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Russia Religion News Current News Items

Controversy over clergy teaching in public schools

Interfax-Religiia, 14 September 2012

Two new subjects have been introduced into schools of Chechnya—"History of religion" and "Foundations of religion." They will be taught by representatives of the clergy, who will be employed in general educational institutions as deputy principals for educational work, the press service of the head of the republic told Interfax.

According to information from the press service, 420 persons with religious education have already undergone the necessary certification for teaching in schools.

On Thursday, there was a meeting in the state theatre and concert hall of Grozny of the head of the Chechen republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, with directors and teachers of schools and clergymen.  "It will be necessary for you to convey to schoolchildren the essence of true Islam. You should understand that this is an enormous responsibility. If we do not begin today to train children in the culture of conduct, to cultivate in them such feelings as pride, honor, respect, and dignity, then all our efforts in the future will seem useless," R. Kadyrov said, addressing the audience.

"We often have seen that parents lay onto the school their own responsibilities. What will the child become in the future if neither at home nor in school he is not being trained?" he asked.

In Kadyrov's opinion, lack of attention by parents and schools leads to negative consequences, such as, for example, teenage drug addiction. "Now the religious leaders of the schools will be fully engaged with these processes. They have received a religious education and they should transfer their knowledge to the younger generation. This is their main job. The deputy principals of school who are present here are obliged to raise the prestige of, and to work along with the chief personnel of the schools. Your chief and true task is to train a generation to be worthy citizens of the country," R. Kadyrov declared. (tr. by PDS, posted 14 September 2012)

Interfax-Religiia, 14 September 2012

Rights advocates expressed alarm because in Chechnya it has been decided to make representatives of Muslim clergy deputy principals for educational work in schools. "This violates the constitution and the norms of a secular state," the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Liudmila Alekseeva, told Interfax on Friday.

She said that children should receive a secular education, and the involvement of clergy in their teaching is as improper as forbidding women to go out without scarves.

The head of the rights advocacy committee "Civil Cooperation," Svetlana Gannushkina, also thinks the decision by the authorities of the Chechen republic is incorrect. "I think that this is abnormal, no matter which clergy we are talking about," she told Interfax. "In our country religion is separated from the state. Parents may take children to church, synagogue, or mosque, and there are Sunday classes there. But this should not be in a secular school," S. Gannushkina declared. [. . .] (tr. by PDS, posted 14 September 2012)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Radical Islamist activity threatened

Interfax-Religiia, 13 September 2012

The directorates of FSB and MVD of Russia for Tatarstan are not commenting about a report by Islam scholar Rais Suleimanov about the return to the republic of persons who participated in military actions against the government army of Syria.

The director of the press service of the FSB directorate for Tatarstan, Eduard Ismagilov, told the Interfax-Volga news agency that he does not possess any information on this matter. "I do not know how correct Rais Suleimanov is. I am not able either to confirm or deny this information. I do not know where he got it. I am not personally acquainted with him," he said.

In his turn the deputy director of the press service of the MVD directorate for Tatarstan, Maksim Kostromin, also refused to comment on the report. "It is, at least, puzzling," he noted.

As has been reported, the head of the Volga Center of Regional and Ethno-religious Studies of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, R. Sulemanov, told an Interfax-Religiia correspondent on Thursday that Wahhabis with military experience have begun returning to Tatarstan from Syria. According to his information, "today a whole international of radical Islamism from various regions of the world, including Tatarstan, is fighting against Bashar Assad."

According to R. Suleimanov's information, one group of Tatar Wahhabis returned to Almetevsk (270 km from Kazan) led by a Syrian Arab, who arrived in Russia in the guise of a refugee. At the same time, the Islam scholar noted, this group has already hastily moved on to Mari El. In his opinion, "Tatar Wahhabis can join the forest Wahhabi underground of the Volga region, which badly needs people with skills in terrorist activity." (tr. by PDS, posted 13 September 2012)

Interfax-Religiia, 13 September 2012

The head of the executive committee of the All-Russian Muftiate, the mufti of Perm territory, Muhammedgali Husein, stated that he has received threats to himself for combating radical Islam.

