Issue 7, Articles 14-16, 19 July 2000

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

Wednesday 19 July 2000

Keston Investigations finds expulsions rising

A significant number of foreign Christian missionaries have been expelled
from Russia, with an increased number over the past year, reveals a major
investigation by Keston News Service. Other missionaries are being obstructed
in their work. An overview of the findings and two case studies are presented
here. Three more case studies will follow later today, with the last two
appearing tomorrow. To arrange an interview with the authors, please contact
Erika Cuneo at +44 1865 311 022 or Felix Corley at +44 020 8290 4997.


Wednesday 19 July 2000

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

Denied entry to Russia on three occasions last year, US Protestant missionary
DAN POLLARD has persistently claimed that his is not an isolated case.
Writing to Keston in December 1999, for example, he maintained that the
anger displayed towards him by VIKTOR NIKULNIKOV, plenipotentiary for
relations with religious associations in the Pacific coastal region of Khabarovsk
krai, is due to the fact �that I have not left quietly like so many other

In investigating this claim over recent months, Keston has discovered a further
nine instances of foreign Christian workers either being forced out of Russia or
obstructed in their missionary activity, the majority of which have taken place
within the past year. Pollard believes that his case appears to be isolated
because �no one is willing to step forward�, and Keston has indeed frequently
met with either failure to respond to requests for information or reluctance to
be publicly identified. This appears to be due to a fear of possible repercussions
on the fledgling congregations that missionaries have left behind in Russia. An
additional explanation may be that missionaries who have encountered initial
obstruction are successfully returning to Russia on business or tourist visas and
thereby continuing their ministry. Pollard claims to know of two instances in
which missionaries who had been forced out of Russia have decided to return
in this way; in one case (not documented here) on a business visa after being
specifically denied a religious work visa. (In cases where missionaries have
either requested anonymity or failed to respond to enquiries, Keston has kept
their identities anonymous).

Reluctance to discuss this issue became evident when a 10 May request for
information about either hostility or tolerance from local authorities posted by
Keston with the �Gathering� (an English-language e-mail forum used by
foreign church workers in Russia) elicited no response, despite a guarantee of
anonymity. However, Keston�s request did appear to arouse general interest.
Drawing attention to the reference to the �negative influence of foreign
missionaries� in the �National Security Concept�, a January decree signed by
then acting-president VLADIMIR PUTIN, it was followed on 13 May by an
open request for the text of the decree from VIKTOR HAMM of the Billy
Graham Evangelistic Association. Normally consisting of frequent day-to-day
practical requests and concerns, on 16 May the �Gathering� also featured an
article by NIKOLAI POLYAKOV posted by SALOMAO CUTRIM, which
detailed at length various mistakes made by western missionaries in Russia, the
main motive of some of whom was allegedly �to build their kingdom in order
to get money from their supporters and glory for the success of the ministry�.

Are exclusions of foreign missionaries by the Russian authorities going
unchallenged? As the majority of the nine cases of obstruction involved
American citizens, Keston turned to their embassy in Moscow to discover what
stance the US government was taking in response. On 16 June an embassy
official made the following statement: �We do raise these cases and attempt to
assist if it seems that the visas have been denied on religious grounds. We urge
Russian officials to issue the visas, and if the denial appears to be based upon
religious prejudices we tell them so.�

Several of the missionaries barred from Russia commented to Keston that they
were unable to obtain an explanation for their exclusion, and the procedure
followed by the authorities in reaching their decision is unclear. Speaking to
Keston on 9 February, ALEKSANDR GUSEV at the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, with whom the US Embassy raises such cases, claimed that the
decision to exclude a missionary did not lie within his competency but with the
Ministry�s Department of Consular Service. However, he did comment that
exclusion could be for �a year, five years or more.�

On 23 June head of the Department of Consular Service DMITRY
ZAKHAROV explained to Keston that either his department or a section of the
FSB (former KGB) could take the decision to deny an individual entry to the
Russian Federation. In the case of the FSB, he said, his department normally
simply received notification that they should not grant a particular visa. In
cases where his department took the decision to bar a foreign citizen, he said,
�it is because their activity in Russia has not corresponded with what they claim
on their visa.� He maintained that there was no connection between the vetting
procedure followed by his department and that of the FSB, and even claimed
that he did not know how to contact the relevant section of the FSB: �We don�t
work with them directly.�
When Keston rang a telephone number for the FSB on 4 July, an official
confirmed that it was indeed the FSB. The Keston correspondent then
introduced herself and asked if the FSB had a section which vetted visa
applications from foreigners, to which the official replied that they did not. On
hearing that Keston had been told that there was such a department followed by
further enumeration of its alleged activities, the official hung up.

In March Dan Pollard told Keston of his conviction �beyond a shadow of a
doubt that most if not all missionaries will be forced out of Russia within ten
years�. However, it should be noted that over the past year Keston has also seen
and heard from foreign missionaries who do not appear to be experiencing
problems. In mid-1999 Keston observed two large and conspicuous groups of
American Protestant missionaries (independent of each other and of different
denominations) returning from the Russian provinces to the US via Moscow�s
international airport. Every mission member was wearing a shirt proclaiming
the name of their respective mission and its activity in Russia, which would
hardly be possible in China or some former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

In the summer of 1999 Keston also spoke by telephone with ANU VALIAHO,
the Estonian wife of Finnish pastor JUHO VALIAHO, Lutheran church
workers in the capital of the Republic of Mari-El, Ioshkar-Ola (500 miles east
of Moscow). The Valiahos claimed not to be experiencing any obstruction to
their ministry: �We are here on one-year religious work and humanitarian aid
visas,� Anu explained. �We play with an open hand.�

