From - Thu Oct 09 09:32:40 1997

> > Strike one, strike two... > > 'Those in power are a law unto themselves in the national > republics,' a Lutheran pastor in Siberia told Keston News Service > on 6 October. Lutherans in Touim, Khakassia received a letter > cancelling their registration from the provincial authorities the > day President Yeltsin signed the 'Law on Freedom of Conscience > and Religious Associations' even though the law did not go into > effect until 1 October. The public prosecutor has filed a law > suit against the group, Evangelical Lutheran Mission Khakassia, > to close their parish even though under the new law he should not > be able to do so until December 1999. > > Buryatia's president returned a bill on religion to the > parliament for re-working because it contradicts the new federal > law. Although the deputies have disputed certain issues like how > to hold foreigners responsible for illegal missionary activity, > they agreed on the registration process which will re-establish > the Council for Religious Affairs. Only Buddhism, Orthodoxy, Old > Believers and Shamanism are considered historical religions. > > Defenders of religious freedom suffered another setback in Moscow > on 7 October, when they were able to muster only about 500 people > to what had been billed as a mass rally at Gorky Park to protest > against the new law restoring state control over religious life. > However church members from Ulyanovsk, Kazan, Ufa, Vladimir, > Sochi, Vladivostok and Khabarovsk were present and many > denominations assembled together to hear activists ANATOLI > PCHELINTSEV and VLADIMIR RYAKHOVSKY speak, including Roman > Catholics, semi-catacomb True Orthodox, Old Believers and > Baptists. > > > Tuesday 7 October > FOR LUTHERANS IN SIBERIA, NEW LAW EVEN HARSHER IN REALITY THAN > ON PAPER > > by Lawrence A. Uzzell, Keston News Service > > 'Those in power are a law unto themselves in the national > republics,' a Lutheran pastor in Siberia told Keston News Service > on 6 October.  Pastor VSEVOLOD LYTKIN plans to fly from > Novosibirsk to the Republic of Khakassia later this week to > support a beleaguered Lutheran parish in that southwestern > Siberian province.  He and PAVEL ZAYAKIN, pastor of the parish > in the Khakassian town of Touim, are scheduled to meet provincial > authorities on Friday to discuss the authorities' abrupt > cancellation of the parish's registration. > > Pastor Lytkin told Keston that the office of the province's > procurator (chief public prosecutor) ALEKSANDR KRUTIKOV is > directly involved in the case, having filed a court case to have > the parish closed.  This is a fact of potential political > significance, since in Russia such officials are directly > subordinate to the chief procurator in Moscow, who in turn is > responsible to PRESIDENT BORIS YELTSIN.  But when Keston rang the > office of the chief procurator in Moscow, a spokeswoman referred > all questions to the provincial procurator Krutikov.  Keston's > attempts to contact Krutikov by telephone from Moscow were > unsuccessful, as were attempts to reach Pastor Zayakin. > > Pastor Lytkin confirmed that the authorities specifically cited > Russia's new law on church-state relations when they informed the > Touim parish that its registration was being cancelled.  But he > said that the building which the parish uses for worship services > is still in its hands, and services are continuing - at least for > the present.  He said that the parish has been legally registered > for more than a year, and pointed out that if the new law were > applied literally, that registration should continue to be valid > until the end of 1999.  The Khakassia case would thus appear to > contradict the claims made by several spokesmen for the Yeltsin > administration to the effect that the actual implementation of > the new law would be milder than one would expect from a literal > reading of its contents. > > The letter from the local authorities to Pastor Zayakin, a copy > of which was faxed to Keston's Moscow office from Novosibirsk, > is dated 26 September--the same day that Yeltsin signed the new > > law.  But the law did not take effect until 1 October.  Signed > by N.R. ABDIN, first deputy to the head of the administration of > the Shira district in Khakassia, it states: 'In connection with > the Russian Federation law "On Conscience" (sic), adopted by the > State Duma, the activities of your organisation are suspended. > On all questions we ask that you address yourself to the adviser > on religious affairs of the head of the government of the > Republic of Khakassia.' > > ANDREI SEBENTSOV, adviser on church-state relations to PRIME > MINISTER CHERNOMYRDIN, told Keston in a 6 October telephone > interview that the Khakassia authorities' treatment of the > Lutherans is 'without foundation in law'.  Asked if the > Chernomyrdin government would react to this case he said that it > would, but 'the reaction will be general'--a resolution > ('postanovleniye') from the cabinet calling on all provincial > authorities to refrain from taking 'sharp steps' in this area. > He pointed out that under Russia's system the general procurator > is subordinate to the president, not the prime minister. > > Pastor Lytkin told Keston that the Touim parish has had problems > 'for a long time' with the local authorities.  Security officials > in Khakassia have accused members of the parish of being American > spies, he said, even though all of them are Russian citizens. > Contrary to earlier reports, the parish is part of the Estonian > Evangelical Lutheran Church, not the Lutheran Church/Missouri > Synod in the United States, though it has received substantial > help from the latter body.  