PRESS RELEASE: International Orthodox Christian Charities

12 August 1998


(Baltimore) Nearly eleven months after his abduction by armed

bandits International Orthodox Christian Charities' (IOCC) member

DIMITRI PETROV has been released by Chechen captors. Elated and

exhausted, the 34-year-old Petrov was reunited with his wife in

the city of Vladikavkaz (in the south of the Russian Federation)

on 11 August.

Petrov who is eager to return to his home in Moscow, is receiving

immediate medical attention in Vladikavkaz. The horrific

conditions under which he was held have clearly taken their toll.

In a telephone interview Petrov indicated that he felt he had

suffered a heart attack sometime in June. There is also concern

that he is suffering from tuberculosis.

DMITRI PENKOWSKY and his family joined Petrov's wife, YELENA, in

her joy. Penkowsky was also taken hostage in the ambush of the

vehicle in which he and Petrov had been delivering aid supplies

to the village of Aki-Yurt in Ingushetia on 20 September 1997.

Penkowsky, who was released on 4 March 1998, had foregone

treatment of various ailments out of solidarity with Petrov.

'We are joyful and relieved at the release of Dimitri Petrov,'

remarked FR LEONID KISHKOVSKY, an IOCC Board Member and the head

of its Crisis Management Team. 'We will continue to pray for

Dimitri Petrov, Dmitri Penkowsky and their families as they begin

to heal from their agonizing ordeal.'

'The hostages and their families are dealing with trauma, with

serious medical problems, and with a host of survival questions

and financial burdens as a direct result of their ordeal of

nearly eleven months,' Fr Kishkovsky added. 'We will continue

strong efforts to assist them in the months ahead. We will depend

in this on the generosity and help of Orthodox parishes and

Orthodox Christians in the U.S. and Canada.'

Throughout their long captivity, IOCC adhered to the principle

of non-payment of ransom. Petrov's release came following intense

efforts made by his wife with the assistance of Dmitri Penkowsky.

Petrov and Penkowsky were delivering emergency relief supplies

to refugees of the conflict in Chechnya on behalf of Action by

Churches Together (ACT) when they were abducted. With the freeing

on 25 July of two Hungarians who had been working for IOCC sister

agency Hungarian Interchurch Aid, Petrov's release marks the

return of all personnel who had been implementing the emergency

programme coordinated by ACT. (END)



According to a 30 June news report from the Tibetan exile

government in India, a peaceful demonstration for Tibetan

independence in a Lhasa prison in May ended in the death of six

prisoners (five nuns and one monk) with 60 severely injured.

After the incident the prison authorities threatened the 520

prisoners with death penalties if they revealed this to

outsiders. An unverified report states that another demonstration

followed after the death and injury of these prisoners during

which 15 people suffered severe injuries. The May demonstration

was triggered by a guard shooting a prisoner called DHAWA who had

hurled a booklet with the slogan 'Love Live Tibet' during the

ceremony of hoisting the Chinese red flag. (END)



On 27 June 1997 'The People's Daily', the Chinese Communist Party

newspaper, reported that: YE XIAOWEN, director of the Religious

Affairs Bureau under the State Council, had spoken about

religious freedom in China at a press conference for both Chinese

and foreign journalists. Ye claimed that Chinese citizens enjoyed

full and complete religious freedom. He illustrated this by

giving the following statistics: the total number of believers

of the five state-recognised religions (Buddhism, Daoism, Islam,

Protestantism and Catholicism) was 100 million people. The number

of venues for religious activities was 85,000, with a religious

personnel of 300,000. There were 3,000 religious bodies and 74

colleges for training religious personnel. In China religious

believers, he continued, were allowed to carry out their normal

religious activities in temples, mosques, churches, and homes

according to their respective religious doctrines and practices.

The Chinese government wanted to rule the country by law and make

China a legal socialist country, he said. However, the Chinese

judicial organs would resolutely punish according to the law all

unlawful criminal activities carried out in the name of religion

so as to protect Chinese citizens' freedom of religion and

safeguard the dignity of the law. (END)

Wednesday 16 September


The following report on Albania is in three sections: a press

release from the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania (OACA)

about the explosion in their cathedral in Shkodra; a report from

the Albanian Telegraphic Agency elaborating on the events in

Shkodra; and lastly a report on the OACA's activities since 1992.

Keston Institute received the following press release on 20

August 1998.


The Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania

The Press Office of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania

Wednesday 19 August

In Shkodra, at approximately 3.00 am in the morning on Wednesday

19 August, unknown persons placed an explosive device in the

Orthodox Cathedral of the city. The explosion completely

destroyed the altar and the eastern part of the Orthodox Church.

The Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania is shocked and

greatly concerned about this unprecedented, unbelievable and

sacrilegious attack on a place of worship where peace and

reconciliation are preached.

Nevertheless, the Orthodox faithful are determined to continue

walking in the way of social understanding and sincere love.


The following day Albanian Telegraphic Agency (ATA) reported from

Shkodra that the religious communities in Shkodra were that day

releasing a joint statement condemning the explosion; they

considered this act 'deliberate, which aims to damage the harmony

and peaceful cohabitation among religious'. FR ALEKSANDER PETANI,

the Orthodox priest in Shkodra, reiterated to ATA his church's

statement: 'Despite aims of those who placed the explosive, the

Orthodox will follow the road of understanding and sincere will

that has always characterised the relations among the three

religions in our city'.