"Recently I have actively defended traditional Islam and have sharply criticized officials who have been frightened or who have been bought off. And now colossal pressure has been exerted on me from all directions, both on the federal level and on others. Pressure has been exerted and persecution has been organized, but this apparently is the first stage and probably it is intended to plant a bomb," M. Husein said on air of the "Radonezh" radio station.

He told how a few days ago one of the federal officials stated, referring to those who combat radicalism in the Islam community:  "If you continue in the same spirit, then you will be found in an alley with your throat slit."

"This was a person who is working in one of the major state structures. He thereby threatened us because we have spoken out sharply against fundamentalism, Wahhabism, and the radicalization of Russian Islam. From their point of view, if one shuts up about the problem and hides one's head in the sand, then probably the problem will go away," the mufti noted.

Meanwhile, he recalled that in recent years more than 50 Muslim clerics have been eliminated, who are leading theologians, muftis, rectors of higher educational institutions, sheikhs, and principals. "This is an unconditional attempt to behead traditional Islam," M. Husein thinks.

He acknowledged that the nation now is "in a state of disarray" because traditional Muslim muftiates, theologians, and religious educational institutions "have been occupied by various radical Arab and Turkish groupings." However, the mufti thinks, the situation has still not gone out of control.

"There are people who in tens, hundreds, and thousands have followed us, have believed our ideology, and have believed that we will not be frightened nor flee from the battlefield. That would be treachery to both the people themselves, and the nation, and the community that follows and supports you. I know that there are such muftis and leaders—not many, but there are some, and they will not be frightened. What is needed is not pressure but governmental support," the Mufti is sure. (tr. by PDS, posted 14 September 2012)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Destruction of crosses continues


Two Orthodox crosses were broken up in Pervomaisk district of Altai territory. A criminal case has been opened regarding this incident, the Siberian News Agency reported on 10 September, citing the press service of the MVD directorate for Altai territory.

"Two Orthodox crosses had been installed at the entrance to the village of Pervomaiskoe; they were damaged on 5 September, approximately. A statement about this was received at the department of internal affairs," the press service of the ministry said.

At the present time an initial inquiry regarding the event has been completed and a criminal case has been opened on article 214 of the Criminal Code of the Russian federation, "Vandalism." An investigation is being conducted. Persons who could be involved in this crime have been identified.

We recall that in the night of 4 September in the Altai republic, unidentified persons felled and hacked to pieces a veneration cross that had been installed in the village of Topuchaia of Shebalinsk district.  (tr. by PDS, posted 13 September 2012)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Prime Minister suggests mercy for protestors

Interfax-Religiia, 12 September 2012

Russian Prime Minister Dmitrii Medvedev gave his assessment of the actions of the "Pussy Riot" group and the sentence issued. At a meeting with activists of the Penza "United Russia," D. Medvedev noted, in particular, that "prison confinement is a very stern and, I would even say, terrible responsibility."

"What has happened, that a famous group of girls have already been in prison a rather long time, in and of itself the sentence absolutely is a very serious punishment for all they did. In itself, a stay in prison is punishment and it is very, very serious," the head of government thinks.

Speaking about the content of the offense, D. Medvedev noted that "I do not want to replace the judge," but in his opinion, "the punishment that they have already endured, the maintenance in prison conditions for a considerable period of time is quite enough for them to think about what happened because of their stupidity or some other reasons."

In connection with this the premier stated:  "Prolonging the confinement in prison conditions in relation to this case seems to me to be counterproductive."

According to D. Medvedev, it would be quite sufficient to have a suspended sentence taking account of the time which "they have already spend in conditions of extreme restriction, in conditions of prison confinement." (tr. by PDS, posted 12 September 2012)

Interfax-Religiia, 12 September 2012

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev acknowledged that he is sick of what the "Pussy Riot" group did and of the clamor raised over their antics.

At a meeting with activists of "United Russia" in Penza, D. Medvedev let himself express "the emotional aspect of this affair," apologizing for his "not quite parliamentary expression."

"I am sick of what they did, of how they look, and of the hysteria which has accompanied all that has happened," D. Medvedev said.

"I hate to talk about it. But this is my personal feeling," he concluded. (tr. by PDS, posted 12 September 2012)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Orthodox priest defends Pentecostals


The church of the Holy Trinity of Christians of Evangelical Faith—Pentecostals, which was plundered and destroyed by unidentified persons in the night of 6 September, should be restored. As the presiding bishop of the Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (ROSKhVE), Sergei Riakhovskii, said in a live broadcast on the "Dozhd" television channel, the Department for Relations with Religious Organizations of the government of Moscow "was not even aware that within the territory of the city certain commercial interests, with the blessing of the prefecture, committed at night this vandalism, after trampling sacred scriptures into the ground."

