CONDUCTED ON OFFICE OF PENTECOSTAL CHURCH IN MOSCOW
Mir religii, 20 May 2005

Six unidentified young people broke into the office of the Russianchurch of Christians of Evangelical Faith (RTsKhVF) on 17 May on Fabritsiusa street in Moscow. The details of the raid were described to a "Blagovest-info" correspondent by the vice-chairman of RTsKhVE, Pavel Bak, after the end of the press conference in the House of Journalists devoted to the infringement of believers' rights in the Russian federation.

According to P. Bak, six uninvited guests who were "not drunk, but tipsy," broke into the building in the middle of the day and without identifying themselves demanded to see the "chief" and declared that "they will beat the sectarians." Before achieving their goals they undertook to "educate" the workers located in the office: they talked about the dominance of sects and complained that "there is no life from you," and asked why RTsKhVE members were not Orthodox, etc. Pavel Bak described how he arrived at the office after the incident had ended and managed to engage the pogromists in conversation to explain that evangelical Christians have never bothered the Orthodox church. The conversation cooled the ardor of the strangers and they acknowledged only that they had been "sent to beat sectarians," but they did not say by whom precisely. Upon departure they advised the occupants of the office "to behave calmly."

Blagovest-info's informant is convinced that this was not a spontaneous hooligan prank but an organized raid. He is upset by the discrimination with respect to protestants in Russia. When at the aforesaid press conference the conversation got around to the unlawfulness of the concepts "traditional" and "nontraditional" religious organizations, the representative of RTsKhVE told about his own family in which his great grandfather has suffered for his faith as a protestant pastor and his son is taking up the torch of religious ministry. Pavel Bak asked "finally acquit us as traditional Russian protestants."

As Blagovest-info notes, the name of RTsKhVE appeared in 2004 after the reregistration of the religious organization of the Union of KhVE (Pentecostals), which is headed by Biahop Pavel Okara. According to information posted on the KhVE web site, this organization now comprises 56 regional centers and unites around 1,600 congregations with more than 300,000 parishioners. The first Pentecostal organization arose in Russia in 1907 in the territory of Finland, which was a part of the St. Petersburg province. Pentecostal congregations appeared in the capital of the Russian empire, St. Petersburg, in 1913. At the beginning of the 1920s, the teaching of the Pentecostals were spread through practically the whole of Russia. (tr. by PDS, posted 20 May 2005)

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Public amends to fire-bombed Baptist church

CHELIABINSK "BLAGOVESTIE" CHURCH REHABILITATED IN EYES OF PUBLIC
Protestant.ru, 17 May 2005

As reported previously by the TBN-Rossiia information service, on the night of 1 May arson was committed at the "Blagovestie" church, which had been provoked by a statement on television by Ekaterina Gorinaia, the chair of the Commission on Human Rights in Cheliabinsk province.  [See "Baptist church in Urals torched"]

After this, a press conference on the topic "Attitude of protestant churches to the problems of state-confessional relations in Cheliabinsk province. Peculiarities of the contemporary religious situation in connection with acts of vandalism" was held in the city, to which journalists came from practically all local television companies and newspapers.

The bishop of the Evangelical Christian Baptist churches of Cheliaibinsk and the pastor of the "Blagovestie" church, V.N. Sobolev, were at a reception given by the president of the provincial committee on affairs of nationalities and religious and public organizations, A.M. Khamzinaia, who expressed regret about what had happened and promised to report on this to the governor of Cheliabinsk province. She also worked it out so that local newspapers and television gave favorable reports about the Christian church, which performs socially significant and useful work.

That evening, all television channels ("Eastern Express," "Russia," "STS, "TVTs," and "YuGRA") carried information on all news shows about the press conference that was held and broadcast very good reports about the "Blagovestie" church. It is still difficult to say how much public opinion concerning us has changed, but one can affirm one thing:  an enormous number of residents of the city saw these reports.

