KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 31 May 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist and
post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. RUSSIA: BELGOROD ADOPTS - AND APPLIES - ANTI-
MISSIONARY LAW. The regional duma (parliament) of Belgorod region,
approximately 450 miles south of Moscow, has passed a local law sharply
restricting missionary activity. The new law is supported by the local
Orthodox bishop and the governor, but opposed by Belgorod's Protestants,
some of whom have already had it applied against them. Keston News
Service has learnt that a Pentecostal church was denied permission for public
events in the city centre in April as an official claimed the possible presence
of children without written permission of their parents meant the events
would violate the law, although the Orthodox had no problems holding
public Easter celebrations with children present.

II. RUSSIA: LOCAL FSB AND JUSTICE DEPARTMENT MINIMISE
IMPACT OF BELGOROD'S MISSIONARY LAW. Following their 16
February letter protesting at the unconstitutionality of Belgorod's new
missionary law, local Protestant representatives have been able to express
their views in individual discussions at the region's Federal Security Service,
the FSB (former KGB) and at an open meeting held by Belgorod's
department of justice on 15 May to discuss the law, attended by Keston
News Service. If the local FSB and department of justice report that moves
to create a miniature Orthodox state in Belgorod have disrupted rather than
ensured religious stability in the region, any proposals for a similar
experiment at the federal level may be rejected.

I. RUSSIA: BELGOROD ADOPTS - AND APPLIES - ANTI-
MISSIONARY LAW

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

On 25 January the regional duma (parliament) of Belgorod region,
approximately 450 miles south of Moscow, almost unanimously passed a
local law sharply restricting missionary activity. Supported by the local
Orthodox bishop, the governor and other key officials, the new law has
encountered vocal opposition from Belgorod's Protestants, some of whom
have already had it applied against them. Keston News Service has learnt
that a Pentecostal church was denied permission for public events in the city
centre in April as an official claimed the possible presence of children
without written permission of their parents meant the events would violate
the law, although the Orthodox had no problems holding public Easter
celebrations with children present.

Missionary activity, as defined by the three-page law, `aims directly or
indirectly to disseminate doctrines and religious practices: among those of
another faith or nonbelievers' (Article 2, Part 1). Such activity is permitted
only in `cult buildings and on their related territory,' in living
accommodation with the permission of the inhabitants, and in other locations
should these `accord with the requirements for holding mass spectator
events' and if the activity is conducted in compliance with the regulations for
holding public gatherings, meetings, marches and demonstrations (Article 3,
Part 2).

Unlike many similar local laws in Russia, `On Missionary Activity on the
Territory of Belgorod Region' is not just confined to foreign citizens,
although they are specifically prohibited from conducting missionary
activity if they have come to Belgorod for a different reason (Article 3, Part
7). Residents of other Russian regions intending to carry out missionary
activity in Belgorod must also submit to the local authorities a document
confirming their affiliation to a particular religious organisation, a copy of
their invitation to the region, an itinerary of their stay, and proof of local
registration (Article 3, Part 6). Any representative of a religious organisation
wishing to conduct missionary activity among minors must obtain the
written permission of their parents or guardians (Article 3, Part 4). Those
violating the law face a fine of between 50 and 100 times the minimum wage
(Article 4).

Although local deputies also have the right to propose legislation, the law
was put before Belgorod's duma by the region's head of administration
(governor), Yevgeny Savchenko. As a result, local Communist Party leader
Sergei Demchenko told Keston on 15 May, he and all but two or three
deputies felt pressurised into voting in favour of it, although, said
Demchenko, his sympathies lay with the local Adventists and Jehovah's
Witnesses who had complained to him that their rights were being violated.

Also speaking to Keston on 15 May, local plenipotentiary for religious
affairs Aleksei Glushchenko was unable to explain why the law had been
presented by Savchenko personally rather than an ordinary duma member.
While many of Keston's interviewees referred to the warm relationship
between Savchenko and Bishop Ioann (Popov) of Belgorod and Stary Oskol,
however, Glushchenko insisted that the local Orthodox diocese `bore no
relation to the drafting of the law'.

In an interview with Keston on 16 May, Bishop Ioann, who � ironically -
heads the Moscow Patriarchate's missionary department, argued that
Belgorod's geopolitical particularities made the law's restrictions on
missionary activity much needed. The region's proximity to the large
Ukrainian city of Kharkov resulted in an influx of destructive influences
from across the border, he explained: specifically, totalitarian sects such as
the White Brotherhood and numerous missionaries accompanying
humanitarian aid from the United States. Just as a north-south Catholic-
Buddhist divide in China has resulted in thousands of Chinese establishing a
corridor on Russian territory, argued Bishop Ioann, so the stability of the
religious situation in Belgorod could be upset by an east-west Orthodox-
Catholic division of Ukraine. `The law plays a preservatory role,' he assured
Keston.

Those against whom Bishop Ioann claims the law is directed are nowhere
mentioned in its text. Nevertheless, the bishop expressed astonishment that
Belgorod's Protestants should interpret it as an impingement upon their
rights. Pastor of Word of Truth Pentecostal Church Andrei Kuznetsov has
reason to receive it as such, however, since the law has already been applied
against his church.

