KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 17 April 2001

I. RUSSIA: PENTECOSTAL CHURCH LIQUIDATED IN FAR EAST. On 5 April
the Amursk town court liquidated the �Victory of Faith� Full Gospel Church, which
has some 200 members, Keston News Service has learned. 11 daughter churches
elsewhere in Khabarovsky Krai (5,300 miles east of Moscow) are also affected.
Liquidation appears to be the culmination of local officials� efforts to restrict the
activity of the church, which places a strong emphasis on missionary work.

II. RUSSIA: REGIONAL AND VILLAGE DECREES HALT PENTECOSTAL
MISSION. According to Pastor Pavel Shlyaga of the �Victory of Faith� Full Gospel
Church, the Khabarovsky Krai authorities are particularly opposed to his church�s
missionary activity, insisting that it should limit its activity to the town of Amursk and
the immediate region. He told Keston News Service that eleven daughter churches
elsewhere in the region have had their activity obstructed by the authorities and that
only one of them had been able to register in its own right.

I. RUSSIA: PENTECOSTAL CHURCH LIQUIDATED IN FAR EAST

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

On 5 April the Amursk town court liquidated the �Victory of Faith� Full Gospel
Church. The church, with some 200 members in the town of Amursk (population
approximately 40,000), has 11 daughter churches of between ten and 50 members
elsewhere in Khabarovsky Krai (5,300 miles east of Moscow). Since only one of
these has managed to register in its own right, they are also affected by the liquidation
proceedings. Liquidation appears to be the culmination of local officials� persistent
efforts to restrict the activity of the church, which places a strong emphasis on
missionary work.

Filing suit to liquidate the church on 25 January, the Khabarovsky Krai department of
justice states that �Victory of Faith� was twice informed of the necessity to reregister
by the deadline of 31 December 2000, �but the aforementioned religious organisation
did not pass the stated procedure.� Contacted by telephone on 12 April, Svetlana
Panchenko of the Khabarovsky Krai department of justice told Keston that the church
did attempt to reregister on three occasions � towards the end of 1999, in
approximately November 2000 and at the very end of 2000. She suggested to Keston
that the case was �just like� that of the independent Baptist church founded by Dan
Pollard in the port of Vanino, which is also in Khabarovsky Krai. �They are also using
a home address as a legal address � that is the only problem,� she explained to Keston.
�Their charter and everything else is in order.�

Speaking to Keston by telephone from Amursk on 10 April, �Victory of Faith� pastor
Pavel Shlyaga confirmed that the church, first registered on 15 November 1994, had
been refused re-registration three times. On the first occasion, he said, numerous
minor objections had been raised, of which he had corrected all but the siting of the
church�s legal address at his home address, arguing that �Russian law has been
amended to allow a legal address to be sited at the home address of the legal
personality applying to register it.� No objections were cited with the second rejection
on 6 December 2000, which states simply that re-registration is refused �in
accordance with the law �On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations�.�
On the third occasion, according to Shlyaga, entirely petty reasons were given for the
refusal, such as the words �Amursk town� in the church�s full title not being placed
high enough on the title page. By the time these emendations were given, however,
there was no time for the church to make a further attempt before the re-registration
deadline.

According to Shlyaga, �Victory of Faith� is currently still able to meet as usual at a
House of Culture in Amursk town on the strength of its affiliation to the Pentecostal
union led by Sergei Ryakhovsky, which is registered as a centralised religious
organisation (CRO) at the federal level. So far, said Shlyaga, the director of the House
of Culture has resisted pressure exerted by Khabarovsky Krai plenipotentiary for
religious affairs, Viktor Nikulnikov, who, he claims, telephoned her to suggest that
she expel the church from the building.

Even once the church is liquidated, Shlyaga is hopeful that it will be able to operate
on the basis of its affiliation to a CRO. Asked why such affiliation had apparently not
assisted the church�s re-registration application with the Khabarovsky Krai
department of justice, Svetlana Panchenko explained to Keston that confirmation of
affiliation to a CRO �doesn�t mean that we have to reregister in all cases � CRO
documentation is only part of what a religious organisation may submit.� If everything
else is in order with its papers and CRO documentation is submitted, maintained
Panchenko, a department of justice is obliged to reregister a religious organisation,
�but not otherwise.�

When Keston asked Viktor Nikulnikov about the activity of �Victory of Faith� on 13
April, he would say only that he did not know whether or not the church was
operating. (END)

II. RUSSIA: REGIONAL AND VILLAGE DECREES HALT PENTECOSTAL
MISSION

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

According to Pastor Pavel Shlyaga of the �Victory of Faith� Full Gospel Church, the
Khabarovsky Krai authorities are particularly opposed to his church�s missionary
activity, with plenipotentiary for religious affairs Viktor Nikulnikov insisting that,
under its 1994 charter, the church should limit its activity to the town of Amursk and
the immediate region. However, claimed Shlyaga, every time �Victory of Faith� has
tried to register a daughter church in its own right, it has been refused registration.
The only exception, he said, is the church in the town of Vyazemsk, �but it is only two
hours from Khabarovsk, so church members were able to keep on at the department
until they were registered.� The other daughter churches, he said, could not afford to
travel repeatedly to Khabarovsk in the same fashion.

Questioned by Keston about this situation, Svetlana Panchenko of the Krai
department of justice said that she knew �nothing about� any daughter churches and
sounded quite disconcerted at the prospect of there being some. As far as she knew,
�Victory of Faith� had originally been registered as being in the town of Amursk, in
which case, she maintained, the church did not have the right to conduct its activity
throughout Khabarovsky Krai, but was �strictly limited to that town.�

According to Shlyaga, �Victory of Faith� has been asked to cease its missionary work
by the local authorities, which frequently obstruct the activity of its eleven daughter
churches. For four years, he told Keston, the Vyazemsk church was denied use of
empty municipal premises. When it made a formal complaint, according to
information sent by Shlyaga to Keston, president of the local council A. Ostapets
responded on 19 May 1999 with a reminder �that the Russian Federation is a secular
state in which the church is separate from the state. The use of socio-cultural
institutions belonging to the state or municipality for religious preaching is a violation
of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation.�

When �Victory of Faith� tried to distribute gospels in autumn 1999 in the Nanai region
of Khabarovsky Krai (where it currently has daughter churches in Troitskoye,
Innokentyevka and other villages), according to Pastor Shlyaga, he was asked by the
regional public prosecutor to cease open evangelisation. As public prosecutor, she
reportedly explained, she was obliged to follow a decree issued by Nanai regional
administration to stop all such activity �using police warrants.� Keston has not seen
this decree, reportedly entitled �On Halting the Activity of �Victory of Faith� Church
on the Whole Territory of Nanai Region� and issued on 7 September 1999. However,
Keston has obtained a copy of a decree evidently issued in response to it by head of
the village of Innokentyevka, V. Iosifov, on 9 September 1999. Entitled �On Halting
the Activity of the Branch of �Victory of Faith� Church on the Territory of
Innokentyevka�, it orders that the activity of the church in the village be stopped,
since it is not registered in Nanai region.

Contacted by telephone on 13 April, Viktor Nikulnikov was extremely reluctant to
speak with Keston, towards which, he explained, he had �a very negative attitude�.
Although Keston did not suggest otherwise, he did give assurances, however, that he
did not �watch� religious organisations and that churches in Khabarovsky Krai
functioned �independently, in accordance with the law.� When Keston then asked
whether �Victory of Faith� was violating the law, Nikulnikov replied that he did not
have any information to that effect and did not know whether or not the church was
operating at all. �No one has ever come to me about them,� he said. (END)

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