KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 29 January 2002
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

MOLDOVA/TRANSDNIESTER: NEW DEADLINE FOR BAPTIST
CHURCH DEMOLITION. A Baptist church in the town of Tiraspol, the
capital of Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester, has been given a
new deadline for enforced demolition, on the grounds that it was built
illegally, Keston News Service has learnt. The pastor�s family told Keston
on 28 January that officials from the State Building Inspectorate visited
the church, which stands in the yard of a private home, on 23 January.
They ordered the Baptists to "think again" about continuing to use it as a
church and gave them a new deadline of 15 February to halt such use or
face demolition.

MOLDOVA/TRANSDNIESTER: NEW DEADLINE FOR BAPTIST
CHURCH DEMOLITION

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

A Baptist church in the town of Tiraspol, the capital of Moldova's
breakaway region of Transdniester, has been given a new deadline for
enforced demolition, Keston News Service has learnt. The family of
Vasili Timoshchuk, pastor of the Tiraspol church � which stands in the
yard of a private home - told Keston from Transdniester on 28 January
that officials from the State Building Inspectorate visited the building on
23 January and ordered the Baptists to "think again" about continuing to
use it as a church. They gave them a new deadline of 15 February to halt
using the building as a church or face demolition.

The commission of the State Building Inspectorate told members of the
Tiraspol Baptist congregation on 8 November that if it did not pull down
its prayer house or transfer it to residential use by 25 December the
authorities would demolish it, on the grounds that the building had been
put up illegally. That deadline passed without the Baptists' changing their
usage of the building (see KNS 27 December 2001).

"They gave us nothing in writing," Timoshchuk's family reported of the
latest visit, "all the warnings were verbal." The family added that in the
wake of the visit, the church had written to the president of the
unrecognised entity, Igor Smirnov, and the government. Pastor
Timoshchuk had also telephoned Pyotr Zalozhkov, the commissioner of
religion and cults who reports to Smirnov. "He didn't want to discuss the
issue and put the phone down."

Contacted by Keston by telephone on 29 January, the head of the
Building Inspectorate inspection service, Ivan Kramchaninov, confirmed
that his office has given the Baptists no written warnings or letters.
"There won't be any letters," he told Keston. "We've warned them - that's
enough." Declaring that he was aware of the Baptists' letter to Smirnov,
he repeated his arguments that the prayer house had been built illegally,
but said it was not a question of what the building was used for but the
way it had been built. "We're not concerned with what it is used for -
whether it's a church or anything else. The land has been designated for
residential use and can only be used for economic or living activity."

While acknowledging that the Baptists had paid a fine last year because
of the illegal building work thirteen years earlier, Kramchaninov said that
had no impact on the decision as to whether to legalise the building. He
then refused to discuss the case further and put the phone down.

Zalozhkov was not in his office on 29 January, but his assistant, Tamara
Kovalchuk, told Keston that Pastor Timoshchuk's information "does not
always accord with reality". She asserted that the Baptists have the right
to profess their faith, "but not to break the law". She said she did not
know why Zalozhkov had refused to discuss the issue with Pastor
Timoshchuk, adding that she was not aware of all the recent
developments in the case.

Timoshchuk's congregation, like all congregations belonging to the
Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists in any of the
former Soviet republics, refuses to register, arguing that such registration
would lay them open to state meddling.

An official of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE)
mission in the Moldovan capital Chisinau told Keston on 29 January that
the organisation is following the case. (END)

Copyright (c) 2002 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.