KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 7 December 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

RUSSIA: "AMERICAN NEO-PENTECOSTAL SECT" BARRED
FROM BUILDING IN MOSCOW. Despite gaining the approval of all
the necessary agencies, a Pentecostal church in the Russian capital is
being forced to renounce the land it was allocated five years ago on which
it had planned to build a new church centre because of the unwillingness
of the "district community" to be home to a "neo-Pentecostal movement,
brought from the US". A member of the Emmanuel Church told Keston
News Service that if it loses the plot of land allocated by the prefecture of
the Western Okrug (district) of Moscow, it faces losing the hundreds of
thousands of dollars that have already been invested in the project. The
church is now considering whether to appeal to a court of arbitration.

RUSSIA: "AMERICAN NEO-PENTECOSTAL SECT" BARRED
FROM BUILDING IN MOSCOW

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

Despite gaining the approval of all the necessary agencies, a Pentecostal
church in the Russian capital is being forced to renounce the land it was
allocated five years ago on which it had planned to build a new church
centre because of the unwillingness of the "district community" to be
home to a "neo-Pentecostal movement, brought from the US". A member
of the Emmanuel Church told Keston News Service that if it loses the plot
of land allocated by the prefecture of the Western Okrug (district) of
Moscow, it faces losing the hundreds of thousands of dollars that have
already been invested in the project.

At the end of November the church received an official letter from the
Moscow Land Committee stating that the city government had ordered
another site to be found for the church. "We refuse to accept another plot
of land," the administrator of the Emmanuel mission Bakur Azaryan told
Keston on 1 December. "We cannot tell our parishioners who have
contributed to the church building project that their money has simply
vanished." The church is now considering whether to appeal to a court of
arbitration.

The 800-strong Emmanuel Church (a member of the Union of
Evangelical Christians (Pentecostals) in Russia, led by Bishop Vladimir
Murza) was registered in Moscow in 1992 and re-registered in 1998. The
church, which currently rents the House of Culture of the Moscow
Aviation Institute for services, applied for permission to build the centre,
which would also serve as a children's home, a charitable centre and a
Sunday school. In 1996 the prefecture of the Western Okrug allocated the
land next to a park described by the Moscow Planning office as "a
neglected area, with an absence of green vegetation, which is alongside a
gully, a marsh and a wasteland that is used as a dump". Keston visited the
site, which remains neglected today. According to the agreement, the
Pentecostals were to transform the site into a well-appointed park, with a
pond and tree-lined paths.

Azaryan told Keston that when the church drew up its plan and agreed it
with the numerous agencies, it also needed approval from the local self-
government agency - the district assembly - whose job is to protect public
interests when new buildings are put up in developed areas. No church
representatives were invited to the district advisers' meeting and the
community only learnt some time later that the district assembly had
decided on 14 November 2000 to reject the plan.

The reasons for the refusal, as set out in the district newspaper "Our
Vernadsky Prospect", were that the construction work would be
undertaken in a well-appointed park (not the �neglected area� of the
official draft plan) and that "alluring" proposals by representatives of the
Emmanuel church were misleading residents as to their true intentions.
According to Olga Motorina, author of the article "Grounds for Concern",
unlike Orthodox churches, which had been "built using national
resources", here "an investment of foreign capital would take place,
because 'the Christian Evangelical Church Emmanuel was a Russian
mission of a neo-Pentecostal movement brought here from the US via
Sweden".

The district office evidently took this information from a letter sent on 6
March 2001 to the head of the Board of Vernadsky Prospect V. Starkova
from the department for the study of the behaviour of sects at the
Orthodox Theological Institute of St Tikhon, signed by department
deputy head Mikhail Plotnikov. "The teaching and practice of the
�Emmanuel Church� provoke a number of misgivings," Plotnikov writes.
"It is characteristic for them to use hypnotic techniques, practices that
induce occult and mystical trances and a system to control the
consciousness of their followers, and this represents a danger to mental
health". He cites unnamed "Swedish psychiatrists" as declaring that
"every fourth neo-Pentecostal has attempted suicide", while "many neo-
Pentecostal pastors are known throughout the world as religious crooks
who lead lives of luxury funded by the exploitation and extortion of their
congregation".

Plotnikov also states that "members of the occult-esoteric totalitarian sect
International Emmanuel Mission are actively promoting the construction
of the prayer house (Azaryan told Keston that this letter was the first they
had heard about this), "the sect�s leader is the former criminal racketeer
Nikolai Globin, who has declared himself to be 'Christ the Emmanuel',
while the majority of members of the sect are connected with the criminal
world". Further, Plotnikov claims, this sect has "deluded the advisers to
the district assembly" and that "it is possible that law enforcement
agencies might have to intervene".

According to Azaryan, several advisers told church representatives that
they did not know a decision had been taken. Hoping to retrieve the
situation somehow, the church distributed to local residents a booklet
giving information about the church and its proposed activity, and also a
sketch of the planned complex. 6,391 of the 10,000 residents canvassed
by the church said they did not oppose the construction of the building.
Neither the district board nor the city government, however, admitted
these statistics.

In a 28 May letter to Bishop Murza, the deputy head of the city
government, Valery Shantsev, said the decision had been taken to change
the plot of land because it "was impossible not to take into account the
opinions of members of the public who were opposed to the construction
work". The church continues to hope for a resolution to the dispute and
has written to the Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov and Russian President
Vladimir Putin. According to Azaryan, officially the original plot of land
has not been taken from them, and they do not intend voluntarily to
renounce it and look at other options. It was possible, he said, that they
would appeal to a court of arbitration for protection of their rights.

The deputy head of the committee for relations with religious
organisations at the city government, Konstantin Blazhenov, said the
dispute over the Emmanuel Church was due to the excessive
democratisation of town planning legislation. "It is impossible to
influence a decision of the district assembly, and you will always find a
section of the population which will oppose any construction work," he
told Keston on 30 November. Blazhenov also believes that in the current
situation only Orthodox churches will succeed in being built. As far as the
question of the Emmanuel church is concerned, he maintains that if the
construction project is impossible there, then everything possible should
be done to compensate the church for its expenditure. Asked by Keston
whether this was likely, he said that it was unlikely. (END)

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