Russian Baptists defend their rights


Religiia i Pravo, 9 April 2019


On 7 April 2019, in Novorossiisk, a festive worship service in honor of the Annunciation was interrupted. It was being conducted in a private home in the village of Verkhnebakanskii, a district of Novorossiisk, where a registered group of Evangelical Christians-Baptist believers meet.


Details and an appeal to the president of Russia were published on the Facebook page of one of the ministers of the church, Evgeny Kokora:


Esteemed President of the Russian Federation

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin


I am appealing to you as the guarantor of the constitution with the complaint that my religious feelings were offended by the actions of representatives of the government of the city of Novorossiisk, who on Sunday, 7 April 2019, during a festive worship service, which was being conducted by a religious group of the church of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of the village of Verkhnebakanskii, made an attempt to prevent the conduct of a worship service. This service was devoted to the Annunciation and to the sacred day of remembrance of the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ, when the Lord's Supper, which is sacred for all Christians, was conducted.


A group of persons, consisting of a representative of the administration of the city of Novorossiisk, S.I. Studentsov, police, representatives of the FSB, several cossacks, and other unidentified persons, without warning broke into the private residence with a demand to stop the worship service. They behaved obnoxiously, they threatened women, and prevented filming with a camera what was happening. For a short time the service was interrupted because of the noise and occupation of the pulpit by a police officer and representative of the FSB, who demonstratively and scornfully prevented the conduct of religious rituals and thereby publicly offended the feelings of believers. About 70 persons were attending the festive worship service, who were of various age groups, including minor children and elderly. The children were frightened by the actions of these people.


We ask you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, to put an end to this outrage, which was committed in the hero city of Novorossiisk, where freedom of conscience has been unceremoniously flouted by representatives of the government.


Then there followed details of the pastor's meeting with a representative of the FSB:

And so, first, we acted properly and went to the FSB, since we supposed that the source was there, which was confirmed in principle indirectly.

Second, our meeting was held with one of the FSB employees (do not ask for his name and I will not state it). For an hour and a half we held a dialogue about both the history of the church and the role of the Russian religious world, and of course about what happened on Sunday. It should be noted that the representative of this service was very well read and competent in matters of history, including religious history. He recited for us the Creed from memory. To our question whether the evangelical churches are a part of the "catholic" or "universal church," according to the Creed, he responded at length but it seems they were not.


Moreover he said that (I will quote literally as I warned him that I would make these words public), that all sects—Baptists, Adventists, Pentecostals, and so forth—splinter the united Russian spiritual world. So there it is!!!


We even understood that this is not only the opinion of just one private individual servant of the FSB, but this is how the government understands us. So do not be surprised that everything happens as it does.


However, after reviewing all of our arguments and the materials we presented, including a video, he was himself in shock at what the agents of the government did in Verkhnebakanskii. He gave us much useful advice.


For our part, we made it clear that by their actions they, that is, the authorities themselves, artificially stir up the situation, evoking protests with regard to the existing authorities particularly among believing people. For what? A constructive answer was not forthcoming. Speaking figuratively: Set fire to Rome in order to accuse Christians of this?


We asked that he forward to higher authorities how we met to conduct our service and we will meet, because this is the commandment of the Savior. If the security pressure continues, then this will not lead to anything good. It is difficult to intimidate believers; our forefathers were not, even in soviet times.


In a word, we were satisfied with our meeting, but we are not under a delusion. We will continue to pray and act. Our next step is to continue to write appeals to the president and to other law enforcement agencies. To be continued. . . .


We recall that on 17 January 2019, the administration of Novorossiisk forbade the use of a residence for religious purposes in the village of Verkhneabakanskii of Novorossiisk where Baptists assemble. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 April 2019)

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