I. CAN RUSSIAN ORTHODOX BE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS?
II. WHOM DO THE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES HARM?
III. UZBEKISTAN GRANTS VISA RENEWAL TO TASHKENT RABBI
IV. KESTON JOURNAL Religion, State and Society ISSUE 2 1998
V. Correction

Tuesday 20 October
CAN RUSSIAN ORTHODOX BE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS?

by Lawrence A. Uzzell, Keston News Service

If a young Russian is a believing Orthodox Christian, can he tell
the secular authorities that his religious and moral convictions
forbid him to serve in the military? Not according to the Moscow
Patriarchate, a spokesman for which told Keston News Service on
15 October that 'the question of alternative service does not
exist for us Orthodox'. FR FYODOR SOKOLOV, liaison between the
Russian Orthodox Church and Russia's armed forces, said 'It is
the holy duty of every Orthodox young man to serve his country'.


Fr Fyodor confirmed that the Patriarchate took no position on
legislation recently defeated in the Duma which would have
guaranteed the right of a conscientious objector to be exempted
from military conscription and enrolled in some form of
alternative service. The lack of a statute providing concrete
procedures for implementing this right has made it difficult for
pacifists to exercise it, even though it is formally granted by
Russia's 1993 constitution. The priest said that the legislation
'would matter for other confessions', but not for the Orthodox.

Keston asked Fr Fyodor whether he agreed with Russian defence
officials who have said that it is impossible in principle for
an Orthodox believer to be a pacifist. He replied that an
Orthodox Christian 'can be a peacemaker ("mirotvorets"), but must
be a defender of his fatherland'. The Russian word 'mirotvorets'
is used both in the New Testament phrase 'blessed are the
peacemakers' and as the equivalent of the English 'peace-keeping
forces' - military troops from neutral powers assigned to enforce
peace agreements in places such as Bosnia. (END)


Tuesday 20 October
WHOM DO THE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES HARM?

by Tatyana Titova and Roman Lunkin, Keston News Service

A 29 September session of the Golovin district court in Moscow
adjourned without reaching a final decision on efforts by the
city procurator to dissolve the Moscow congregation of the
Jehovah's Witnesses. The court will resume considering the case
on 17 November.

The procurator of the Severny administrative region of the city
of Moscow, A.V. VIKTOROV, had sent a declaration to the
Golovinsky district court to liquidate the religious community
of Jehovah's Witnesses of the city of Moscow and ban their
activity in accordance with Article 14 of the 1997 Federal Law
on freedom of conscience and religious organisations. The
accusations enumerate the provisions of Article 14, where the
reasons for the closure of a religious community are specified:
the incitement of national dissension, coercion which leads to
the break-up of families, persuasion to suicide or to the
rejection of the rendering of medical assistance for religious
reasons, infringement of the person, rights and freedoms of
citizens etc.

Lawyers for the Jehovah's Witnesses moved that the court attach
a third party to the lawsuit: the city's directorate of justice,
which originally registered the Witnesses' congregation. The
procurator's office did not object, and as a result the
directorate of justice will be summoned to appear as a witness.
In its turn the procuracy suggested that as one party to the suit
should be invited the anti-cult 'Committee for the Salvation of
Youth', but the court refused. ALEKSEI NAZARYCHEV, a spokesman
for the Witnesses, told Keston News Service that the Witnesses
did not know what position the justice directorate would take on
the case.

This case has a long history. A criminal case was instituted on
20 June 1996 on the basis of i) an appeal by the chairperson of
the Committee to Save Youth of the city of Moscow, T.I.
KUSHNIRSKAYA, ii) materials handed to the procuracy by this anti-
cult public organisation and iii) `citizens' statements on the
unlawful activity of the given religious organisation', drawn up
to confirm these materials. However, in the course of four
investigations which took two years, not one of the charges
brought has been confirmed.

The most recent charges basically repeat the contents of the
article on the Jehovah's Witnesses from the handbook `New
Religious Organisations in Russia of Destructive and Occult
Character', published by the Missionary Department of the Moscow
Patriarchate, with which this committee cooperates. The handbook
names `one of the main aspects of the activity of the community
in Russia' as `the struggle with Orthodoxy'.

