Issue 7, Articles 17-19, 19 July 2000

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


Thursday 20 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.

Department for Internal Affairs in the Volgograd region, there was not reason
for Pastor Behrens to stay because his community had not yet achieved
reregistration. Further, his church would not be reregistered if he remained;
although he moved to Berlin, it has still not been reregistered. To Keston�s
knowledge there are no legal grounds for the Volgograd authorities to have
expelled him.

VISA. The local newspapers wrote about Landreth ��the local department of
the FSB told us that practically all American religious organisations working
abroad are in some way or other connected with the US security services�. He
was also told by the local police that he was breaking the law by �having social
interaction outside church activities� (ie conducting any humanitarian work).

Thursday 20 July 2000

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

`I am being deported from Russia,' German citizen and Lutheran pastor
EBERHARD BEHRENS wrote last October to Glaube in der Zweiten Welt, a
Swiss-based organisation which researches religious life in the former Soviet
bloc. Since the Lutheran community he pastored in the town of Kamyshin,
Volgograd region (approximately 500 miles south-east of Moscow) had not
been reregistered, he was told, there was no longer any reason for him to stay,
as the purpose of his visit stated in his visa was `religious work'. `This reason is
contrived of course,' Behrens wrote in his letter. `The real reason seems to me
that an icy Slavophile wind is blowing here. The "Orthodox motherland" of
Russia (however frequently that view is mistaken) does not need a pastor
running over here from the West.'

Pastor Behrens has not returned to Russia and is currently in Berlin. In a 14
July response to a request from Keston for further details regarding his
expulsion, Behrens explained that after several vain attempts to register with
the police in Kamyshin, he eventually found the right department on 20
October 1999 - the Department for Internal Affairs in the regional capital,
Volgograd. There, he reported, an official named SVETLANA
ANATOLYEVNA made his registration dependent upon both an official
invitation from the Lutheran community in Kamyshin and reregistration of the
community under the 1997 law on religion - although the deadline for this was
not to expire until 31 December 1999. His written invitation from Bishop
SIEGFRIED SPRINGER in Moscow - to whose diocese of the Russian and
CIS Lutheran Church the Kamyshin community belongs - would not suffice.
`She would not accept my argument that we were in the process of
reregistering and that the old registration lasted until the end of the year, but
claimed that the purpose of my stay in Russia according to my visa - religious
work - was no longer valid, because a foreigner could not be active in a
community which had not yet been reregistered.' Although his visa was valid
until 23 March 2000, Pastor Behrens told Keston, he was obliged to leave the
country immediately. `If I did not the Lutheran community in Kamyshin would
not be reregistered at all.' He left Russia on 28 October.

According to Russia's 1997 law on religion, the right of a religious organisation
to invite foreign church workers is dependent upon its status after
reregistration, not before, and to Keston's knowledge there are thus no legal
grounds for the Volgograd authorities to have expelled Behrens. However, the
German pastor is reluctant to challenge their decision: `I don't think a come-
back is ever a good idea, in this case it would not be in anyone's interests.' In
his absence, the survival of Kamyshin's Lutheran community, which is made
up exclusively of Russian Germans who still speak a Volga German dialect,
appears to be under threat. In his July message Behrens explained to Keston
that as far as he knew the community had not yet been reregistered `because the
conditions for Lutherans - unlike for Orthodox and Baptists - have been made
more strict.' As an example he cited the need to provide a list of the names and
addresses of each of the approximately 50 members of the community (this is
not stipulated in the 1997 law on religion) as well as notarised confirmation
that the Lutheran diocese in Moscow has been reregistered (according to the
law, this is only required if the community seeks to register as a local religious
organisation). `The 75-year-old community leader is overwhelmed with so
much bureaucracy.'

On 17 July the secretary to YURI SADCHENKOV of Volgograd region's
Department for Relations with Religious Organisations told Keston that he was
not in town and would not be available for comment for some time.

On 18 July a spokesman at the Department of Internal Affairs in Volgograd
told Keston that Svetlana Anatolyeva was on holiday. When Keston asked for
details concerning Pastor Behrens' expulsion, he replied that the matter could
be discussed only if Pastor Behrens' organisation chose to address it. (END)

Thursday 20 July 2000

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

While working during September 1999 with the Church of Christ congregation
founded in Volgograd in 1991 by American TOM PITTS, US missionary
CHARLES LANDRETH told Keston last January, he was summoned to the
city's police headquarters and told that he would have to leave Russia within
one week. The police officer in charge of the visa section reportedly informed
him that conducting any humanitarian work while on a religious visa was
unlawful and that he was therefore breaking the law by engaging in work in
orphanages, schools and `having social interaction outside church activities'.

Landreth protested that Russian law regarding religious visas allows for
humanitarian and social activities. However, he duly left Russia - and was
denied subsequent visas in October and November 1999. Landreth told Keston
that the Russian Consulate in San Francisco is unable to give him a reason for
the denials: `They simply state that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow
informed them that they should
not issue me a visa. It appears that I have been blacklisted for some reason.'

In April Landreth applied for a visa for a third time, but on this occasion with
an invitation from the Volgograd Pedagogical Institute rather than the local
Church of Christ congregation, and with the purpose of working on an
education programme rather than `religious work'. In early May, however, his
application was again rejected without explanation. This came as a surprise, he
told Keston on 10 May, as a local Church of Christ member had apparently
discovered that his record in Volgograd had been cleared: `According to her, a
positive report was sent to Moscow by the local FSB. I guess Moscow just
doesn't want to change my status for some reason.'