Striving to conform to the regulations for holding public gatherings,
meetings, marches and demonstrations as specified by the new law,
Kuznetsov wrote to Belgorod mayor Georgi Golikov on 10 April informing
him of his church's intention to hold a series of missionary events, including
preaching, a musical concert and distribution of free literature, on a square in
the city centre on 21 and 22 of that month. (The church has had no place to
meet other than in private flats since August 2000, Kuznetsov explained to
Keston, when the director of the cinema which they had been renting
terminated his agreement with the church after being warned by the local
administration not to lease his premises to `sectarians'.) On 18 April a
representative of the municipal administration, S. Markovskaya, wrote to
Kuznetsov in reply that `it is not possible to designate an open area on the
territory of the city where all norms of the law on missionary activity would
be ensured during missionary events, since holding such events would
inevitably involve the participation of minors without the written permission
of their parents'. The church was forced to cancel its plans.

On 14 May Kuznetsov showed Keston photographs featuring Orthodox
clergy alongside young children at Belgorod's city centre Easter celebrations
published in local newspaper `Belgorodskiye Izvestiya'. `I bet they don't
have the written permission of those children's parents,' he indignantly
remarked. `The law affects us but not the Orthodox Church.' (END)

II. RUSSIA: LOCAL FSB AND JUSTICE DEPARTMENT MINIMISE
IMPACT OF BELGOROD'S MISSIONARY LAW

by Aleksandr Shchipkov, Keston News Service

In the month following their 16 February letter protesting at the
unconstitutionality of Belgorod's new missionary law addressed foremost to
the head of the Department for Relations with Religious Organisations
Attached to the Presidential Administration, local Protestant representatives
were invited to individual discussions with an officer of the region's Federal
Security Service, the FSB (former KGB). `He wanted to find out what had
upset us,' pastor of New Life Pentecostal Church Vladimir Rybant told
Keston News Service in Belgorod on 14 May.

Interviewed on 16 May, head of Belgorod FSB, Viktor Grebenyuk,
confirmed that such meetings had taken place and explained that although
FSB officers had long since `ceased to manage (`kurirovat') the religious
sphere', they were nevertheless obliged by law to engage in `the prevention
of extremism'. Since he had not seen any discussion of the bill on missionary
activity in the local press before it went before the regional parliament, said
Grebenyuk, he had first been alerted to it by head of Belgorod's department
of justice, Vladimir Karnaukhov.

On 15 May Belgorod's department of justice held a full-day open meeting
almost entirely dedicated to discussion of implementation of the federal law
on religion and the introduction of the regional law on missionary activity.
Since Bishop Ioann (Popov) of Belgorod and Stary Oskol had a prior
engagement in Moscow, and - for reasons which remain unclear - no
diocesan representative attended, the meeting was dominated by local
Protestants, who were given an extensive opportunity to air their grievances
openly and directly.

While Adventist pastor Pavel Dmitrenko stressed that his church was `law-
abiding - we pray for the unity of Russia,' and Baptist pastor Aleksandr
Rebrilov lamented that he had been `placed outside the law' against his will
by the new missionary regulations, the Protestants made clear that they did
not intend to remain passive in the face of the local law. Adventist pastor
Aleksandr Kozhoka exclaimed, `I don't need [Bishop] Ioann's blessing to
save people!', while Pentecostal pastor Andrei Kuznetsov declared that if
necessary, `believers are ready to go out on the streets in protest'.

Avoiding just such conflict was clearly the aim of the event, since
Karnaukhov implored the Protestants not to resort to the `methods of the
past' by staging public demonstrations. In addition to inviting director of the
Moscow-based Institute of Religion and Law, Anatoli Pchelintsev, to
address the meeting with an inevitably negative evaluation of the local law's
constitutionality, Karnaukhov attempted to pacify the Protestants by
emphasising that he had `no doubts of the devotion to their motherland of the
churches gathered here today'. He was assisted in this task - conspicuously -
neither by assistant head of the justice department, Anatoli Yevdoshchenko,
who declared the law to be in accordance with the federal law, nor by
Belgorod's plenipotentiary for religious affairs, Aleksei Glushchenko, who,
although the situation lay directly within his brief, remained all but silent
throughout the meeting and later maintained to Keston that the law did not
contradict the constitution. In their place Karnaukhov was seconded by a
representative of Belgorod's security apparatus, assistant head of the
Department for Security and the Consolidation of Law and Order, Grigory
Dovzhenko. Dovzhenko promised the Protestants that until the law was
either reviewed by Russia's Constitutional Court or was annulled by the
regional duma, it would practically not be enforced. In addition, he strongly
advised the church representatives to address their concerns to assistant head
of Belgorod's administration, Oleg Polukhin, in order to resolve the
situation.

The initiatives by Belgorod's FSB and justice department to minimise the
impact of the missionary law regulations may well have originated in
Moscow - on 16 May Bishop Ioann admitted to Keston to having been
reproached for the law by the official in charge of registration of religious
organisations at the Ministry of Justice, Viktor Korolyov. It is the personal
view of local FSB chief Grebenyuk, however, that `the Orthodox are losing
ground' in Belgorod due to their `excessive conservatism - they build and
engage in property, while the Protestants take an individual approach.'

If the local FSB and department of justice report that moves to create a
miniature Orthodox state in Belgorod have disrupted rather than ensured
religious stability in the region, any proposals for a similar experiment at the
federal level may be rejected. (END)

Copyright (c) 2001 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.