It is registered as an independent > congregation, not as part of what the new law would call a > 'centralised religious organisation'. (END) > > Wednesday 8 October > BURYAT PRESIDENT VETOES REPUBLICAN LAW ON RELIGIONS > > by Felix Corley, Keston News Service > > On 6 October PRESIDENT LEONID POTAPOV of Buryatia vetoed the bill > 'On Religious Activity on the Territory of Buryatia' and returned > it to the parliament of the republic, the People's Khural. The > reason for the veto was that several provisions of the Buryat > bill contradicted the federal law on freedom of conscience that > came into effect with its official publication on 1 October. > According to ITAR-TASS, the state-legal administration of the > Buryat president's office declared that the veto does not mean > that the head of the republic entirely disagrees with the > conception of the bill. It seems that after some reworking, the > bill will be adopted. > > The Buryat republic in central Siberia is one of many subjects > of the Russian Federation to draw up its own law governing > religious life, though it is thought to be the first to have > reached the stage of presidential approval since President > Yeltsin's approval of the federal law. > > The bill 'On Religious Activity on the Territory of Buryatia' was > finally adopted by the Buryat parliament in the capital Ulan Ude > on 17 September, and then sent to President Potapov to be signed > into law. The bill strengthened the official position of several > confessions and belief systems that have historically emerged in > the republic, including Buddhism, Orthodoxy, the Old Believer > faith and Shamanism. However ITAR-TASS claimed that in specifying > this list, the bill did not entail any infringements on the > rights of believers of other confessions, having a historical > rather than legal force. > > The bill narrowed the forms of religious organisations without > specifying the concept of a 'religious group,' as a result of > which, for example, the rights of such groups to conduct > religious services would be ambiguous. The bill restricted > missionary activity not only in the state and municipal > educational systems, but extended these restrictions to all > educational institutions without taking into account their legal > status. > > The bill was the main item for discussion at the regular session > of the republican parliament on 16 September, but at its second > reading deputies could not agree on a number of articles > regulating the activity of foreign religious organisations. > Disagreements arose over a list of the bases for refusing > registration to such organisations, as well as on the procedures > for holding foreign citizens and persons without citizenship to > account for illegal missionary work. Parliament created a > reconciliation commission to draw up a compromise text, including > deputies and representatives of the Orthodox clergy and Buddhist > societies. > > The listing of 'confessions and belief systems that have arisen > historically' was not one of the disputed points, with deputies > agreeing that these included Buddhism, Orthodoxy, the Old > Believer faith and Shamanism. Nor was there any particular debate > among the lawmakers about the mechanism for registering religious > associations in Buryatia. The bill stipulated that before the > ministry of justice reaches a decision about registration, a > religious association that does not have a hierarchical structure > at the federal level in Russia must undergo a governmental > investigation by specialists in the field of religion. The bill > laid down that in order to implement this an expert-consultative > council on religious affairs was to be created within the > government of the republic. > > Keston News Service reported the earlier stages of the current > moves in October 1996. An earlier Buryat bill, closely modelled > on the 1990 Russian Law on Freedom of Conscience, was rejected > by the People's Khural in Spring 1996. (END) > > > Tuesday 7 October > LOW TURN-OUT AT GORKY PARK PROTEST RALLY > > by Lawrence A. Uzzell and Yulia Lenchenko, Keston News Service > > Defenders of religious freedom suffered another setback in Moscow > on 7 October, when they were able to muster only about 500 people > to what had been billed as a mass rally at Gorky Park to protest > against the new law restoring state control over religious life. > > Organisers attributed the low participation despite the > relatively mild weather to the fact that the rally took place on > a work day.  They also cited rumours, which they said had been > deliberately circulated by ultra-nationalist circles, to the > effect that Cossacks might attack the assembled protesters.  But > the gathering turned out to be peaceful, with about half a dozen > policemen observing as the crowd listened to religious-freedom > activists such as VLADIMIR RYAKHOVSKY and ANATOLI PCHELINTSEV. > BISHOP AMVROSI of the semi-catacomb True Orthodox Church also > spoke. > > Turn-out was especially low from Moscow's Roman Catholic > believers, of whom only about 15 were present.  One young > Catholic laywoman told Keston News Service that the rally had not > been vigorously promoted at her parish and complained that ''We > are the most passive religious group in Russia, except perhaps > for the Orthodox'. > > About the same number of mostly young believers came from the > True Orthodox Church.  Several told Keston that they had learned > about the rally only at the last minute. > > The rally also included participants from other cities, including > Ulyanovsk, Kazan, Ufa, Vladimir, Sochi, Vladivostok and > Khabarovsk.  Many of the protesters held hand-made signs with > slogans such as 'Do not legalise lawlessness' and 'Blessed are > you when men shall revile you and persecute you'. (END) > -- >*** >