Issue 6, Articles 20-21, 23 June 2000

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



Friday 23 June 2000

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

Three weeks after a judge and a local Ministry of Justice official summoned the
pastor and tried unsuccessfully to pressure him to agree to the liquidation of his
charismatic church in the town of Cheboksary, the legal case to liquidate the
church resumes in court on 28 June. The case against the Church of Christ has
been brought by the Ministry of Justice in the town of Cheboksary, the capital
of the Republic of Chuvashia 750 kilometres east of Moscow. The first hearing
in the case, which took place on 24 January, did not reach a conclusion and the
case was adjourned (see KNS 31 January 2000). The lawyers from the
Moscow-based Slavic Centre for Law and Justice, who represented the church
in court, declared that `all the circumstances of the case were exhaustively
studied and the accusations were not confirmed, yet the judge was not prepared
to issue a decision'. However, the official in charge of registration in the local
Ministry of Justice has justified the new hearing, telling Keston News Service
that the first hearing had not examined all the possible evidence. The same
directors of the Slavic Centre - will defend the church at the 28 June hearing.

The Church of Christ, which is led by Pastor VLADIMIR TITOV, is a member
of the Calvary Community association, as well as of the Russian Unified Union
of Christians of Evangelical Faith (Pentecostals) led by SERGEI
RYAKHOVSKY. When the church lodged its reregistration application in
March 1999, the Ministry of Justice refused to reregister it and handed the
documents onto the court for the church to be liquidated in accordance with
Article 27 of the 1997 law on religion. The case against the church cited three
charges: unlicensed medical activity (the church held services for the sick), the
holding of services in the hostel where the pastor lives (which is not prohibited
under the law), and attracting young people into the activity of the church (the
pastor had shown the Bible cartoon Super King to children).

Vladimir Ryakhovsky reported that hearings in the case have been repeatedly
postponed. `Either there was no judge, or the representative of the Ministry of
Justice was ill,' he told Keston on 21 June. `On 8 June Pastor Titov was
summoned to the court where, as well as the judge VADIM YAKOVLEV, the
representative of the Ministry of Justice was present. They suggested to the
pastor that he recognise the charges against the church and agree to its
liquidation, referring to the wide publicity the case had generated and to the
fact that public opinion in the town was constantly making accusations against
the church.' Pastor Titov refused, telling them that he rejected the charges
against his church. Judge Yakovlev told him: `Then there will be a trial, as
there are many grounds for liquidation.' The judge pledged: `They will
liquidate the church all the same.'

VALERI VAZYUKOV, the head of the registration department of the Chuvash
Ministry of Justice who initiated the action to liquidate the church, told Keston
on 22 June that the case had been postponed several times because of the
absence either of the judge or of the representative of the Ministry of Justice.
Vazyukov told Keston that the main charge against the church was the
unlicensed medical activity. Asked why he believed healing services were
harmful, he responded: `There wasn't just prayer at these services. An
authoritative commission was established under the leadership of deputy health
minister KOZLOV which presented its conclusions. We turned to the
procuracy, which confirmed that there was infringement of the rights and
freedoms of citizens - we studied this question from all angles and collected
proof.' Asked whether this accusation had not been refuted at the hearing in
January, Vazyukov declared that not all the proof had been presented then and
not all the witnesses cross-examined. `I appealed that all witnesses be heard, as
all proofs must be presented. Russian law lays down that this is how a case
must be conducted.'

TATYANA TOMAYEVA, the spokesperson for the Slavic Centre, told Keston
that `this case is infused with the clear tendency to cite medical and
psychological grounds when they try to impede non-traditional religious
organisations. Thus we see again medicine and psychology being used for
ideological purposes - in the struggle against those who believe differently.
This mirrors the tendency in Western Europe today, although there they use the
accusation of "brainwashing", while here in Russia it is "hypnosis".' Tomaeva
claims that those promoting this policy are `anti-clerical, illiterate bureaucrats,
with the participation of traditional religions'. (END)

Friday 23 June 2000

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

The spiritual teacher of the Japanese Buddhist order Nipponzan Myohoji,
JUNSEI TERASAWA, was denied an entry visa to the Russian Federation on 6
June, members of the order's Moscow community told Keston News Service on
15 June. A Russian Foreign Ministry official confirmed to Keston that the
decision to block the visa was taken by the Federal Security Service (FSB,
former KGB), but refused to give the reason. Since Terasawa, a Japanese
citizen, has travelled unimpeded to Russia on a frequent basis since 1991, the
order's Moscow community believes that his condemnation of Russia's military
campaign in Chechnya during a speech in April to the United Nations
Commission on Human Rights has prompted the Russian authorities to bar him
from the country. The Moscow community has itself been repeatedly denied
reregistration (see separate KNS article).

