KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 26 February 2001

I. RUSSIA: SALVATION ARMY RECEIVES STATUS OF
CENTRALISED RELIGIOUS ORGANISATION. The Justice Ministry of
the Russian Federation granted the Salvation Army the status of centralised
religious organisation (CRO) on 22 February, commanding officer of the
church's Moscow branch Colonel Kenneth Baillie informed Keston News
Service the following day. CRO status encourages but does not oblige
departments of justice to register local religious organisations, such as the
Moscow branch.

II. KAZAKHSTAN: REINSTATED COUNCIL FOR RELIGIOUS
AFFAIRS TO PROMOTE CONFESSIONS LOYAL TO THE STATE? The
Council for Links with Religious Associations (CLRA), a government
agency created by a 27 July 2000 statute, looks set to play a major role in
regulating religious life in Kazakhstan. If a draft law on religion (see KNS
19 February 2001) is adopted in the former Soviet republic, the CLRA is
almost certain to be the 'authorised state agency' charged with implementing
its host of state controls over religious organisations.

I. RUSSIA: SALVATION ARMY RECEIVES STATUS OF
CENTRALISED RELIGIOUS ORGANISATION

by Geraldine Fagan, Keston News Service

The Justice Ministry of the Russian Federation granted the Salvation Army
the status of centralised religious organisation (CRO) on 22 February,
commanding officer of the church's Moscow branch Colonel Kenneth Baillie
informed Keston News Service the following day.

The Salvation Army currently has local religious organisations registered in
five Russian cities - St Petersburg, Petrozavodsk, Vyborg, Volgograd and
Rostov-on-Don. It has unregistered branches in a further nine, including
Moscow, where the local branch is threatened with liquidation (See KNS 23
December 2000).

CRO status means that these and future branches are now exempt from the
1997 law on religion's 15-year 'probationary period', during which � once
registered - local religious organisations have to reregister annually and are
denied rights such as distributing and publishing literature or inviting foreign
citizens. This provision affects those local religious organisations which
were not registered prior to the adoption of the law, are not affiliated to a
CRO and cannot prove 15 years in the locality where they are founded.
Active in Russia for only a few years before being expelled by the
Bolsheviks, most of the Salvation Army's unregistered branches have been
unable to prove 15 years' existence.

Under Article 11 Point 8 of the 1997 law on religion, the CRO umbrella also
means that an application for the registration of a local religious organisation
may not be referred by a department of justice for six months' analysis by an
expert commission.

Obtaining CRO status is thus 'a major achievement', as Colonel Baillie
comments. However, it encourages but does not oblige departments of
justice to register local religious organisations. Speaking to Keston in
January, head of the department for re-registration of religious organisations
at the Ministry of Justice, Viktor Korolyov, stated that the Salvation Army's
situation in Moscow city would be unaffected by CRO status. 'The Moscow
department of justice has the right to refuse registration if they think that
something is wrong with the application,' he explained, 'centralised status
doesn't really help, as the local department acts absolutely independently.'
(END)

II. KAZAKHSTAN: REINSTATED COUNCIL FOR RELIGIOUS
AFFAIRS TO PROMOTE CONFESSIONS LOYAL TO THE STATE?

by Aleksandr Shchipkov, Keston News Service

The Council for Links with Religious Associations (CLRA), a government
agency created by a 27 July 2000 statute, looks set to play a major role in
regulating religious life in Kazakhstan. If a draft law on religion (see KNS
19 February 2001) is adopted in the former Soviet republic, the CLRA is
almost certain to be the 'authorised state agency' charged with implementing
its host of state controls over religious organisations.

According to the 2000 statute, the CLRA is 'of an advisory nature' (Article
14). Among the numerous tasks and functions it is allocated, however, are
'participation in the formulation of the fundamental objectives of state policy
in the field of providing citizens with the right to freedom of conscience'
(Article 7.1), monitoring the operations of religious associations and of
foreign missionaries (Article 7.2), 'carrying out information and propaganda
drives' (Article 7.3), performing expert analysis, and making proposals for
the 'suppression of the activity of religious associations and foreign
missionaries who break the law' (Article 8.4).

Reporting directly to the Kazakh government, the CLRA is currently headed
by Altynbek Sarsenbayev, minister of Culture, Information and Public
Accord and one of the ideologues of President Nursultan Nazarbayev's
regime. Although the Council is based in the capital Astana, most of its ten
voluntary members live in the former capital, Almaty. Four are state
officials, four are academics, and two are 'from among the heads of the
leading confessions' (Article 4.16) - Archbishop Aleksei (Kutepov) of
Astana and Almaty and Chief Mufti Abdsattar Derbysalayev. In recent
meetings with Keston in Almaty, various sources told Keston that Amanbek
Mukhashov, the permanently-appointed deputy head of the council, is
directly responsible for practical policy, with a secretariat of four officials
working under him.

Speaking to Keston in his office on 9 February, lawyer at Almaty's Adilet
('Justice') Law Institute, Roman Podoprigora, voiced fears that the Council
will be allocated the sole authority to register religious organisations, license
foreign missionaries and give permission to publish religious literature once
a new law on religion is passed in Kazakhstan. According to the 2000
statute, however, the CLRA's main task is to work towards the
'harmonisation of interconfessional relations' (Article 2.5), which appears to
be the most pressing objective of the Nazarbayev regime.

Speaking to Keston by telephone from Astana on 21 February, Amanbek
Mukashov said that on 15 December 2000 the leadership of the Assembly of
Nations of Kazakhstan had adopted a decision to organise a council of
religious leaders under its auspices. One interreligious initiative already
under way, according to president of the Association of Religious
Organisations of Kazakhstan, Vladimir Leshevsky, is a Central Asian forum
entitled 'Dialogue Between Confessions - An Imperative of the Times.'

This forum, Leshevsky told Keston on 9 February, was set up in autumn
2000 by the Arab-Turkish Centre, which has close links with pro-
presidential political party Otan ('Fatherland'). It meets every two months
and is chaired by prominent religious groups, he said, with the Spiritual
Directorate of Muslims of Kazakhstan and the country's Orthodox dioceses
having already taken turns. Leshevsky told Keston that the organisers had
planned that the Catholic Church would chair the third session, but the
Catholics declined to take part in the forum, citing inadequate financial
resources. (Keston was unable to confirm this since the nunciature in Almaty
declined to give an interview when contacted on 6 February.) The next
session, on 27 March, is due to be chaired by Pentecostals, said Leshevsky.

The forum will conclude with the signing of an 'Almaty Declaration', which
purports to espouse universal religious values ('an understanding of the
priceless value of the soul', 'human conscience as an instinct that opens the
way to supreme justice', and so on). However, the declaration also warns that
there is 'a widespread emergence within virtually all the world religions of
religious extremist and terrorist organisations.' Those who have agreed to
this thesis sign the declaration and pledge to enter into a 'dialogue between
the confessions', with the aim of eradicating potential religious conflicts. The
document thus represents a collective guarantee of loyalty to the Kazakh
government's religious policy of war on 'religious extremism.' (END)

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