"We built a temporary building and laid the foundation and tried to reach an agreement over the course of many years. These were long attempts and they were not crowned with success, and then in 2005 the lease was broken and the ordeal began and a decision was drawn out—to demolish or to sell. We said that this is one of the oldest Moscow congregations. In Russia there are several thousand of such congregations; these are confessions respected in all the world. They are protestants who have certain values; they defend human rights, freedom of conscience, and freedom of the news media regardless of confession. They are risking not only offending people. Our fellow believers throughout the world may not like this," quotes Riakhovskii.

"One must be an imbecile to act this way and run a naked sword through Russia's image, which, to put it mildly, has suffered in the past month," the bishop noted.

Riakhovskii thanked the head of the synodal department of RPTsMP for Relations of Church and Society, Vsevolod Chaplin, who yesterday sent to Moscow authorities a request to investigate the history surrounding the demolition and looting of the Pentecostals' church in Novokosino. "I am actually very pleased that Father Vsevolod expressed his position. On his lips this is definitely enough because we are with him not only on the Public Chamber but also in the Commission for Harmonization of Inter-ethnic and Inter-religious Relations of the presidential administration of RF," the bishop explained. "I thank God for Father Vsevolod, who is harmonizing today by his statement. I understand that as a priest he does not have the right to give a judicial assessment, but I am happy that he raised his voice in defense of protestants, when crosses of the Russian Orthodox Church are being felled and destroyed."

"They tell us that they are planning to build a sports complex on this site for Muscovites," the head of ROSKhVE went on. "We are not opposed, but let them give us an appropriate parcel. We will give in; we are compassionate and merciful people. Much in our churches is modern: music, youth; we are tolerant and diplomatic, we yield, but give us the exact same area a kilometer farther or closer. Because all the parishioners live around this church building."

Responding to the question why, in his opinion, the situation went so far, the bishop stated that after the change in mayors of Moscow "everything was transferred to the municipalities with whom you have to work it out, but this is complicated," while under Luzhkov "on a matter of worship structures you could telephone the mayor."

In addition, in Riakhovskii's opinion, "the government does not have an important document, a concept of state-confessional relations in which priorities and directions would be clearly written. If there were one, then it would be simpler for both officials and politicians and religious leaders themselves." (tr. by PDS, posted 11 September 2012)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

Ukrainian protestants attacked in property dispute

Interfax-Religiia, 10 September 2012

A group of Mariupol hooligans beat up representatives of the church of Seventh-Day Adventists in Ukraine, the press service of the church reports.

"Parishioners of the house of worship of one of the traditional protestant churches in Mariupol were subjected to beating by a group of hooligans during an evening service on Friday, 7 September 2012. Three ministers of the Adventist church received various corporeal injuries. Police arrested three of the group of attackers, which numbered around twelve," a report from the church's press service says, which was distributed on Monday.

The incident began when around thirty members of the officially registered congregation of Adventists were conducting a choir rehearsal in the building, which belongs to the church as a collective. Hooligans in athletic suits, with signs of alcoholic intoxication, began criticizing the Adventists that they do not smoke and that they were the ones who had bought the abandoned building of a nursery school. Then the troublemakers were joined by accomplices who were waiting in the street. Six hooligans who had burst into the yard of the house of worship began beating believers in the yard and lobby of the building. The rest of their group were outside the gates, preventing parishioners from going to the street.

The Adventists maintain that the hooligans beat up the pastor, a senior deacon, and a presbyter. A squad of police that came to the site of the incident arrested three ringleaders of the outrage against the believers.

A press officer of the Mariupol city police department, Viktoria Guts, confirmed the occurrence of the incident for Interfax. According to her, at the present time an investigation of the beating of believers is being conducted.

The building of the former nursery school on Nikolaev Street was obtained by the Seventh-day Adventists in 1999 after it had been put up for sale by the Mariupol Universal Commodity Exchange. (tr. by PDS, posted 10 September 2012)

Russia Religion News Current News Items

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