RUSSIA: Krasnodar Protestants Propose Inter-Confessional Union.

by Aleksandr Schipkov, Keston News Service, 30 March 2001

Protestants in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar have proposed the creation of an inter-confessional union under the auspices of the head of the Krasnodar Krai administration, Aleksandr Tkachov. However, the head of the department for relations with religious organisations in the Krai administration told Keston News Service she was unenthusiastic about the proposed new body.

The director of the college of the Evangelical Christian Missionary Union (ECMU), Gennadi Pshenichny, told Keston by telephone on 26 March that the initiative had come from the Protestant churches in the Krai, who for several years have endured a `negative attitude' towards them on the part of the authorities. Last year the Protestants formed a Union of Protestant Churches to protect their rights. However, the Union of Protestant Churches regards it as essential to promote co-operation between a wider range of religious organisations, believing that the best way to achieve this is to establish an inter-confessional union under the auspices of the head of the administration `for the co-ordination of actions and control over the observance of the rights of religious associations'. They envisaged a local body along the same lines as the union for co-operation with religious organisations under the auspices of the Russian president.

Last December, the head of the Krasnodar Krai administration, Nikolai Kondratenko, under whom the `battle with sects' had gathered strength, lost the elections to Tkachov. Pshenichny told Keston the Protestants are hoping the new head of the administration will show more tolerance on issues of faith and will promote the observance of legislation on freedom of conscience.

The ECMU's lawyer Aleksandr Antipyonok told Keston by telephone on 27 March that the group that had the idea of founding the union asked Tkachov to meet it. A meeting was arranged for 12 March, but Tkachov did not turn up and the only official to attend was Liliya Zub, head of the department for relations with religious organisations. Antipyonok said no concrete decisions had been taken as Zub was not empowered to adopt such decisions.

Speaking to Keston on 27 March, Zub declared that she did not support the idea of creating an inter-confessional union. `It's just another headache. It's impossible to invite all the religious organisations to join the union, there are too many of them.' Asked how the head of the administration himself felt about the idea of forming the union, which would help the administration to `control the observance of the rights of religious associations', she replied: `I have drawn up an official report on the Protestants' request, and have sent it to my superiors.' (END)