In the near future there will be a session of the Urals affiliate of the International Association of Religious Freedom, at which a document on the results of the recent events will probably be adopted. (Source:  Novosti TBN-Russia, citing Christian Press Russia) (tr. by PDS, posted 19 May 2005)

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New persecution of protestants in Russia

Portal-credo.ru used this headline for a section of its web-site that collects several reports about difficulties faced by protestant churches in Russia recently. "The deportation of a Lutheran bishop from the Russian federation, raids by OMON forces on congregations in Izhevsk and Kamchatka, confrontations in Ekaterinburg--all of these arouse thoughts about a new antiprotestant campaign in Russia."

SVERDLOV PROTESTANTS ISSUE ACCUSATION AGAINST LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Portal-credo.ru, 18 May 2005

The Consultative Council of Pastors of Protestant Churches of Ekaterinburg and Sverdlov provinces distributed a statement in which they accused local authorities of religious discrimination and the Ekaterinburg diocese of RPTsMP of "covert cooperation" with criminal structures, Pravoslavie.ru reports.

The statement declares that the department in the structure of the administration of Sverdlovsk province that dealt with the religious situation in the province has been liquidated, as the result of which "all problems arising within this sphere are being ignored by provincial authorities and the process of constructive cooperation between authorities and non-Orthodox religious organizations has been discontinued, despite the vigorous social work of the latter and their attempts to be included in cooperation with the authorities."

The council of pastors concludes that Orthodox activists "have developed a broad network of public actions against not only 'nontraditional' religious organizations but also against secular structures and individual persons."

The protestants are "concerned over the active covert cooperation between criminal structures and the local Orthodox diocese in the conduct of separate political and public events," which, they say, "are proved by incidents of the diocese's accepting large contributions for the construction of churches from legalized criminal authorities, the petition by Archbishop of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursk Vikenty for the release of the late State Duma deputy and "Uralmash Authority,' Alexander Khabarov, and the active participation of members of 'Uralmash' in demonstrations in conjunction with the Evangelism Department headed by the priest, V. Zaitsev."  (tr. by PDS, posted 18 May 2005)

LETTER OF CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL OF PASTORS OF PROTESTANT CHURCHES OF EKATERINBURG AND SVERDLOVSK PROVINCES
Concerning changes in the situation in the sphere of freedom of conscience

If one considers the change in the situation in the sphere of freedom of conscience in Sverdlovsk province in the past year, then it is necessary to note the following items:

1.  The department in the structure of the administration of Sverdlovsk province that dealt with problems in the development of the religious situation in the province was liquidated. In general, now there are no specialists who are sufficiently informed on matters of church-state relations in provincial structures. As a result, all problems that arise in this sphere are being ignored by provincial authorities and the process of constructive cooperation between authorities and non-Orthodox religious organizations has been discontinued, despite the vigorous social work of the latter and their attempts to be included in cooperation with the authorities. The section on freedom of conscience in the report by the plenipotentiary for human rights in Sverdlovsk province is simply missing, despite our meetings and detailed information about the developing situation.

2.  The activity of the most politicized structures of the Orthodox church has been sharply increased. They have developed a broad network of public actions not only against 'nontraditional' religious organizations but also against secular structures and individual persons. In so doing they frequently provoke direct conflicts both with the targets of demonstrations and with law enforcement agencies that try to force them to observe the most fundamental legal standards.

3.  Recently there has been special concern caused by the vigorous covert cooperation of criminal structures with the local diocese of the Orthodox church in conducting separate political and public actions, and not just that. This is clearly manifested in instances of accepting large donations by the diocese for construction of churches from legalized criminal authorities, the petition by Archbishop Vikenty for release of the late State Duma deputy and "Uralmash authority" Alexander Khabarov, and the active participation of "Uralmash" in demonstrations in conjunction with the Evangelism Department headed by the priest V. Zaitsev.

All of the above has forced us to begin vigorous resistance to the contraction of the space for freedom of world views.

On 6 April our council sent an open letter to the president of the Russian federation, to local power structures, and to law enforcement agencies with information about instances of religious discrimination against our churches and with a request that the authorities immediately adopt measures for guaranteeing conditions for unhindered exercise of our constitutional right to freedom of conscience.

