PRESS RELEASE: International Orthodox Christian Charities
12 August 1998
SECOND IOCC AID WORKER RELEASED FROM CHECHNYA
(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)
ANTI-CHINESE DEMONSTRATION IN LHASA PRISON: 7 SHOT DEAD AND 60
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)
CHINA GOVERNMENT CLAIMS CHINESE CITIZENS ENJOY FULL RELIGIOUS
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
ORTHODOX AUTOCEPHALOUS CHURCH OF ALBANIA SLOWLY REBUILDS
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
OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE
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
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
Albania. Six years ago HIS BEATITUDE, ARCHBISHOP ANASTASIOS, was
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
Anastasios were HIS EMINENCE IGNATIOS OF BERAT, HIS EMINENCE JOHN
OF KORCA, and HIS GRACE KOSMA OF APOLLONIA. (Only after several
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
- 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)