KESTON NEWS SERVICE - SUMMARY
Issue 3, Articles 4-10
9 March 2000

Summaries of recent reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion
in communist and post-communist lands.

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RUSSIA: VORONEZH DUMA TO MOVE FOR HARSH NEW FEDERAL
LAW ON RELIGION? (6 March). Inspired by the chairman of the local
consultative committee on religion, Arkadi Minakov, the Voronezh regional
Duma intends to propose to the State Duma a new law on religion based on the
1993 draft law which Yeltsin vetoed. According to Minakov, �The law of 1993
created more effective barriers against totalitarian sects, and it contains a
practical ban on the activity of foreign missionaries�Now society and the
political elite are to a greater extent ready to accept its basic provisions.�
Neither he nor the regional Duma intends to take any action on this before the
26 March presidential elections. Meanwhile he defended the regional justice
administration�s action against 13 religious organisations that have not been
reregistered saying that the law makes provision for precisely these actions.

RUSSIA: FIRST VORONEZH RELIGIOUS GROUP LIQUIDATED -
DOZEN MORE TO FOLLOW? (6 March). Claiming ignorance of the State
Duma�s bill to extend the reregistration deadline for religious groups, the
Voronezh department of justice liquidated the Pentecostal church which
belongs to the �Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith in Russia�. Its pastor
told Keston �We won�t be able to go into children�s homes or social
institutions, or conduct evangelisation or mass services. It will be difficult to do
anything beyond meeting in private houses.� The other religious groups under
threat are one Jewish community, a Lutheran church, five members of the
Union of Evangelical Christians/Baptists, a missionary centre and five
Pentecostal communities belonging to various unions and denominations; two
of the 13 organisations own their own places of worship. Although several
Russian Orthodox monasteries have not achieved reregistration, no legal action
has been issued against them. Various city and regional officials denied
knowledge of the State Duma�s extension signed 18 February.

RUSSIA: ORTHODOX VS ORTHODOX IN VORONEZH (3 March). �Wage
war against the sects� are the instructions the Voronezh director of the
department for cooperation with social organisations said he has received from
the local Russian Orthodox diocese. In January 2000 the Voronezh regional
department of justice refused to register the Community of All Saints of the
True Orthodox Church citing these reasons: the existence of a community of
the Moscow Patriarchate dedicated to All Saints; the use of the word `true' in
the title of the church, which was likely to arouse interreligious hatred; and lack
of information that the church fulfils the requirement that it has existed for 15
years. The accusations were made to Fr Valeri Kravets at a meeting of the
Consultative Council of Experts of the department of justice, a body
established in 1999 to give an informed assessment of all organisations
applying for registration. A regional department director, Fr Kravets and a local
human rights activist all agreed that the Council is heavily influenced by
Metropolitan Mefodi of the Moscow Patriarchate.

RUSSIA: STATE OFFICIALS AND ORTHODOX OPPOSE CATHOLICS
IN BELGOROD (3 March). In January 2000, the justice administration in the
Belgorod region once again refused registration to the Belgorod�s Catholic
parish. Officials have openly expressed their hostility to Catholics - one even
declaring that there is �no room� for them in the region. Meanwhile, according
to local Catholic priest Fr Kempa, the local Russian Orthodox bishop has
declared to him in person that there would be no Catholic parish in Belgorod
and �mocked� his persistence. In 1998 the Catholic church was tranferred to the
Moscow Patriarchate which is proposing a joint project with the local history
museum to create a centre of local religious history for children and a museum
of St Ioasaf of Belgorod. But the Catholics - estimated at several hundred - are
afraid to make themselves known. The head of the regional Council for
Religious Affairs spelled out its religious policy for Keston: �We must help the
Russian Orthodox Church so that the West does not fill the spiritual vacuum,
since the idea of the separation of the church and state is in fact a sham�. He
also told Keston that all law enforcement agencies have been ordered to keep
an eye on foreigners who undertake missionary work in the region.

TURKMENISTAN: FITEEN-DAY SENTENCE FOR TURKMEN BAPTIST
(7 March). Brother of Baptist prisoner Shamil Atakov, Chariyar�s punishment
appears to relate to �disobeying the authorities�. Their fellow Baptist Mikhail
Kozlov has recovered his car which was confiscated in early February, but
Kozlov�s Baptist friend Belyayev remains in prison, awaiting trial.
Turkmenistan does not in practice allow Protestant Christian churches to gain
official registration and punishes unregistered religious activity as illegal.

TURKMEN AUTHORITIES ARREST BAPTIST, FREE MULLAH (6
March). Interrogated by the National Security Committee (KNB, formerly
KGB) and beaten in April 1999, Chariyar Atakov was arrested on 3 March;
official charges against him are unknown. Meanwhile KNB officers burst into
the home of Baptist Vitali Tereshin, recorded the names of all present and fined
him according to a Soviet era provision. Meanwhile a prominent elderly mullah
accused of �swindling� in tones reminiscent of Soviet days, repented to
President Niyazov who replied. �If you commit such a crime again you will be
imprison for this crime as well. Let this be a good lesson for clerics.�

UKRAINE: WILL CRIMEAN TATAR MADRASAH BE RESTORED FOR
ITS 500TH ANNIVERSARY? (3 March). Part of a unique multi-faith complex,
the madrasah is located within an Orthodox monastery and near Karaite
shrines. The main problem appears to be that its buildings house a mental
institution - the mosque is used as a canteen. A representative of the Crimean
mufti told Keston that the severest damage was inflicted on the Crimean
Tatars� spiritual values; of 33 mosques in the city of Bakhchisaray, only two
now function. For the 250,0000 Crimean Tatars he estimates have returned to
the area in the last decade, there are only two religious schools. (END)

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