In the past month it has been possible to conclude that the problem of religious discrimination in Sverdlovsk province has been noticed by "somebody." As a result of measures adopted, the number of Orthodox picketers and the level of aggressiveness in the demonstrations against the "New Life" church have somewhat declined, and so far no demonstrations have been conducted against the "Good News" and "Living Word" churches. This happened after repeated refusal by the administration of Ekaterinburg to allow conducting demonstrations on the basis of the federal law "On freedom  of conscience and religious associations," article 3, point 6, which prohibits conducting any actions near objects of religious veneration.

Meanwhile, no answers to the letters we sent regarding the substance of our appeals have been received, despite the fact that the term of one month provided for answers has already expired.

It should also be noted that new instances have arisen that give evidence of attempts to devise new forms of discrediting protestant churches. In particular, letters have been sent to law enforcement agencies alleging that there was an incident of extortion by parishioners of the "New Life" church of 15,000 rubles from a private individual as a contribution to the church.

Secretary of Consultative Council of pastors of Protestant Churches of Ekaterinburg and Sverdlovsk Provinces
Andrei Ivanov
(tr. by PDS, posted 18 May 2005)
Posted on Portal-credo.ru, 16 May 2005

LUTHERAN PRIEST EXPELLED FROM RUSSIA WITHOUT EXPLANATION
Portal-credo.ru, 15 April 2005

In the evening of 10 April, Rev. Siegfried Springer, 74, the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran church for the European part of Russia, was detained without explanation at border control at Moscow's Domodedovo airport. He was told that his visa had been cancelled; he was placed in a receiving area for deportees, and on the following day he was taken by plane back to Germany. This was reported by rights advocates of Krasnodar.

Siegfried Springer was born into a family of German colonists in Stavropol territory and left from Germany with his parents in 1943. He returned to USSR in 1957 for a festival of youth and students in Moscow. Since that time he worked on evangelistic projects in USSR and RF. From the beginning of the 1990s he lived in Moscow. (tr. by PDS, posted 18 May 2005)
 

EXTRAORDINARY DECLARATION OF RUSSIAN ASSOCIATED UNION OF CHRISTIAN OF EVANGELICAL FAITH (PENTECOSTALS) REGARDING RAID BY OMON FORCES ON BELIEVERS IN IZHEVSK
Portal-credo, 15 April 2005

Yesterday, 14 April, at 8:10 p.m., a squad of OMON troops in masks, accompanied by operational workers in civilian clothes, broke into the grounds of the "Work of Faith" building complex of the Udmurtia diocese of Christians of Evangelical Faith in the city of Izhevsk. In all, there were about twenty persons. The "operation" was directed by the assistant chief of the Pervomaisk Department of Internal Affairs of Izhevsk, Alexei Dmitrievich Bakhtiyarov, and operational officer Ilshat Khuziatov (Makhmudov, according to other sources). According to reports from eyewitnesses, the latter was drunk and waved a pistol continuously.

The troops broke down a fence, although there were open gates nearby, and they burst into a room for worship services, classrooms of the Bible institute, and the social center for persons without permanent places of residence. At this time the service and seminars for married couples were concluding. All the believers, men, women, and clergy, were driven out into the street by force, along with threats "On the double; we will break your legs," and they were pinned with raised arms and faces to the fence and wall. Everyone, including women, was searched by males and forced to stand in this position about a half hour. They, including the women, were  allowed to go to the toilet only in the company and under the observation of the officers, men.

A search of the entire premises of the diocese was conducted. The request by the senior pastor, M.Yu. Russkikh, for a permit for conducting the search was categorically refused with the reply that after six o'clock searches can be conducted without a warrant. No observers were present. Swearing, curses, and threats resounded from the police officers, including threats of rape against the women. The most frequently used words were "sect," "sectarian," "scum," "den," "prostitutes," and the like. Forty-six persons were arrested and taken to the Pervomaisk Department of Internal Affairs, where they were placed in a single cell. Several were told to sign blank pages of protocols of interrogation. Then they were summoned one by one to interrogations. The questions, interspersed with threats, came down to just one--why do you attend this sect and not a "normal church"? Who comes to church? What is your pastor's salary? Where do you keep the weapons and drugs?