Keston has received a copy of a document sent to the procuracy
of the Severny administrative region on paper headed 'Moscow
Patriarchate, Holy Synod, Department of Catechesis and Religious
Education' and signed by A.L. DVORKIN, head of the centre of the
Holy Martyr St Irenaeus of Lyons. `In reply to your enquiry, the
"Jehovah's Witnesses" are a socially-dangerous pseudo-Christian
international organisation,' writes Dvorkin. `The Jehovists
consider the governments of all countries and all Christian
Churches to be servants of Satan... They expect the end of the
world soon, and in the run-up to this event they will kill "the
unfaithful", that is the non-Witnesses... The main superstition
of the Jehovists is a very strict ban on blood transfusions, as
a result of which hundreds of people have died, among them
children. The "Watch Tower Society" is a typical totalitarian
sect... Entry to it signifies the severing of social ties, often
leading to the collapse of families, the loss of work and the
abandonment of studies.'

The case was broken off three times - on 21 April 1997, 15
September 1997 and 28 December 1997 - because no crime had been
established; however these decisions were countermanded by the
above supervisory organs on the grounds that the 'investigation
was incomplete'. On 28 December 1997 the court ruled that the
criminal case be halted and recognised that the activity of the
organisation and the leadership of the Jehovah's Witness
community was in full accordance with the Constitution and
legislation of the Russian Federation.

However, the procuracy of Moscow again sent the case for further
investigation. On 13 April 1998 the investigator for especially
important cases for the procuracy of the Severny region Ye.A.
SOLOMATINA reached the following conclusion: `Evaluating the
materials collected in the case, the investigation considers that
in its activity the "Jehovah's Witness" religious organisation
violates international laws on human rights and the Russian laws
"on freedom of religious confession", "on education" and other
laws, provisions of the RF Constitution, although concrete
instances of crimes committed by members of the given
organisation have not been discovered.' On the basis of this the
investigator ruled that the criminal case on the unlawful
activity be halted because there was no evidence that their
activities had involved concrete crimes. The investigator also
ordered that a copy of the ruling be sent to the procurator of
the Severny administrative region of the city of Moscow in order
to resolve the question of the appeal to the Golovinsky court to
annul the registration of the given community.

This case is not an exception. Campaigns against the Jehovah's
Witnesses are going on in many parts of the country. Keston
recently reported of the closure of a community in Samarkand in
Uzbekistan. In Yaroslavl the local authorities have requested the
community to submit proof of their 15-year existence in the
region, otherwise they are threatened with restrictions on their
activity in accordance with the new religious law. In their reply
of 15 July 1998, the Yaroslavl community appealed to the
Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation with a complaint
about the unconstitutionality of certain provisions of the
federal law on freedom of conscience. Numerous press and
television stories presenting the Jehovah's Witnesses as
antisocial, lead one to the conclusion that someone is very
unhappy about the activity of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia.
Procurator Viktorov's declaration is an indication of this same
tendency.

It is noteworthy that during his visit to the town of Ukhta in
November 1997, DEACON ANDREI KURAYEV spoke of the imminent
closure of the `sect'. The local paper quoted him as saying that
`this has become possible on the basis of the new law on freedom
of religious confession, and this is not because of their
dogmatic transgressions, but because of their concrete activity
directed at destroying the health of and threatening the very
life of their followers'.

Keston talked about the possible motivation for this campaign to
ALEKSEI NAZARYCHEV, head of the public relations department of
the Jehovah's Witnesses' administrative centre, and SERGEI
VASILYEV, the Moscow representative of the administrative centre.
`The initiative comes from the Moscow Patriarchate,' Vasilyev
told Keston. `Note that Dvorkin's text is written on the Moscow
Patriarchate's headed paper. His committee is fulfilling a
certain political and social mandate, otherwise they would not
have such resources or contacts. In addition, the provision in
Article 14 of the law covering the "liquidation of a community"
on grounds of "refusal to render medical assistance on religious
grounds" was specially introduced because of us, as we refuse
blood transfusions. A great campaign was whipped up against us
in the media. Most of the time they cite an article from the
Patriarchate's handbook which was distributed across the
country.'