On 11 April JARRELL TYSON, an American coordinator with the Methodist
Church in Russia, also commented that he had experienced no problems - and
had not heard of anyone who was. He commented that the Methodist Church
had very few foreigners in Russia, as it was part of its strategy to encourage
locals regardless of what stance the authorities might take. Speaking again to
Keston on 22 June, he reported that one congregation in his pastoral care was
not being allowed to rent premises in the capital of a region in European
Russia, but he thought this was because it had not yet managed to register.
Other unregistered Methodist congregations led by foreign church workers, he
maintained, were currently not experiencing any problems: �A lot depends
upon how aggressive you are - we just do not do an aggressive style of
evangelism and we get on much better.� (END)

Wednesday 19 July 2000

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

In February 2000 a third party passed Keston a four-page report by a US
missionary (Protestant, denomination not stated) detailing the escalation of
harassment he encountered from the authorities in one of European Russia�s
�Red Belt� (communist-controlled) regions between 1995 and 1997,
culminating in his departure from the country. In its initial stages this took the
form of probable interception of e-mail communications. During 1995, he
writes, he was asked by an official at the regional office of the state registration
agency OVIR for his e-mail address but never received any communication
from OVIR by e-mail. Shortly after this request his e-mail began to be delayed
- when the same e-mail message was sent to him and another person with the
same service provider in the same city, the latter would receive the e-mail
immediately, whereas his would be delayed by approximately a week.

By 1997, the missionary was experiencing persistent difficulties in obtaining a
visa. At this time, he writes, he was summoned to a closed meeting with two
FSB agents, who accused him of being in the region fraudulently and
demanded names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, types of visa
and names of inviting agencies for every missionary in his organisation, �so
that we can deport them from Russia�. When the missionary pointed out that
this could be construed as religious persecution, one FSB officer reportedly
replied: �God has nothing to do with this: I want you to write a report about
why you are in this country, and exactly how you got your visas, and what you
are doing here, and all the information about other people in your organisation,
and you are not to mention anything about God or religion.� Soon after this
meeting, he reports, the leadership of his mission in America suggested that he
return to the US, which he did after considering the possible effect legal
proceedings might have on the Russian congregation he had spent so much
effort building up.

�The FSB and OVIR take care that their demands or accusations are not based
upon religion,� the missionary�s wife concluded at the end of the report. �They
find irregularities in visas, run you through bureaucratic hoops, and generally
harass you. It was the same during the communist era. People were not jailed
for reasons of faith, but rather because they were �criminals�.� (END)

Wednesday 19 July 2000

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

On 18 February a western missionary conducting humanitarian aid work in a
region in the Far East of Russia wrote to Keston: �the ministry that supports me
financially to go to Russia is actually barred from [the Far Eastern region].
Currently I am not able to get permission to enter [the region]. We also have
video footage of the KGB disrupting some of the missions we did in 1994 and
1995.� In April he wrote that he personally had obtained permission to enter the
region for a short period, but commented that the situation was �very touchy, so
I am walking very carefully�.

Keston has recently learned that the Russian security organs are greatly
disturbed by western missionary activity in the Far East of the country. In a 28
February letter to chairman of Russia�s State Committee on Affairs of the
Russian Academy of State Service (which is attached to the Russian
presidential administration) warn that the geopolitical plans of the United
States are aimed at �wresting away from Russia the Chukhotka Autonomous
Okrug, and after that all of the Far East.� A significant role in this design, they
believe, is played by �the religious invasion of a huge number of American
Protestant preachers who have recently been stepping up their activity in the
Far East [of Russia].�

The letter maintains that the US intelligence services �make active use of
religious preachers from the USA, Canada and South Korea�, claiming that �the
US Senate lifted the ban on the use of missionaries as secret agents back in the
early 1980s.� Instead of religious work, the authors suggest, foreign missionary
organisations are engaged in a number of activities, including �conducting
regular sociological surveys with the aim of studying public opinion among the
local population on various issues which are usually unconnected with
missionary activity� and coordinating their activities �with the operations of
associations of the indigenous population of Alaska and the government organs
of the USA.�

One recent example, the letter alleges, was that of Baptist missionary
TIMOTHY HARRISON, who was reportedly expelled from the Russian
Federation in March 1999 after being discovered by the FSB to have illegally
imported and used global positioning systems apparatus in the Siberian
Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) �in order to collect legally protected information.�
In an extract from their report of the incident included in the letter, the FSB
make special mention of the local Baptist church which evidently invited
Harrison: �Here the Baptist church itself, which took on the role of host,
warrants attention - it was obviously used by the foreigner as a so-called
�cover�.� Such occurrences, suggest Kuznetsov and Ponkin, �are far from

In its analysis, the letter also cites the opinion of �experts of the Russian
Orthodox Church� that Protestant missionary activity in Chukhotka does not
correspond with its stated intentions, among the evidence for which is
�unprofessionalism� and �a poor knowledge of theology, frequently even of the
Bible�. In addition, the letter maintains, �there are grounds for believing that the
indigenous population of Chukhotka may be used by US missionary
organisations in order to train specialists in psychological control over
believers.� By contrast, the authors maintain, the Russian Orthodox Church is
�one of the guarantors of stability in the region and a factor preventing the
realisation of the plans of the American, South Korean and Japanese
intelligence services.� (END)

Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.