Workers began repairing the damage on 20 August with a view to

recommencing religious services within two or three days, and

construction of a new church on the same site is expected to

begin soon.


This desecration follows soon after the Orthodox Autocephalous

Church of Albania (OACA) celebrated the sixth year anniversary

of its\ restoration. We quote below extracts from reports from

the past year which serve to give an overview of the OACA's work

since 1992. The reports are from FR LUKE VERONIS, an Orthodox

priest from the United States serving in Albania.

Orthodox throughout Albania came to the Annunciation Cathedral

in Tirana on 2 August to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the

official restoration of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of


officially enthroned in the Cathedral of Tirana as Archbishop of

Tirana, Durres and All Albania.

On 2 August another historical event occurred - the first Divine

Liturgy concelebrated by all the members of the Holy Synod of

Albania. Concelebrating together with His Beatitude Archbishop



years of negotiations among representatives of the Ecumenical

Patriarchate, the Church of Albania and the Albanian authorities

was the Holy Synod formed on 18 July 1998.)

The sixth anniversary presented an opportunity to consider again

the progress of the Church in the different areas of worship,

catechism, education, publishing, construction and social

outreach. Despite various crises which engulfed the country, and

the chaos and struggles which ensued, the church grew.

The archbishop continued to ordain graduates from the

Resurrection of Christ Theological School, raising the number of

new priests and deacons to more than 100. As part of their

training this summer, seminarian students visited 11 villages for

one month daily offering catechism lessons, teaching songs and

playing games with more than 450 children and young people. The

goal was to offer an Orthodox witness in villages lacking a

strong catechism programme and to prepare people for baptism. In

August several of the groups planned to return to offer follow-up

lessons and brotherly encouragement to the more than 190 children

and young people who were baptised at the end of the initial


Construction projects proceeded at an noteworthy rate these past

six years:

- The two million dollar theological school complex at St Vlash -

construction or restoration of the ancient monasteries of St

Vlash, Ardenica, St Kosma, and Svernec

- 70 new churches from their foundations

- 65 reconstructed or restored churches

- more than 100 refurbished churches

- 15 new chapels

- new metropolitan centres in Tirana, Gjirokaster, Korca, and


- kindergartens in Tirana, Durres, Kavaja, Korca, Lushnje

- three medical clinics, with the new Annunciation Diagnostic

Medical Centre in Tirana to be opened later this year

- a Church workshop in Tirana, housing a new candle factory, wood

factory, printing house, icon and restoration studio

- and many other projects

This September the Holy Cross Ecclesiastical College (for high

school boys) will open in Gjirokaster.

This past year also saw the opening of the Church Radio station

'Ngjallja' (Resurrection).The news and religious programme from

14.30 - 17.30 daily includes general local, national and

international news, as well as particular church related events,

Bible readings, readings from the Lives of the Saints, sayings

of the Church Fathers, reading of the Bible for children, dramas

and fairy tales for children, a weekly sermon on the Sunday

gospel and interviews with different personalities and workers

of the Church. Future plans include broadcasting a programme

twelve hours a day throughout Albania.

Youth movements in numerous cities and villages continued to

grow. A student conference held in Durres on 15-17 May attracted

113 university students. Conducted by the Orthodox Student

Organisation 'Sons of Light', the theme of the conference was

'Our Relationships with God, the World, our Families, and our

future Spouses'. The main presenters were theologians and

speakers from Albania, Greece, Kenya and the United States. Most

of the participating students are active members of the Orthodox

fellowship in their university. Weekly fellowship activities

include a Tuesday night spiritual discussion and an early morning

Divine Liturgy on Thursdays.

The first national youth music festival was a success, as well

as a summer camping programme with more than 350 participants.

Each camp included a programme of daily worship services, Bible

study, spiritual discussion, sporting competition and Christian

fellowship. Two of the camps included an outreach programme to

an old age home and an orphanage.

Church kindergartens continued to expand, and new plans are being

contemplated for a Church orphanage.

In general, many are coming forward for catechism and baptism,

including people from non-Orthodox backgrounds or families.

In the area of social welfare, the Church continued to reach out

to needy people through its Diaconia Agape ministry. Over the

past years, thousands of tons of emergency aid, food, clothing

and medical supplies have been delivered through the Church to

thousands of people irrespective of their religious persuasion.

A mobile dental clinic began functioning, travelling to various

villages and offering free dental care. Countless individuals and

organisations, known and unknown, outside Albania have offered

generous donations, for which the Church is grateful.

Church medical clinics in Tirana, Korca, and Kavaja are

functioning, with plans for others to open soon in Lushnje and

Gjirokaster. Rural developmental programmes involving

agriculture, water supply, and guidance in health and domestic

management have been implemented.

Groups of Orthodox women in various parishes are developing their

own particular activities in the field of human welfare. The

Orthodox women of Korca visit families in desperate need weekly,

serve 100 needy people lunch every Monday and Thursday at the

Orthodox Cathedral and continue to participate in all night

prayer vigils as the core of them did in secret under communism.

Step by step, by catechism, through youth movements and women

groups, in icon studios, dental clinics and seminaries and in the

churches themselves, the Orthodox Church is being rebuilt, church

by church, believer by believer. (END)