Issue 10, Article 16, 12 October 2000

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

SUMMARY: Three US missionaries and their children have been given a few
days to leave Vladimir despite the fact that they are in Russia at the invitation
of a centralised religious organisation registered with the federal Ministry of

Thursday 12 October 2000

by Tatyana Titova, Keston News Service

Three American missionaries have been told to leave the city of Vladimir (190
km east of Moscow), despite the fact that they are in Russia at the invitation of
a centralised religious organisation registered with the federal Ministry of
Justice. The three - AUSTIN SULLIVAN and KELLY and LISA
LINDENMUTH, with their two children - were invited by the Association of
Evangelical Christians Blagovest, which has a church in Vladimir. The
Americans are not being allowed to live in rented accommodation without
registration to live in the city, but their application for registration has also
been refused. The missionaries - who are from OMS International, with
headquarters in Greenwood, Indiana - intend to complain about the refusal to
register them to higher authorities - the district visa administration.

The head of the Vladimir city Visa and Registration Administration (UVIR) of
the Ministry of Internal Affairs, GALINA ALEKSANDROVA, speaking to
Keston on 2 October, justified the decision on the grounds that `they have a
reception organisation in Moscow, and they should base themselves there'.

Moscow lawyer YEKATERINA SMYSLOVA, head of the Esther legal centre,
told Keston on 2 October that on arrival the American missionaries followed
the normal procedures and registered their visas in Moscow, where the inviting
organisation is situated, before setting off for Vladimir. The church there is not
yet registered, but is a member of the Association of Evangelical Christians
Blagovest. On arrival in Vladimir, the three Americans rented living
accommodation and went to the UVIR to apply for registration at their
temporary place of residence. They were surprised to hear employees at the
UVIR tell them `You are not allowed to live here, you must stay in the place
where you were first registered - in Moscow.'

The head of the Russian representative office of OMS International, JOHN
CREECH, told Keston on 2 October that he would like to register the Vladimir
church, but that there were not yet ten Russian citizens willing to put their
names and passport details on the application. `The most recent thing we were
told at the local UVIR was - "Don't come back, we don't want to see you here
again. The police will be on your tail until they see that your presence in
Vladimir is legal".'

According to Smyslova, the missionaries may have made a mistake in that at
first they tried to register themselves as religious workers, invited by a religious
group. According to Russian law, foreign citizens may only be invited by
registered religious organisations. When they tried to register a second time,
this time as private individuals, they were told: `Go away. Either leave, or we
will take administrative measures [to ensure you do so].' UVIR officials gave
them until Monday 2 October to leave. According to Smyslova's most recent
information, this period was extended by two days, on condition that they left
their rented accommodation and moved into a city hotel.

The difficulty faced by the three Americans in Vladimir is not unique. Despite
the fact that the law does not empower them to do so, provincial officials
frequently refuse to register foreign missionaries if the religious organisation
that invited them has not been registered in the area. (END)

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