Asked about the causes of the opposition to them, Nazarychev
declared: `Three things are held against us: the absence of
interdenominational contacts, a strong organisation and active
preaching. Our districts are divided up into areas, and every
witness is required to go round his whole district, in addition
to which we are constantly learning to preach. About one in ten
people respond to our preaching. We also have interesting
literature and people are starting to tell their own priests:
"The Witnesses are good, they have interesting magazines where
everything is explained simply, they go round people's homes, why
don't you?"'

Nazarychev reports that it has been proposed to them that they
stop their campaign or, in short, `agree to be better behaved'.
Sometimes money is simply demanded of them. `In private
conversation a leading Orthodox priest in St Petersburg told us:
You have run away too far, it's impossible to catch you up. One
must cooperate. You have problems with radio and television. Let
us help, only you must behave better. You help us and we will
help you to settle relations with the authorities and the press,
only don't shoot off ahead." "It is no secret that what is
happening is a carve-up of territory." An official of the Justice
Ministry told us exactly the same: "Everything will be find if
you just stop preaching so actively."'

Speaking of the then forthcoming Golovinsky court case,
Nazarychev declared: `Vasiliev [SHD BE VIKTOROV???] recently
handed the case to his assistant. This woman will bring the case
on the closure of a community numbering 10,000 people. She has
only just become acquainted with the papers, and knew nothing
about us until then. If powerful political forces have an
interest in closing the Moscow community this will be actively
used in individual localities. The portrayal of the Jehovah's
Witnesses as an antisocial group will be confirmed and then we
will find it difficult to restore our reputation. Court cases
will only take place if the nation is uninformed. At present
almost noone is talking about the court case, everyone has gone
quiet. If there is an objective investigation, they will not find
any factual evidence.'

The Jehovah's Witnesses spokesman Nazarychev told Keston that the
procuracy relied only on the 'anticult' movement for its
information about his confession. Indeed, Keston has found in
travelling about Russia that the Witnesses have excellent
relations with some of the provincial governments such as those
of Irkutsk, Khakassia and Tyumen. (END)


Wednesday 21 October
UZBEKISTAN GRANTS VISA RENEWAL TO TASHKENT RABBI

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

The Uzbek Foreign Ministry has finally granted a visa renewal for
the
head of Tashkent's Jewish community, Rabbi ABBA DAVID GUREVICH,
Jewish
sources in Tashkent told Keston News Service. The threat that he
would
be deported from Uzbekistan on Friday 23 October has now been
lifted.

The Foreign Ministry refused to renew the visa for Rabbi Gurevich
when
it expired at the end of August, declining to give a reason for
its
refusal (see Keston News Service 30 September �UZBEKISTAN
DENIES VISA RENEWAL TO TASHKENT RABBI�).
The community was concerned that he might be forced to leave
Uzbekistan.

Russian-born Rabbi Gurevich, who is a United States citizen, has
worked in Uzbekistan since 1990 and has been instrumental in
rebuilding the Jewish community's institutions. Rabbi Gurevich
is
affiliated with the Lubavich movement and is in charge of
Lubavich
activities in Uzbekistan and throughout Central Asia, as well as
being
Chief Rabbi of Uzbekistan.

Among those pressing the Uzbek authorities to renew Rabbi
Gurevich's
visa was the Israeli ambassador in Tashkent. The Uzbek and
Israeli
governments maintain good relations. (END)


KESTON JOURNAL Religion, State and Society ISSUE 2 1998

Ecumenism, defined by the World Council of Churches as 'the whole
task of the whole church to bring the Gospel to the whole world',
is the focus of Issue 2 1998 of the Keston journal, Religion,
State and Society. The ecumenical movement has dominated the
agenda of the western Christian world in the second half of the
twentieth century, and in this issue of RSS we try to find out
what ecumenism means to those involved and what problems arise
today in postcommunist times when the churches try to put the
concept into practice.