All were fingerprinted and photographed, profile and frontal poses. One of the believers who refused to answer questions received corporal wounds by workers of the department, as a result of which he was treated by medical personnel.

All 46 persons were illegally detained without any preliminary accusations and warrants, for more than five hours. Four have remained in the Pervomaisk Department of Internal Affairs to the present day.

We consider this to be a blatantly illegal action against Russian citizens. We request effective intervention by the prosecutor-general of the Russian federation.

Administration of the Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals)(tr. by PDS, posted 18 May 2005)
 

US CONGRESS REACTS TO BEATING OF IZHEVSK PENTECOSTALS
Portal-credo.ru, 12 May 2005

As reported previously, on 14 April OMON troops broke into the building of the "Work of Faith" Pentecostal church in Izhevsk. The Christians were taken to the police department and subjected to interrogation. The incident, hushed up by Russian authorities and news media, did not remain unnoticed by representatives of the world community.

As previously reported by the TBN-Rossiia news service, the incident in Izhevsk was immediately announced in an appeal from the president of the association of Christian churches, Igor Nikitin, to the International Commission on Religious Liberty and to the Helsinki Commission, which monitors fulfillment of obligations assumed by the participating states of CSCE. This week, the mayor of Izhevsk received an official letter from USA which is quoted on the "Protestant.ru" web site.

"We, representatives of the Congress of USA and members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, express profound concern with regard to the police operation that was conducted in the city of Izhevsk.

We turn to you with a request for an immediate investigation of official crimes on the part of police and for judicial punishment of representatives of law enforcement agencies," the letter says.

In addition, in 8 May Igor Nikitin gave an interview on the "Radio-premier" English radio station. (tr. by PDS, posted 18 May 2005)

WHY DID POLICE RAID PENTECOSTAL CHURCH?
by Geraldine Fagan, Moscow Correspondent,
Forum 18 News Service, 22 April 2005

Twenty masked special and plain clothes police raided an evening seminar on 14 April at the Word of Faith church in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtia autonomous republic. Police forced the 70 people present outside, calling them "sectarians" and "prostitutes", while they searched the church. Nearly 50 church members were held for five hours at the police station and fingerprinted. Udmurtia's interior ministry claimed the Pentecostals had "distorted" details of the raid. Pentecostal bishop Yuri Degtyar told Forum 18 News Service from Izhevsk that he believes the public prosecutor has now "taken control of the situation" and that the investigation into police conduct during the raid will be "objective".   (Complete article on Forum 18 site)

DEMONSTRATION AGAINST CHRISTIAN INSTITUTE IN MOSCOW
Portal-credo.ru, 18 May 2005

About 100 persons, residents of Moscow's Babushkino district and members of the Union of Orthodox Citizens, conducted Tuesday afternoon a demonstration at the building of the local municipal assembly, protesting against the construction of a Russian-American Christian Institute.

"This Baptist educational institution is completely incompatible with the district, where the majority of the population is Orthodox," union press secretary Kirill Frolov told the Interfax news agency, according to a NEWSru.com report.

He said, "today in the whole neighborhood there are no Orthodox churches, and those that do exist are microscopic." Against this background, the imposition of nontraditional confessions and the creation of their enormous centers seem to be provocations, the Union of Orthodox Citizens thinks.

In connection with this, the picketers not only demanded prohibition of the construction of the Baptist center but also advocated that Orthodox churches be erected in every district of the capital.

"There should be no fewer churches than there are department stores. They are also necessary," K. Frolov stated.

In addition, members of the Orthodox society again demanded the introduction of "Foundations of Orthodox Culture" into Moscow schools.

The Russian-American Christian Institute was registered as a private (nongovernmental) educational institution, that was licensed in 2003 by the Ministry of General and Professional Education of RF for conducting educational activity in the sphere of advanced professional education; it also received state accreditation. (tr. by PDS, posted 18 May 2005)

PENTECOSTALS UPSET BY REPORT ABOUT PLANNED DEMONSTRATION
Portal-credo.ru, 18 May 2005

On 16 May the "Religiia i SMI" [Religion and News Media] web-site published an announcement of a protest by Pentecostals planned for 22 May. The site titled its article "Pentecostals announce battle against Orthodox." Representatives of the "Immanuel" Moscow Central Church of Christians of Evangelical Faith Pentecostals are upset by such a form of presentation of the material, considering that the authors of the article are trying to set believers of the two confessions against each other, the "Sova" Information and Analysis Center reports.

