Moscow politicians want to combat new religious trends


Interfax-Religiia, 21 January 2016

The activity of sects and various occult organizations has substantially increased in Moscow, the head of the Moscow State Duma Commission on Affairs of Public Associations and Religions Organizations, Anton Paleev, reported.


"The activity of sects has grown by 30 percent because of the crisis. The number of complaints has grown a lot. I continually talk with MVD security personnel. They say that relatives of victims come: they disappeared, they were taken out of the house—help!" the deputy said on a radio broadcast of the Russian News Service.


He said the Moscow City Duma is preparing to publish a special brochure which will explain how to recognize a sect and where to turn for help. In addition, a corresponding website will appear in the near future.


In his turn a member of the presidential Council for Human Rights, Yana Lantratova, told the radio station that complaints from residents of Russia who have confronted the activity of various occult organizations also arrive at the Council for Human Rights.


"Similar reports are coming to us. They have begun not only visiting apartments; they have begun to telephone people and to send messages on cell phones, which had not happened earlier. Such incidents are occurring throughout Russia," she declared.


The famous sectologist Alexander Dvorkin said that there are about 80 sects in the capital as well as various occult societies. "Now many sects have become psycho-cults. They conduct training and seminars. In them they teach how to win in all situations, how to make a career, how to subject people to one's will. The commercial cult is also strong. In these sects they teach methods of psychological abuse and mind control," he explained. (tr. by PDS, posted 21 January 2016)



Religiia i Pravo, 21 January 2016


Russian religious leaders have commented on reports in the news media that in 2016 the State Duma will engage in developing legislation that regulates the activity of newly arising religious organizations.


First deputy of the ruling bishop and chancellor of the Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals), Bishop Konstantin Bendas:


"The head of the Committee on Affairs of Public Associations and Religious Organizations of the Russian State Duma, Yaroslav Evgenievich Nilov, quite clearly and at the same time cautiously responded to this question in a recent interview, saying that the question of the introduction into the legislative field of such a term as "sect" or the confirmation of one religion as dominant in the state does not comport with the Russian constitution. Today this is the view of both legal scholars and state officials and representatives of legislative bodies in the RF, including the head of state, who continually declares the inviolability of the constitution and adherence to declared constitutional norms.


"On the other hand, for representatives of religious organizations, certain risks in the religious field are evident. There exist fraudulent para-church organizations, which in the guise of religious activity and rehabilitation of drug addicts try to earn money and manipulate people, and in the end they cripple human souls. As a church, we can resist them with prayer and evangelism. And lawmakers and law enforcement agencies have their own instruments."


Russian religious studies scholar and senior academic associate of the Center for Study of Problems of Religion and Society of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Roman Lunkin:


"No attempt to prohibit the activity of new religious movements, by which Orthodox often have in mind both Pentecostals and charismatics, has succeeded in Russia. And this attempt will not be successful now, while again the anti-sectarian theme has become extremely popular in the political context. For politicians in the State Duma and for many, but by no means all, officials in the provinces, the struggle with sects is a good way to promote one's self loudly but not do anything at all except put psychological pressure on poor law-abiding believers."


Lunkin suggested that attempts to frighten by means of introducing into legislation provisions for combating sects and for a leading role by Orthodoxy will be made periodically for several decades more, until it becomes clear finally that all believers are citizens and offending even a Baptist or Mormon is useless for a politician.


"For now this is not so. But life has shown that the religious boom of the 1990s in Russia was not accidental and it was not simply the consequence of western influence. In Russia, people really were interested in faith in any form and each church or movement occupied its own spot in Russian civil society," the religious studies scholar noted.


"Calls to set everything back are irrational; the religion-less past is gone. To return Orthodoxy to what it was before the 1917 revolution is an even more absurd call. The position of Orthodoxy under the tsar did not suit the church itself before 1917. By 2017 neither the Moscow patriarchate nor Putin will have the power to begin religious persecutions, although they may take somebody's land or somebody's house of worship, but the secular government does not even have a goal of eradicating any movement," Roman Lunkin emphasized. "As regards the Moscow patriarchate, it is difficult for Orthodoxy to deal with dissent within its own space—the ever louder voice of Andrei Kuraev and the remarkable example of Father Vsevolod Chaplin. Orthodoxy is evolving gradually and turning into a socially active church, living in accordance with the laws of democratic society. This process is long and complicated, but for such a church the struggle with sects is clearly not the first task."


"Much depends also on the so-called sectarians themselves. Some are establishing social work and others make agreements with officials about something; they love or do not love Putin; they are not afraid to evangelize," the religious studies scholar added. "The next five years will show which churches remain as sects and which begin to change society actively and fundamentally, despite the attempt by the government to restrict any public activity of evangelical and other non-Orthodox churches. Russian society will very quickly change its mind about sectarians, as practice has shown. All soviet horror stories, which Orthodox sect-fighters repeat, will be scattered like dust."


We recall that in early January the head of the duma's Committee on Affairs of Public Associations and Religious Organizations, Yaroslav Nilov (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia), reported in an interview with the Internet newspaper that the State Duma will engage in working out amendments regulating the activity of new religious organizations. The reason for this was appeals from outraged citizens demanding adoption of measures with regard to "sects." Experts note that the influence of such organizations is growing in the crisis and the government wants to insure against new external influences.


"A working group is operating within our committee for monitoring the activity of new religious organizations. At the same time, instances of appeals from citizens complaining about the actions of new religious movements, including illegal ones, have increased. A working meeting was held where this topic was discussed. Of course, we will develop an approach. For example, there have been suggestions to introduce into legislation the concept of "sect" or to strengthen especially the leading status of Orthodoxy, but such suggestions violate the constitution, which guarantees freedom of conscience. The organizations themselves also have complained that, for example, the literature they distribute has been ruled to be extremist. Of course, this year we will consider how to improve legislation regarding new religious movements; the main thing is to develop an approach that is not emotional but is restrained," Nilov explained.


A source within the working group confirms that they have begun developing amendments. It supposes that new restrictions will not affect religious organizations that have been functioning on Russian territory for a long time, but will restrict the opportunity for new ones to arise. (tr. by PDS, posted 21 January 2016)

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