KESTON NEWS SERVICE SUMMARY
Issue 4, Articles 2-25, 2 May 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
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LOCAL CONCERNS OVERRIDE RUSSIAN FEDERAL LAW IN KOSTROMA
(20 April). In clear contravention of Russian federal law, the justice department of
Kostroma province about 200 miles north-east of Moscow has convened a
committee of specialists on religion to examine the activities of a local Pentecostal
church belonging to a centralised religious organisation. The department bases its
suspicions on a videotape of the church�s prayer meeting. Clips were shown on local
television of one woman �falling in the Spirit� and another crying out as she was
prayed for. The pastor has been unable to obtain a written response as to why his
church has not been registered and fears that if the �expert analysis� concludes
hypnosis is used, his church will certainly not be registered.
Assistant head of the Kostroma justice department was sceptical about the
church�s relationship to the centralised organisation of which it is a member, saying it
seemed a �purely formal� rather than an organic relationship like the subordinated
status of parishes to the Moscow Patriarchate.

KURSK MAYOR TREATS BAPTISTS AS �SPIRITUAL ENEMIES� (18 April).
Both Baptists and Muslims have been refused land and permission to build in the city
by its mayor. After he ordered a Baptist notice board to be removed, the mayor gave
an interview on a Russian Orthodox Church radio broadcast. He stated, � We should
beat back our enemies, the spiritual enemy�Everyone is trying to cause division in
our Russian homeland. There are attempts from every side.� The city�s chief architect
lost his job for refusing to take down that sign which he�d given permission for - but
returned to his job after the sign disappeared.

BAPTIST LEADERS PROTEST ABOUT KNS ARTICLE (7 April). Two prominent
Baptist leaders - Russian AP Kozynko, the Rector of the Moscow Theological
Seminary and American Ed Tarleton, Mission Coordinator for the Southern Baptist
Convention (SBC) - have written to Keston protesting about the 1 February KNS
article �Will There be a New Baptist Seminary Building in Moscow?� One claims
specifically, and the other strongly implies, that there have been no disputes on this
issue between the SBC in the United States and the Union of Evangelical Christians-
Baptists in Russia. We are publishing the complete text of the protests together with a
letter from Keston�s director inviting the Baptists to provide more information. That
letter, sent more than three weeks ago, remains unanswered.

TATARSTAN�S SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS LIQUIDATION OF A
CHARISMATIC CONGREGATION (6 April). The Church of Christ in Kazan has
been liquidated for alleged infringements of social order because it held an internal
church conference without the permission of the local authorities. It is a member of
the Calvary Community centralised religious organisation which is in turn a member
of the Union of Evangelical Christians/Pentecostals. Registration of other churches
founded by the same pastor throughout the republic have been consistently delayed
for months or denied. For example, a Word of Faith church was registered under
Russian law but denied registration under Tatarstan�s own law (passed 21 July 1999).
In the past few weeks security service officers have tape recorded services.

RUSSIA: VORONEZH JUDGE REFUSES TO CLOSE DOWN BAPTIST
COMMUNITY BUT ORDERS LEADERS TO REGISTER THE ORGANISATION
AS NEWLY-FORMED (5 April). Once the local religious community of Evangelical
Christians/Baptists presented the district judge with proof that the Duma and Putin
had signed into law a reregistration deadline extension (31 December 2000), he halted
the hearing. But his next step was to order the church to seek registration as a newly
formed organisation instead of simply reregistration.

ALBANIA IMPOSES NEW REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS FOR FOREIGN
RELIGIOUS WORKERS ( 20 April) Albania�s State Cults Committee has introduced
new registration requirements for foreign religious workers, by which they must
receive written approval from the Cults Committee before gaining residency. Several
foreigners have alleged that these new rules, which are not authorised by statute, have
led to discrimination and harassment. Behar Bejko, head of the State Cults
Committee, repeatedly refused to inform Keston which law provided for this
requirement, referring all enquiries to the Internal Affairs Ministry (though he
declined to give any names or telephone numbers of relevant officials there). Fr
Henry Veldkamp, secretary to Roman Catholic Archbishop Rrok Mirdita, told Keston
that he is one of a �whole list� of foreign priests and sisters who have had bureaucratic
problems with the police regarding residence permits. He added, �We have asked
many times that churches and other religious communities be exempted from tax on
the import of materials for building churches and houses. We are after all a non-profit
organisation.� So far, he reports, the Catholics have asked in vain.