In reality, according to their statement, the subject is a demonstration against actions of state officials which did not permit the Immanuel church to build a house of worship in Moscow. "The officials confiscated by deception the parcel of land designated for construction of the church building, despite personal assurances by Moscow Mayor Yu.M. Luzhkov, as a result of which the church suffered millions of rubles in losses and incalculable moral harm."

In addition, the Immanuel church's letter noted, the authors of "Religiia i SMI" changed the place where the demonstration is to be conducted. (tr. by PDS, posted 18 May 2005)

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Ukrainian church protests Moscow's behavior

DECLARATION OF PRESS SERVICE OF KIEV PATRIARCHATE

"And why do you see the mote in your brother's eye and do not feel the beam in your eye?" (Mt 7.3)

It has been noted with amazement in the Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Kiev patriarchate that with the approach of Passion Week and the feast of Pascha, the quantity of publications in the Russian news media that were of a frankly provocative and hostile character with respect to it or the actions of the Ukrainian governing authorities increased. Prominent representatives of the Moscow patriarchate, including Patriarch Alexis II, and individual Russian political and governmental figures have conducted a persistent campaign of escalation of conflicts between the jurisdictionally separated segments of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, threatening the world Orthodox community with schism, and discrediting the new Ukrainian governing authorities and their actions in the religious sphere.

The basic meaning of the declarations, interviews, and speeches of these people consists in this, that after the change of governments in Ukraine there supposedly developed a campaign of restrictions and violence against the Moscow patriarchate. The Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Kiev patriarchate has been represented by them as a radically minded, marginal, nationalistic, and chauvinistic organization, willing to pay any price to deprive the Moscow patriarchate of the possibility of acting in Ukraine. They insistently demand from the Ukrainian governing authorities that they "not interfere in church affairs," and they threaten other local churches, principally the Constantinople patriarchate, with the possibility of a schism if they should interfere in the complicated situation in the Orthodox church in our state.

Not wishing during the last days of the Great Fast and the Easter celebrations to distract the attention of believers and society, our church has not reacted to the campaign of hostile information being generated against it, thinking that the spiritual exercises of Passion Week and the joy of the resplendent Resurrection of Christ is, for all Orthodox Christians, including adherents of the Moscow patriarchate, more important than interconfessional and political disputes. But since the goal of the conduct of the above mentioned informational campaign appears to be an attempt to disrupt the resolution of the on-going conflict in Ukrainian Orthodoxy, the press service of the Kiev patriarchate has the obligation to state the following.

In contrast with the Russian Orthodox church and the Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate, its structural element in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Kiev patriarchate since 1992 has frequently taken initiatives with regard to a search for ways of resolving the contradictions that exist within Ukrainian Orthodoxy without advancing any preconditions. At the same time the hierarchy of RPTs and UPTsMP have not only not displayed any desire to do anything to overcome the division of the Orthodox church in Ukraine but, on the contrary, have made the situation worse by their statements and actions.

The so-called "unfrocking" and "anathematizing" of the primate of UPTsKP, constant pressure on offices of the governing authorities in Ukraine with the goal of restricting the rights of believers of the Kiev patriarchate, the attempts to completly isolate the Kiev patriarchate from communion with other local churches, an attitude toward the Kiev patriarchate that is theologically baseless and canonically incorrect as if it were a heretical community, which is expressed in the instructions of the hierarchy of UPTsMP to clergy to perform the holy sacraments and rituals over again in the case of those who have already received them in the Kiev patriarchate--all of these things are just separate episodes in the totality of measures by which the Moscow patriarchate, until the present, has tried to maintain the its complete religious authority over Ukraine. It is evident that blinded by chauvinistic visions and political ideas of the restoration in any form of the Russian empire, the Moscow ecclesiastical and secular politicians have not been able to establish a way of overcoming existing conflicts that is appropriate to the situation and the realities of Ukrainian life.

