City government in Siberia seeks inter-religious peace



An interconfessional council, which will become a platform for dialogue of representatives of various religions, will be created within the administration of Chita, where in late March conflict escalated between the local diocese of the RPTsMP and a congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.


"We want to create two councils—an inter-ethnic one and interconfessional one. The latter will deal with resolution of social questions and also be a platform for dialogue," the deputy leader of the city administration, Andrei Nosenko, told a TASS correspondent on 19 April. He noted that the organizers of the council will have to determine its membership and officials intend to consult with leaders of "traditional" confessions about this.


According to Artem Zhuykov, Ph.D. and religious studies scholar, such a council is necessary in Chita where dozens of confessions are represented. "The council will have to work. The city needs a platform for a dialogue of the confessions," the scholar added. He noted that the council, among other things, will be able to cooperate in resolution of disputes and conflicts between representatives of diverse religions.


In late March, representatives of the evangelism department of the Chita diocese of the RPTsMP and "Orthodox activists" conducted a demonstration in Chita, "Stop the sect," during which leaflets criticizing the Jehovah's Witnesses' organization were distributed to citizens. Then the diocese announced a collection of signatures with the demand to prohibit the activity of Jehovah's Witnesses congregations in the Transbaikal territory. The peak of the confrontation was a picket that Orthodox conducted on 2 April near the Jehovah's Witnesses' center in the city.


"We are not against people who attend such congregations, and we are not even against the organizers themselves. We are against an organization that has, in our view, a questionable past. It is necessary to explain this past, including in news media, so that people attending such congregations can critically assess what they are offered," the chairman of the evangelism department of the diocese, priest Antony Gorbunov, told TASS.


In his turn, the chairman of the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, Alexander Putintsev, noted that his fellow believers advocate peaceful relations with other confessions. "If a platform for cooperation will be created within the city administration, that is good. We will be glad," he added. (tr. by PDS, posted 21 April 2016)

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