Several of our authors make the point that, largely thanks to the
influence of communist governments, the twentieth-century
encounter between the western (Protestant) and eastern (Orthodox)
churches never included that thoroughgoing discussion of
doctrinal differences which would have been essential for
achieving real mutual understanding. Nothing substantial happened
within the WCC to alter the centuries-old Orthodox view of the
West as 'a territory where any heresy was possible', as Flavius
Solomon points out in 'Between Europe and Tradition: Church and
Society in Orthodox Eastern Europe'. For their part, argues Gerd
Stricker in 'Stumbling-blocks between Orthodoxy and Protestant
Ecumenism', western Protestants always suspected that the
Orthodox did not accept them as full Christians.

Special factors in the postcommunist period have meant that the
doctrinal gulf has widened. Many individuals who were formerly
zealots for the official ideology in communist times are now
seeking new certainties in the church. In 'Barriers to Ecumenism:
an Orthodox View from Russia', Vladimir Fedorov identifies the
neophyte complex - 'the desire to display one's exceptional
loyalty to the Church, the search for one's identity, and the
seduction of nationalism and messianism' - and observes a general
movement in Eastern Europe away from ecumenism and towards
'confessionalism'.

In this context, the specific issue causing the most bitter East-
West church controversy has been missionary activity, seen by its
opponents as 'proselytising'. Yet proselytising activity is by
no means a consequence of 'ecumenism', as many in the East
allege. As Anton Houtepen points out in 'Evangelisation and
Ecumenism: Contradiction or Challenge?', 'The difficulties
surrounding proselytism in Eastern Europe do not stem from the
ecumenical movement, but from groups and churches who want to
remain aloof from this movement.'

It begins to come clear at this point that the word 'ecumenism'
is being interpreted differently in East and West. As Houtepen
observes, 'The greatest stumbling-block to ecumenism is ... the
concept of ecumenism itself.' The western understanding is that
ecumenism involves the world's churches working together.
However, in 'Reconciliation through Aid: the Catholic Presence
in Orthodox Countries' Fr Michel van Parys notes that in
maintaining their contacts with foreign churches the churches in
the communist countries of the East 'had to make concessions to
party and state pressure' so that 'the legacy of doublespeak is
that "ecumenism" has actually come to mean "compromise"'. This
is confirmed in 'Stumbling-blocks to Ecumenism in the Balkans',
where Anne Herbst quotes the view of a Serbian bishop that
ecumenists want to forge Christian unity 'through compromise,
lies and hypocrisy'.

However hard it may be to overcome such differences, Stricker is
surely right when he argues that the goal of ecumenism should no
longer be described in terms of 'church unity'. Instead he
proposes 'reconciled diversity'. It is a concept that has been
dismissed as too timid, as reflecting too weak a faith. Yet,
Stricker argues, in these times of deep distrust it has the
advantage of being a realistic first step, and one that is
obviously essential before further progress can be made.

Other articles in this issue:

Erich Bryner, 'Stumbling-blocks to Ecumenism'.

Basilus J. Groen, 'Nationalism and Reconciliation: Orthodoxy in
the Balkans'.

Gary D. Bouma, 'The New Europe and Church-State Relations: the
Case of the Euro-Anglicans'.

Yuli Shreider, 'The Ethics of Mutual Understanding'.

Veniamin Novik, 'Social Doctrine: Will the Russian Orthodox
Church Take a Daring Step?'

CORRECTION: In response to Keston News Service article 'WILL THE
MOSCOW
PATRIARCHATE SILENCE THE SO-CALLED "OPEN ORTHODOX"?' (Friday 3
July 1998) Fr Pavel Vishnevsky writes that he has not been
removed from his post as
parish priest but voluntarily took up the position of assistant
priest due to a heavy
workload. He also states that he is not a disciple of the late
Fr Aleksandr Men but uses
the traditional form of the liturgy, and has no links with Fr
Georgi Kochetkov.