AZERBIAJAN: WILL BAKU�S RELIGIOUS MINORITIES GET BACK PLACES
OF WORSHIP? (7 April). While the Muslims and Russian Orthodox in Baku have
been able to regain all the surviving places of worship confiscated from them during
the Soviet era, the Ashkenazi Jews, Baptists and Lutherans have not. In the absence of
a law on restitution in Azerbaijan and with the implacable opposition of state officials
to the return of these places of worship, the latter know that only pressure on
Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev by the international community is likely to bring
success. Meanwhile, the Catholics hope to acquire a new site for a church, the Bahai
centre is now a kindergarten which they are not seeking to retrieve and the Armenian
cathedral - now used as a snooker hall - has not been asked for.

BAKU�S LUTHERANS WANT BACK THEIR CHURCH (7 April). Built before the
revolution by local Germans, the Kirche, as it is still known, remains owned by the
Ministry of Culture and is administered by the Philharmonic Orchestra. Parishioners
insisted they would apply for its return once their pastor was allowed to return and
internal issues were ironed out. While the Lutherans can use the church for free for
two hours on Sundays both the Adventists and the Greater Grace communities must
pay up to $150 per week to rent it.

BAKU�S EUROPEAN JEWS WANT BACK THEIR SYNAGOGUE (12 April). The
former synagogue now houses a song theatre employing 80 people. Whilst the head of
the European Jewish community (distinct from the Mountain Jews and the Georgian
Jews who retain separate synagogues in Baku today) told Keston �the [city]
representatives in principle are not against the return of the synagogue�, neither the
theatre director nor the head of the Mountain Jews thought a handover imminent. The
former insisted that alternative accommodation would have to be found for his
employees. The latter astutely observed that it was highly unlikely: �No law on
restitution has yet reached the Azerbaijani parliament. Why not? Because the
authorities know that if such a law were adopted, all of old Baku would belong to
someone else.�

BAKU�S BAPTISTS WANT BACK THEIR CHURCH (12 April). Both Azeri and
Russian Baptists agree they want back the 1911 building, now a barely functioning
cinema. Keston obtained copies of the state archive administrator�s letter (dated 16
September 1996) confirming the building was Baptist-owned. However, the head of
the department of the ministry that registers religious organisations told Keston
categorically that �the Baptist church cannot be given back as it wasn�t theirs�. The
chairman of the religious affairs department stressed they had nothing to do with the
matter but declined to specify which �state organisation� did.

WILL AZERGAIJAN REGISTER A BAPTIST UNION AND A GREATER GRACE
HEADQUARTERS? (12 April). When pressed by Keston whether the ministry which
registers religious organisations would register a Baptist Union, the head of the
department responded angrily, �Are you from an intelligence service? I don�t like the
sense of your questions.� The Baptists have two churches registered and hope three
more will be registered at which time they plan to submit registration documents for a
centralised religious organisation. Meanwhile, Greater Grace community plans to
apply for a headquarters so that they can then register at least eight other
congregations outside Baku. The reaction to these applications will provide a test case
as to how ready Azerbaijan authorities are to grant equality to religious groups as
prescribed in the law on religion.

AZERBAIJANI BAPTIST CHURCH FIVE YEARS WITHOUT REGISTRATION
(14 April). Officials in Azerbaijan have been denying official registration to a Baptist
congregation in the northern town of Aliabad for five years - longer than any other
religious body of any confession. Head of the Administration for Religious Affairs in
Baku, Mustafa Ibrahimov, denied any knowledge of the application and then
conceded he had met one of the church members three years earlier. Next Keston
asked the head of the department of the ministry that registers religious organisations,
Fazil Mamedov, about the case, but he flatly denied his administration had ever
received such an application. Once Keston showed him some of the church�s
numerous appeals, he declared that if the church lodged an appeal, �We will consider
it�.

BELARUS: MINSK AUTHORITIES AND SALE OF MATZO (20 April). Passover
begins this evening - but dozens of Jews in Belarus may not have the matzo so crucial
to celebrating the seder. After rumours spread that the matzo was being �sold� at the
Central Synagogue in Minsk, the tax inspectors halted its distribution, turned 50
people away and tried to take Keston�s representative off synagogue territory by
force.
Multiple and contradictory instructions make importing the matzo
difficult enough, but recuperating the cost is even more complex. Thus instead of
selling the matzo, the synagogue agreed with its parishioners that those who donated
to the cost of a new building planned for the autumn would receive matzo. A Ministry
of Justice source stated that �Our law has been drawn up in such a way that it is
impossible not to break it�.