Officials in Moscow were unwilling or unable to explain the refusal to Keston.
The Foreign Ministry official who normally discusses such cases with US
Embassy staff, ALEKSANDR GUSEV, did not appear to know who Landreth
was or to which church he belonged when Keston spoke with him on 9
February. The case, he said, lay within the competency of the Ministry's
Department of Consular Service. When Keston asked the head of the
Department of Consular Service DMITRY ZAKHAROV on 23 June if his
department had denied Landreth entry to Russia, he appeared unfamiliar with
the name and replied: `No, it wasn't our department, we didn't refuse him. It
could only have been the FSB.' On 4 July a spokesman at the FSB denied that
the FSB vetted foreigners' visa applications and refused to answer Keston's
subsequent questions.

Local Volgograd sources point to various reasons for Landreth's expulsion. In
October and November 1999 respectively, the Volga regional editions of the
newspapers Argumenty i Fakty and Moskovsky Komsomolets carried
strikingly similar articles examining what they considered to be the dangers of
sectarian activity in the region. In the first - `Freedom Without Conscience' -
VADIM SHUMILIN refers to the recent expulsion of 17 Church of Christ US
missionaries, including Landreth. In a reference to current local Church of
Christ pastor PAVEL LASHCHENOV's employment in a microbiological
institute, he commented: `One can only suppose how interesting former army
officer Landreth found being in contact with holders of scientific and defence
secrets. At any rate, the local department of the FSB told us that practically all
American religious organisations working abroad are in some way or other
connected with the US security services.'

(With reference to this article, Landreth remarked to Keston that he had never
been an army officer, and that the other 15 members of the September
evangelistic campaign besides himself and his wife had already left Russia as
planned by the time he was summoned to the police station.)

Landreth believes, however, that the prime mover behind his expulsion is
closer to home. During his 90-minute meeting with the police officer in
September, he told Keston, he learnt that she was acting at the instigation of
former pastor of the church OLEG KIRICHENKO. According to Landreth,
Kirichenko left the church in 1996 and subsequently refused to return the
church's 1994 registration papers. The church tried unsuccessfully to recover
the papers in the local courts on three or four occasions, explained Landreth,
and Kirichenko, now a deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church, has a
`vendetta' against the Church of Christ. According to Landreth, the police
officer announced: `I have spoken with Oleg Kirichenko and he said that he did
not send you an invitation to come here to Volgograd and that you are here
illegally.' When Landreth asked how Kirichenko could be a Russian Orthodox
priest and minister of Church of Christ on the Volga at the same time, he said,
she answered: `I don't know and I'm not going to discuss it.' Landreth therefore
concludes that `Kirichenko went to the police, showed the church's registration
papers and said that he was the minister of the church, did not want to invite
me or the others to Volgograd and that we were there illegally.'

Speaking to Keston on 28 January, Kirichenko confirmed that he had been
pastor of the Church of Christ on the Volga, but complained that `every word,
step, action' had to be agreed with the Americans. `The church council was
made up of Russians - the Americans do this so they are invisible.' In 1996,
according to Kirichenko, his and others' doubts about the moral integrity of
some of the American missionaries led to a conflict: the church council of
seven and most of the then 30 members wanted to become entirely independent
of the missionaries, he said, and a court ruled that they constituted the church
according to the law. `Then we realised we were trying to reinvent the wheel -
we already had the Orthodox Church - but the Americans would not accept
icons or the Virgin Mary. We then made the decision that the Church of Christ
on the Volga should be reregistered as an Orthodox brotherhood. Kirichenko
told Keston that the group which left the Church of Christ currently forms a
parish which is restoring a church on the banks of the Volga destroyed by the
Bolsheviks in 1932.

When he found out that Lashchenov was `using our documents to register
American citizens,' said Kirichenko, he did indeed inform the local office of the
passport and visa service that he had found out that Lashchenov had asked to
receive 17 American citizens, and that as the legal pastor of the Church of
Christ on the Volga he did not invite them and did not wish to take
responsibility for them. Kirichenko maintained that all 17 Americans had had
to leave Russia early. Without revealing his source, he said that he had heard
that Landreth would not be able to return to Russia for five years `for repeated
intentional violations of the passport regime - he is on a blacklist'.

Although sharply critical of Kirichenko, Lashchenov was more inclined to
view the local FSB as responsible for Landreth's expulsion when he spoke to
Keston on 24 January. He maintained that in addition to Charles and Lynda
Landreth a further eight Americans (not missionaries) were expelled in
September 1999. `We got a new local general at the FSB at the time - he
obviously wanted to make his mark, catch some spies.' Having finally received
confirmation of the church's reregistration with himself as pastor in July 2000 -
it was reportedly promised in January - Lashchenov doubted if he would be
successful if he invited Landreth, he told Keston in May. `There's something
there that's not been revealed - perhaps someone wrote to the KGB, you'll
never find out. The Russian embassy will never give you a reason.'

Despite several messages to and telephone calls with an official of the US
embassy in Moscow over the past six months, Landreth told Keston that he had
received only a couple of promises to pursue his case with the Russian Foreign
Ministry, and one report of an unsuccessful outcome. On 16 June a US
embassy official assured Keston:
`We do raise these cases and attempt to assist if it seems that the visas have
been denied on religious grounds.' On 10 May Lashchenov commented to
Keston: `I pray that under the next US president situations like this will be
resolved on a tit for tat basis in a couple of days - if they keep Charles out, a
Russian would be refused a visa to Texas.' (END)

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