RUSSIA: Orthodox Vow to Continue Anti-Pentecostal Picket

by Mikhail Edelstein, Keston News Service, 9 January 2001

Russian Orthodox parishioners in Yekaterinburg, the largest city in the Urals, have been picketing religious services of the Pentecostal New Life church, handing out `anti-sect' literature to those attending. The Orthodox priest who heads the missionary department of the Yekaterinburg diocese has confirmed to Keston News Service that these demonstrations are coordinated by the diocese and has pledged that they will continue, despite the opposition of the Pentecostals. The New Life church, which belongs to the Russian Union of Evangelicals-Christians (Pentecostals) led by Sergei Ryakhovsky, regularly attracts 1100 people to its Sunday services.

Svetlana Zagainova, lawyer to the New Life church, told Keston on 29 December that the demonstrations have been taking place at varying intervals over the last two years but have recently been happening every Sunday. The demonstrators assemble at the Lavrov House of Culture, which the Pentecostals rent for services, where they display `anti-sect' banners and distribute leaflets to those arriving for services as well as to passers-by. Zagainova added that the local media, both printed and electronic, frequently run items discrediting the Pentecostals.

Members of an extremist political organisation, the Russian National Union (RNU), which had the support of Nikon (Mironov), former bishop of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoture, have in previous months taken part in the demonstrations. Since the appointment of Bishop Vikenty (Morar) to the diocese, however, there have been no reports of RNU members attending the picket.

Father Vladimir Zaitsev, head of the missionary department of the Yekaterinburg diocese, told Keston on 3 January that the pickets are led by parishioners from several of the city's Orthodox churches. As a rule between 5 and 15 people take part. The missionary department coordinates the demonstrators, supplies them with `antisectarian' literature and helps them prepare and distribute leaflets. The aim of the demonstrators, according to Father Vladimir, is `to make people aware of the other side of the coin' and to warn them of the dangers of such religious organisations.

Members of the New Life church have complained to the demonstrators a number of times, but so far there has been no direct conflict between Orthodox and Pentecostals. (END)