Wednesday 3 February


by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

The premises of the Evangelical �Church of Mercy� and the �Abode of Mercy�

charitable foundation in the centre of the town of Gatchina just south of St Petersburg

were struck in mid-January by what the pastor tells Keston was an arson attack

apparently conducted by a Satanist gang. The church and its affiliated charity are

located in a semi-basement of 158 square metres rented from the Institute of Nuclear

Physics. The church building is designed for 60 people, but more than that attend on

feast days. The congregation is a member of the Alliance of Churches

('Sotrudnichestvo tserkvei') and the Association of Churches.

The church's pastor, YURI DAVYDKIN, told Keston that `about six months ago,

thirty or so young lads who called themselves Satanists started coming to visit us. We

got involved with them and were able to get some of them to give up Satanism, but

the rest, apparently because of this, started to take revenge on us - they threatened us,

drew all sorts of their symbols on our windows and hung pictures up on the wall.

During the night of 13-14 January, on old New Year [according to the Julian

calendar], someone broke in through the fire exit, stole the colour television, the

computer, a guitar and other musical instruments used for worship, and then set the

place ablaze. The fire caught in six places - including the office, the storeroom used

for humanitarian aid and Christian literature, the refectory and the Bible school. The

losses are estimated at some 100,000 roubles [some 2800 pounds sterling or 4400

USA dollars].'

Pastor Davydkin told Keston about the course of the investigation. 'Yesterday I

visited the lead investigator for the case of the burglary and the fire. One of the

participants has already been found - a young lad who stole a few things from us six

months ago. He had already been sentenced twice for other offences and could

therefore have been given a seven year prison sentence, so we dropped our accusation

and agreed to take responsibility for him. He attended our church for six months but

here we are - sinful nature has taken back its own.'

Davydkin said that the Satanist group `includes children of between 12 and 20, but

they have a very strong leader who is much older. They are rather fascist in nature and

have had a uniform made specially for them and have devised their own symbols. But

we prayed and we led some six or seven of them to the Lord. That's why I think it was

their revenge on us.'

Keston asked the pastor about the attitude in the town of Gatchina to the church.

`Relations here are good. Despite the fact that we don't belong to the dominant

denominations, the head of the local administration has visited us and the town

administration gives us financial support towards the rent and municipal payments.

They can see the real fruits of the Church's work - our charity supports 161 disabled

people and their families, we also provide a hairdresser for pensioners and the poor.'

Davydkin outlined the congregation's future plans. `For the first few days we simply

lost heart - everything was dirty and black. But prayer did not stop even for one day,

nor did our Sunday liturgy and eucharist stop. Tomorrow brothers from other

churches are due to arrive, Pentecostals and Baptists, and there will be a cleaning-up.

In general we have good relations with everyone.' (END)