According to reliable information from the Razumkov Ukrainian Center, published in the magazine "National Security and Defense" (No. 3, 2004), over 16 millions Ukrainian citizens older than 18 years consider themselves Orthodox believers, of which about 10 million align themselves with the Kiev patriarchate. In more than two thirds of the administrative districts of Ukraine, support for the Kiev patriarchate exceeds support for Moscow. Even these separate data of an independent, complex sociological study, conducted in the first half of 2004, testify that the Kiev patriarchate in not a regional, chauvinistic, nationalistic, or marginal structure. In number of bishops, clergy, believers, parishes, educational institutions, etc., the Kiev patriarchate already is now one of the largest local Orthodox churches in the world, surpassing on these indices individual local churches. Thus nonrecognition of the Kiev patriarchate is not so much an internal Ukrainian problem as a problem for the entirety of world Orthodoxy.

In the history of intra-Orthodox divisions over many years, by its inappropriate and often hostile actions the Moscow patriarchate has shown that its goal is not the resolution of the conflict situation existing in Ukrainian Orthodoxy, but the maintenance of its authority over the souls of citizens of Ukraine, in the interests of its own state, at any price. The participation of the bishops, clergy, and believers of UPTsMP, in the name of the church, in the agitational campaign against Ukrainian presidential candidate V. Yushchenko and in support of V. Yanukovich, inspired and supported by the Moscow patriarchate, was just a confirmation of this fact and led to an indignant Ukrainian public.

The illegal participation of hierarchs and clergy of UPTsMP during the elections in a political agitational campaign led to the self-discrediting of this church in the eyes of many Ukrainian citizens. According to data of the Razumkov Center study mentioned above, a majority of the adherents of UPTsMP live in provinces of Ukraine that voted for Yushchenko. Thus, in recent months believers who previously belonged to UPTsMP have exhibited a desire to leave its jurisdiction and transfer into the jurisdiction of UPTsKP, because of indignation over the political agitation in their churches, which they understood to be the consequence of the administrative subordination of their parishes to the Moscow patriarchate.

The right of religious parishes to change their subordination to registered religious centers was strengthened by the Ukrainian law "On freedom of conscience and religious organizations." The leadership of UPTs of Kiev patriarchate specifically has not prompted believers belonging to UPTsMP to leave its jurisdiction and to use force in doing so or violating in any other way existing laws, but if believers themselves exhibit the desire to join the Kiev patriarchate, our church does not have the moral right and juridical basis to respond to them with a refusal, and it hopes that the corresponding offices of state power will, in the future, guarantee the possibility of implementation of their legal right to select which patriarchate to belong to.

Considering all of this, our church categorically denies the slanderous accusation that it supposedly is deliberately and systematically inciting interconfessional hostility, destablizing the situation in Ukraine or conducting a campaign for "seizure of UPTsMP churches." On the contrary, in February 2005 in its appeal the Holy Synod and Supreme Church Council of UPTsKP again called bishops, clergy, and believers of UPTsMP to reconciliation and dialogue, and to cessation of hostility and opposition. The real cause of the growth of conflicts in a time when religious societies are withdrawing from the jurisdiction of UPTsMP and transferring to the Kiev patriarchate is the way the supreme leadership of UPTsMP ignores the wishes of parishioners in this matter and the desire of representatives of the Moscow patriarchate to maintain their organizational structure at any price, including the spreading of slanders, provocations, and violence, ignoring the standards of the laws, and disinformation by governmental bodies and society. Despite clear support on the part of many representatives of the state, UPTsMP has for years tried without any basis to represent itself as persecuted in Ukraine. Now we are witnesses to how this vicious practice is continuing.

