KESTON NEWS SERVICE - SUMMARY
Issue 3, Articles 11-20
17 March 2000
Summaries of recent reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion
in communist and post-communist lands.
NEW from KNS. This Summary service goes only to those who subscribe to
Keston News Service. We will be sending it weekly. Only articles which have
been published earlier in the week will appear. We hope this service is useful to
you as we have greatly increased our reporting in the last three months and
realise not everyone may have time to read all the articles.
KESTON NEWS SERVICE FACTFILE: RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS AGENCIES
(16 March). Directory of government agencies handling religious affairs in the
CIS and Baltic republics. The role of such state or government agencies varies
widely from country to country.
WHAT FUTURE FOR RUSSIA�S PROTESTANT UNIONS? (16 March). �In
its decree dated 23 November 1999, the Constitutional Court pronounced that
religious organisations which were established before the Federal law [on
religion] came into force, as well as local religious organisations that form part
of the structure of a central religious organisation, may have the full rights of a
juridical person, without confirmation of the minimum 15-year period of
existence in the relevant area, without annual reregistration and without the
application of restrictions set out in paragraph 4, clause 3 of article 27 of the
federal law.� Thus the Department for the Affairs of Social and Religious
Organisations explained new procedural recommendations to regional agencies
of the Ministry of Justice for use in registering and reregistering religious
As a result of this ruling, congregations are beginning to leave the
major unions they joined out of pragmatic necessity and many smaller unions
based on doctrinal affinity may emerge. The head of the department which
registers religious organisations at the Ministry of Justice explained what a
congregations needs to do to alter its statues. The Calvary Chapel movement
provides a case study.
TURKMEN BAPTIST TO CELEBRATE BIRTHDAY IN PUNISHMENT
CELL (15 March). Imprisoned Turkmen Baptist Shageldy Atakov is set to
celebrate his 38th birthday on 19 March in the labour camp punishment cell.
The one month sentence has already begun but the reasons for it are unknown.
Married with five children, he was arrested for unregistered church activity,
sentenced to four years and fined $12,000 on charges of �swindling� which
church members say were fraudulent. Local Baptist suggest he was arrested in
order to halt his preaching activity.
RUSSIAN AUTHORITIES HAVE NOT HELPED BAPTISTS DEPORTED
FROM TURKMENISTAN (14 March). It appears that the Turkmen authorities
have failed to inform the Russian authorities both in Turkmenistan and in
Russia about at least three deported Baptist families as they should do under
bilateral agreements (they have even reportedly refused to give those deported
a certificate of deportation). However, one embassy official in Ashgabad
admitted hearing rumours about deportations. The failure of the Baptists
themselves to bring their cases to the attention of the Russian authorities has
left them without support from their own government. However, a Baptist
representative in Moscow expressed no interest in appealing to the Russian
authorities. �Why should we appeal to them? They don�t know God. We have
our God - he is our only authority.�
TURKMEN AUTHORITIES DEPORT FOREIGN BAPTISTS, LOCAL
BELIEVERS TO BE STRANGLED? (13 March). When raiding the Ashgabad
church last year, one of the KNB (formerly KGB) officers said �First, we�ll
deport all foreign missionaries, then we�ll strangle the remaining Christians in
the country.� Anatoli Belyayev was arrested, held without charge for six weeks,
and only reunited with his wife and daughter when they were deported by
aeroplane on 11 March. Two other Russian Baptist families were seen loaded
on to a train under armed guard on 13 March. These actions follow on the heels
of two other deportations of a Russian and a Ukrainian couple as well as
several dozen foreign Christians of other denominations in the past year.
TURKMEN PROTESTANT PASTOR TO FACE �INTERNAL
DEPORTATION�? (13 March). In the wake of the expulsion of almost all
foreign Christians involved in religious work in Turkmenistan, the Turkmen
government is now taking steps to stifle all minority Christian activity by
subjecting Turkmen citizens involved in Christian work to �internal
deportation�. Turkmen pastor Shokhrat Piriyev had his passport confiscated,
was taken to the holding centre for those without proper documentation and
then taken with his family to the station for immediate deportation. They
convinced the KNB officers to allow Shokhrat to try to retrieve his car which
was confiscated in February, but he cannot do so without his passport. Most
recently he is threatened with being sent to the holding centre for those without
proper papers where detention may last up to 15 days.
ORTHODOXY TO DOMINATE THEOLOGY IN RUSSIAN STATE-RUN
HIGHER EDUCATION (13 March). Russian law is �still captive to atheist
concepts� and continues to �fight vigorously against every opportunity for the
exertion of any real Christian influence in state schools� according to Patriarch
Aleksi II, the President of the Russian Academy of Science and leading
educational figures. For this reason, they are successfully lobbying the federal
government to introduce Orthodox theology at all educational levels. Concerns
have been raised that the Russian Ministry of Education is setting the standard
for theological training instead of an independent body. Another worry is
whether teaching denominational Orthodox theology in state schools and state-
run higher education violates Russia�s Constitution. But Patriarch Aleksi II and
co-authors explain that �Without a proper understanding of the differences in
dogma in Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant teachings it is impossible to grasp
the nature of the divisions between East and West.� A practical implication is
that once theology is officially approved as a subject by the Ministry of
Education, �educational establishments which meet the required standards of
teaching it will be accredited and its students will have the right to deferment
of military service�, according to the Ministry of Justice official in charge of
registering religious organisations.
TURKMEN AUTHORITIES TO DEPORT TWO MORE BAPTIST
FAMILIES (10 March). Today KNB officers informed the Senkin and Shulgin
families that they will be deported to Russia on Monday 13 March. Their
homes were searched and passports confiscated weeks ago. The wife of Baptist
prisoner Shageldy Atakov and their five children had been staying with the
Shulgins before being �internally deported� to Kaakhka.
APPEAL FOR PASTOR KIDNAPPED FOUR YEARS AGO IN
CHECHNYA (9 March). Pentecostal pastor Vasili Luppov was kidnapped in
the capital of Grozny and, �all the church property was plundered while the
Christian literature was burnt and a ransom was demanded for his release.�
Friends believe he is still alive. Although the Chechen Internal Affairs Ministry
launched a criminal investigation, the Russian Interior Ministry�s Chief
Directorate for the Struggle Against Organised Crime told Keston that they had
not heard of the case as of 9 March. He urged people who knew of Vasili
Luppov to send information to his office.
In the past four years, successive pastors at Grozny�s Baptist church have
been kidnapped and murdered and several Russian Orthodox priests and church
workers remain unaccounted for after being kidnapped.
RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS
QUOTA FOR CLERGY DEFERMENT OF MILITARY SERVICE (9 March).
No legal definition of a �priest� exists; this causes trouble when
trying to put into action the law on religion�s clause (Art. 3, clause 4) that �At
the request of religious organisations�, priests may in peace time be granted
deferment of military service and exemption from military training��. The
head of the department for the registration of religious organisations at the
Ministry of Justice agreed with Keston that a federal law regulating alternatives
to military service would solve the problem and believes the current Duma will
pass such a law. He also said that if Protestants elect their pastors, �then they
can elect a replacement�. For now, religious denominations are submitting lists
of their clergy, although nobody knows how many clergy�s military service
will be deferred.
Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.