Founded by NICHIDATSU FUJII (1885-1995), a close friend of the Indian
spiritual leader and advocate of nonviolence MAHATMA GANDHI, the
Buddhist order of Nipponzan Myohoji holds deeply pacifist convictions. With
approximately 200 temples and shrines and 500 monks in Japan, it is perhaps
best know for its construction of `peace pagodas' in cities around the world
from Ladakh to Milton Keynes. SERGEI KOROSTILYOV, one of four monks
in the Moscow community, explained to Keston on 19 June that according to
the order's principal sacred text, the Lotus Sutra, every living thing possesses a
hidden Buddha nature of goodness and purity. `From this it follows that every
life on Earth is sacred. If we show respect for everything that surrounds us all
will become peaceful and enlightened.'

Seeking to translate this teaching into practice, the Nipponzan Myohoji
Moscow community has spent much of the past decade protesting against
military conflict. Korostilyov reported that the group took humanitarian aid to
Iraq during the Gulf Crisis of the early 1990s to alleviate the effects of
international sanctions, and in 1995 the monks participated in the March of
Mothers' Compassion from Moscow to Grozny, of which Terasawa was a key
initiator. More recently, the order visited a Chechen refugee camp in Georgia:
while speaking with Korostilyov, Keston viewed photographs dated 16
December 1999 showing a curious situation in which Buddhist monks
distributed Christmas presents among (at least nominally) Muslim Chechen
children. On their return from the Caucasus, Korostilyov reported, the group
decided to greet the `symbolic year' of 2000 praying for world peace at the war
memorial in Moscow's Victory Park.

The group declared in a 15 June statement that Terasawa had received Russian
visas upon the invitation of various Russian Buddhist organisations `dozens of
times' during the past decade; indeed, according to Korostilyov, he was initially
invited to Russia in 1990 by the Soviet-approved Central Spiritual Directorate
of Buddhists. Although the group's statement avers that Terasawa `protested
against violence since the very start of the first Chechen military campaign,
regularly taking part in meetings and pickets against the war,' the monks also
claim that he encountered little resistance from the authorities for this activity.
On 19 June Korostilyov told Keston that during 1995 the police sometimes
withheld permission for protest meetings. `Once they came with their machine
guns to our flat at 1 or 2am, ostensibly to check our documents. We understood
then that it was to do with our activity, but even then it wasn't serious.' Now, he
believes, the situation under the new presidential administration is different:
`Once the regime became harsher we expected something' - in this case, refusal
to allow Terasawa into Russia.

In his speech to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva on 10 April,
Terasawa accused Russia of `unleashing the most brutal military campaign
against the civilian population ever seen in the Caucasus region', the `war
crimes and gross human rights violations' of which constituted `an act of
genocide against the Chechen nation.' Korostilyov believes this speech made it
clear to the Russian authorities that Nipponzan Myohoji were `not in their
interests'. Unlike the protests in Moscow's Pushkin Square, he said, the speech
had been delivered in the international arena: `the authorities obviously
concluded that a UN resolution against Russia depended on our activities.' On
25 April the UN Commission adopted a resolution condemning the Russian
government for grave human rights violations in Chechnya. As a result,
according to Nipponzan Myohoji's official statement, the Russian authorities
`took measures in return, as a kind of revenge' against Terasawa.

The Nipponzan Myohoji Moscow community told Keston that the head of the
Department of Consular Service at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs DMITRY
ZAKHAROV had informed them that Terasawa had been denied an entry visa
because he had been put on a `closed list of the FSB'. Speaking to Keston on
23 June, Zakharov confirmed that it had indeed been the FSB and not his
department which had made the decision, but said that he was unable to explain
why Terasawa had been refused entry to Russia. `We receive notification from
them that entry to the Russian Federation has been denied to a particular
individual. They do not give us an explanation.' (END)

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