The ruling authorities of Ukraine are interested in preserving civil peace and harmony and the consolidation of society, which is totally and objectively impossible to achieve until the existing problems in Ukrainian Orthodox are resolved. In the interests of the entire Ukrainian society and within the limits of the legislative arena the Ukrainian government has taken steps that could lead to an important achievement regarding this question. Interested ecclesiastical and political figures in Russia understand that any realistic path to the restoration of the unity of Ukrainian Orthodox will lead to a perceptible and irreversible lessening of the presence of the Moscow patriarchate in Ukraine.

Thus the baseless accusation on the part of leading representatives of the Moscow patriarchate and even governmental figures in Russia (in particular, the director of the Institute of the Countries of CIS, K. Zatulin, and an advisor in the Russian embassy in Ukraine, S. Kuznetsov) against the Ukrainian state authorities of supposedly "interfering in church affairs" actually are directed not to the guarantee of rights of believers of UPTsMP or to freedom of religious confession, but to the maintenance of their own influence over the Ukrainian Orthodox church and through it over the political situation in our state.

The Russian Orthodox church has continually, crudely, and openly interfered in the internal affairs of Ukraine and, to the extent possible, used in doing this the influence of the authority of the Russian state and has defended not so much church interests as political and even chauvinistic interests, and thereby it has lost the moral right to criticize steps that are directed not to the maintaining the existing conflict situation but to its resolution as quickly and adequately as possible, which the UPTs of the Kiev patriarchate or Ukrainian state authorities have taken.

Considering the circumstances outlined above and similar ones, as well as historical realities, the only Orthodox ecclesiastical center that is capable of helping the Orthodox church in Ukraine to get out of the period of division and confrontation is the mother church of Constantinople. The desire that Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew expressed in his letter to Ukrainian President V. Yuxhchenko upon his election to show active cooperation in the resolution of Ukrainian church problems and the statement of the official representative of the Constantinople patriarchate, Archbishop Vsevold, to the effect that the Moscow patriarchate received power of the Kiev metropolia in 1686 illegally--all of this opens up a realistic path to the recognition of the Kiev patriarchate by ecumenical Orthodoxy and to the overcoming of division of the Orthodox church in Ukraine. Threats against the Constantinople patriarchate regarding schism in world Orthodoxy, which have resounded recently in statements by representatives of the Moscow patriarchate, give evidence on one hand of an awareness of the shakiness of the positions of the Russian Orthodox church in Ukraine and the weakness of the canonical argumentation for their own actions, and on the other hand they confirm that the hierarchy of RPTs values more the maintenance of its own power and influence than the interests of the Orthodox church.

The example of the development of the conflict regarding jurisdiction over the Estonian church in 1996 or the unsuccessful attempts to have an influence on the outcome of last year's conflict over the metropolia of northern Greece as well as other incidents give evidence that, in contrast with the Constantinople patriarchate, the actual and not the imagined authority of RPTs within world Orthodoxy is now not very high. In the event of a probable rupture of prayer fellowship with Constantinople because of recognition of the Kiev patriarchate the Russian Orthodox church can realistically count on support of two or three local churches, and  thus no kind of "schism of world Orthodoxy" will occur and the Moscow patriarchate will be forced in very short order to seek for a way out of its self-isolation.

The Ukrainian Orthodox church of the Kiev patriarchate has often stated through its official representatives that it does not intend to call the Ukrainian government or its own believers and supporters to use illegal or forceful means to establish a united local Orthodox church in Ukraine. The only desire of the episcopate, clergy, and believers of our church is to erect and strengthen the Kiev patriarchate as the local Orthodox church of the Ukrainian people and to achieve its recognition by other local sister churches and to have with them, and particularly with the Russian Orthodox church, fraternal, eucharistic, prayer, and spiritual fellowship and to effectively fulfill the calling of the church--to conduct its flock along the path of salvation into the heavenly kingdom. Efforts to prevent the Kiev patriarchate--a local church with a multimillion flock and more than thousand-year historical tradition--from effectively performing its ministry and occupying its deserved place among the sister churches of world Orthodoxy actually are not concerned for the welfare of the church but for the satisfaction of the worldly interests and iniquitous desires of love of power, vainglory, and pride. (tr. by PDS, posted 17 May 2005)

Russian original posted on Portal-credo.ru, 12 May 2005

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