BELARUS: POLICE RAID FLAT AND ILLEGALLY TAKE ITEMS FROM
ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP (13 April) and BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES
REFUSE TO RETURN CONFISCATED VESTMENTS (17 April). Vestments worth
$US 8,000 have been seized by the Minsk police department without their producing
documentation permitting a search of a private home. Archbishop Hushcha of the
Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (BAOC) is in hiding; meanwhile his
brother resides in his flat and was forced to stand on one leg, facing the wall, for two
hours during the search 18/19 March. When a priest of the BAOC tried to reclaim the
vestments on 6 April, his church was accused of �destroying Slavic unity� by the
procuracy official who announced he�d be giving the vestments to the Orthodox
Exarchate (subject to the Moscow Patriarchate). The vestments were a gift from the
BAOC Patriarch in the United States. From hiding, Archbishop Hushcha told Keston
that he had received full support from the Patriarch and Holy Synod of the Ukrainian
Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

BELARUS POLICE OFFICIAL INSISTS ON DEPORTATION OF PRIEST (18
April).As well as CATHOLIC PARISH DEFENDS ITS PRIEST (13 April),
AUTHORITIES EXPEL POLISH CATHOLIC PRIEST TODAY (14 April),
CARDINAL ORDERS PRIEST TO DEFY EXPULSION ORDER (14 April). As of
18 April, parishioners continue to guard Fr Karolyak around the clock, while the local
police chief insists that deportation will go ahead if he does not choose to leave. The
police chief admitted that the lack of registration for Fr Karolyak resulted from the
refusal of the government�s Council for Religious and Ethnic Affairs (CRA) to
approve the Catholic Church�s request for approval for Fr Karolyak to work as a
priest. The government wants him to register as a private individual so that he cannot
practice as a priest; the CRA wants him to acknowledge their authority in deciding
where he can practice as a priest; the CRA in Brest, where he is now. stated that
although they would not register him, he could go anywhere else in Belarus. However
that would be contingent upon another CRA allowing him to work as a priest in their
region. One official of the Brest Council for Religious Affairs denied any force would
be used to deport Fr Karolyak. Meanwhile, Fr Karolyak�s Cardinal has told him to
stay put and he continues to hold services.

TURKMEN POLICE ILLEGALLY USING DEPORTED BAPTISTS' PROPERTY?
(18 April). Since December 1999 six Russian and Ukrainian Baptist families have
been deported from Turkmenistan. According to the Council of Churches of
Evangelical Christians/Baptists, two of these families� homes - which they still own -
are occupied by local police and their relatives who also use a deportee�s car for
police duties. The police and KNB(the renamed KGB) refused to answer Keston�s
questions. The Russian government has done nothing to help the families and Ukraine
has said it will not raise the issue with Turkmenistan.

TURKMEN AUTHORITIES THREATEN TO SUPPRESS RUSSIAN-LANGUAGE
BAPTIST CONGREGATION (4 April). Turkmenistan has the most repressive
religious policy of all the former Soviet republics, as illustrated in the following
examples. Having suppressed the Turkmen-speaking Baptist congregation in the
capital Ashgabad, the Turkmen authorities have reportedly promised to crush the
associated Russian-language congregation in the near future. A Baptist church in the
eastern town of Mary has been sealed by the authorities to prevent believers from
meeting there. It had been opened only one month after being purchased late last year
when police swooped, sealing the premises, seizing all copies of the Bible and taking
the names and places of work of all the members. The police later visited their work
places and threatened the Baptists with dismissal. Stranded in the town of
Turkmenabad since his passport was seized a few months ago, Rahim Tashov, the
leader of the local Baptist church in Turkmenabad, is still unable to work or travel,
either within the country or outside it. Shortly after a police raid on a Baptist church
in Beizman �many of those present were deprived of their jobs� the Baptist Union of
Central Asia told Keston.

UKRAINE: END OF THE LINE FOR CRIMEAN PARISH SCHOOL? (7 April).
Five years after being refounded in the Crimean town of Yalta, an Orthodox parish
school is under threat of closure unless it sheds its status as a religious school, despite
the wishes of parents and children for the school to continue as it is. Revitalised at the
request of parishioners and due to the efforts of the local dean Archpriest Adam
Dmitryenko, the school follows standard state curriculum with extra lessons in church
singing, catechism and English. At the same time, in none of the 20 state schools in
the Yalta district have local clergy been granted permission to hold religion classes.

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