More details about Baptists' problems in southern Russia



The leadership of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RS EKhB) and numerous believers of various confessions express their dismay regarding the actions of representatives of the government and law enforcement agencies of the city of Novorossiisk, which caused serious harm to the local congregation of the RS EKhB in the village of Verkhnebakanskii by their illegal actions, where on 7 July a building in which the congregation conducted its worship services was sealed.


The situation that has developed, connected with this local church, which consists of 40 believers, is outrageous and contrary to the traditional good mutual respect of church-state relations that was established between the Russian Union of EKhB and representatives of government and the security forces of the Russian Federation. This clearly expressed hostile action openly demonstrates extreme disrespect by the local authorities with respect to citizens of the RF, who represent one of the largest Christian confessions officially operating on the territory of the RF.


The local congregation of the village of Verkhnebakanskii is an integral part of the RS EKhB, which also has every legal basis for its existence and for the conduct of all forms of religious activity in accordance with the legislation of the RF, which is confirmed by relevant documents issued by the local department of justice. The group is registered at the address Krasnodar territory, village of Verkhnebakanskii, Bldg. 3 Chkalov St.; the building belongs to the leadership of the congregation, where they also conduct its meetings.


The leadership of the RS EKhB fully supports its fellow believers of this congregation, and has initiated a lawsuit in judicial instances and the prosecutor's office. We emphatically urge both local and central bodies of the government of the RF to devote attention to the growing conflict provoked by the blatant attempt of individual ill-willed bureaucrats to restrict the freedom of religious confession and the conduct of worship events by believers of this local congregation.


A detailed assessment of the actions of the administration of the city of Novorossiisk is laid out in the attached letter by Evgeny Vladimirovich Kokora.


This appeared on Facebook.


Only yesterday I wrote about the falsehood of the story about Baptists on Novorossiisk television. Today a story came out, no less false, on the NTV channel.


Therefore I decided to describe everything as it really was. But, first, I will express my opinion that most likely, after the Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists are being considered to be extremists. The signature of the authorities is obvious and it is one and the same. But people should know the other side also.


And so, seriatim.


Yesterday NTV called and said that they wanted to make a "correct" story about the situation regarding the closure of a residence where our religious group that is registered in the Russian Ministry of Justice gathers. Today the NTV group actually did an interview with the leader of the religious group and many neighbors. BUT not a single clip from this filming WAS USED. And you know why: because all the neighbors were confused about what was happening. NONE OF THEM HAD WRITTEN TO THE POLICE. Comments about the religious group were only positive. Therefore a story was cobbled together from "internet" material.


Now let's go through the arguments of the NTV creation.


1.  "They closed the house of worship." They did not close a house of worship but a residence in which worship services and religious rituals were conducted in accordance with federal law 125, article 16, by a religious group, which had notified in the required form the Russian Ministry of Justice about the start of its activity (article 7) as of 13 April 2018; registration number 2318010154.


2. "The Baptists misled officials, receiving permission for construction of an ordinary residential building." Nobody misled anybody, since this building really is a residence and specific people are registered and live there.


3. "You are not forbidden to sing beautifully, but to try to turn a whole village to your faith is not Christian, local residents decided, and they wrote a complaint to the police with the request to check up on the church of Baptists." Funny argument. I wonder how a religious group could turn a WHOLE VILLAGE to its faith. And the main thing is, which "local" residents wrote a complaint to the police? We know perfectly well how such complaints are written. We cannot confirm or refute this fact, but we say before God that in the twenty years of conducting worship services on this plot of land, nobody ever personally directed such complaints to us.


4. "In the end, the house of worship to which dozens of people regularly came was closed by a court decision."  By an appellate decision, it was forbidden to use the residence for religious goals. An appeal was filed against this absurd decision of the territorial court in May, but thus far it has not been considered. At the same time, what law defines what is a religious goal: take your pick.


5. "Elena Lysenko, the head of the Russian UFSSP press service for Krasnodar territory: 'The reason for suspending the activity of the organizations is the lack of safety measures. In particular, anti-terrorism protection and fire safety. In the rooms, where 20 and more people gathered, no security measures were found. The court made the decision about suspending the activity of this organization.'" An absolute lie. First, no activity of an organization was suspended, since a religious group is not a legal entity. Second, the house is outfitted with 14 video cameras. It is equipped with an automatic fire alarm system, and contracts for its maintenance are in effect. All safety measures are observed. BUT, when we tried to get a certificate of anti-terrorism protection at the Russia Guard, we were refused because of the absence of legislation on the certification of religious buildings. But even then, this is not a liturgical building but a residence.


6. "The reason was an inspection by security personnel. The security patrol arrived at the Evangelical Christians-Baptists right during a Sunday service. Then operatives and police occupied the platform. What the specific charges were, the Baptists did not understand, it seems, but social networks reported that the security forces offended the believers' feelings. Experts hastened to study the problem, and it seemed that the place of worship had been opened with violations." How absurd! What does it means that the place of worship was opened with violations? Who was supposed to open it? What kind of new procedure is this? And who are these experts? Tugged by the ears. And the fact that it was during the holiday of the Annunciation and Holy Communion, and 12 outsiders burst into a residence and interrupted a worship service and made threats—isn't this offending religious feelings?


7.  Alexander Neveev, a religious studies scholar: "It was closed on completely clear, legal bases. It is another thing that the bearers of nontraditional religiosity often treat Russian legislation negligently and do not consider that they are obligated to observe it." What is this? What kind of baseless accusation of negligence toward Russian legislation? And what is this term: nontraditional religiosity? Comments are superfluous.


6. "In the Kuban, Evangelical Christians-Baptists are not particularly favored." Where is this from? What does not favored mean? So how are we to understand this?


7. "Although they appeared to be completely harmless: they arranged children's entertainment and fed the homeless. But at the same time they urged local residents extremely insistently to visit them and they did not like that." Who defined the criteria of insistence? Or are good deeds now taken to be insistence?


8. Alexander Neveev, religious studies scholar: "People who make up this kind of organization in some cases are able to display fanaticism. And thus, naturally, if some complaints arrive from people who are displeased with this kind of closed group, law enforcement agencies are inclined to respond to such requests in a timely fashion." That is, an official religious group, possessing a registration number in the Ministry of Justice, in the opinion of the religious scholar is a closed group? It just seems to me that the competence of this religious studies scholar is doubtful?


9. "However, the Baptists themselves do not intend to stop and they are already preparing a countersuit against local officials. They still have several days in order to file the appeal." Well this is the absolute truth! Today I filed a statement in the city and territorial prosecutors' offices. Tomorrow we will file an appeal with the FSSP and a civil suit.


We believe that God will turn all this evil to good! (tr. by PDS, posted 13 July 2019)


Russian original posted on website of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, 12 July 2019


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