KESTON NEWS SERVICE: SUMMARY
Issue 6 Article 27 - Issue 7 Article 25
21 July 2000
Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.
RUSSIA: ORTHODOX ADVANCE, BUT MUSLIMS LAG IN
REREGISTRATION PROCESS. With just over five months to go before the
expiry of the extended deadline for the reregistration of religious organisations
under Russia�s controversial 1997 law on religion, many local religious
organisations seem certain to miss the deadline and face compulsory
RUSSIAN REREGISTRATION PROGRESS REPORT. What percentage of
Muslim, Russian Orthodox (Moscow Patriarchate), Orthodox under other
jurisdictions, Old Believers, Roman Catholic and Jewish groups have been
Wednesday 19 July 2000
ARE FOREIGN MISSIONARIES BEING DRIVEN OUT OF RUSSIA?
Keston Investigations finds expulsions rising
A significant number of foreign Christian missionaries have been expelled
from Russia, with an increased number over the past year, reveals a major
investigation by Keston News Service. Other missionaries are being obstructed
in their work.
CASE ONE: �GOD HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS�. A US Protestant
missionary working in one of European Russia's `Red Belt' (communist-
controlled) regions was expelled in 1997 after being summoned to a closed
meeting with two FSB agents, who accused him of being in the region
fraudulently and demanded names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail
addresses, types of visa and names of inviting agencies for every missionary in
his organisation, `so that we can deport them from Russia'. When the
missionary pointed out that this could be construed as religious persecution,
one FSB officer reportedly replied: `God has nothing to do with this.'
CASE TWO: MINISTRY BARRED FROM FAR EAST RUSSIAN REGION.
A western missionary conducting humanitarian aid work in a region in the Far
East of Russia, whose ministry is barred from the region, was himself barred
from the area earlier this year, although in April he was allowed a brief visit.
The Russian security organs are disturbed by western missionary activity in
this remote part of Russia. In a 28 February letter to the chairman of Russia's
State Committee on Affairs of the North, two officials of the Russian Academy
of State Service (which is attached to the presidential administration) warn that
the geopolitical plans of the United States are aimed at `wresting away from
Russia the Chukhotka Autonomous Okrug, and after that all of the Far East.' A
significant role in this design, they claim to believe, is played by `the religious
invasion of a huge number of American Protestant preachers who have
recently been stepping up their activity in the Far East.'
CASE THREE: SEVEN US PROTESTANTS FORCED OUT OF
BASHKORTOSTAN. Seven US citizens with a `Christian works relief
organisation' had their visas to work in the Urals republic of Bashkortostan
abruptly curtailed and were forced to leave Russia by 1 June. The Bashkir
president was reportedly enraged to discover a Bashkir-language Gospel of St
Luke. The head of Bashkortostan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Keston the
Americans had been asked to leave because they were conducting religious
activity while holding humanitarian aid visas, and these activities were
`incompatible'. The group leader told Keston: `The [Bashkortostan] president
uses the local FSB as his police force to intimidate people.'
CASE FOUR: �ENTRY TO RUSSIA PERMANENTLY DENIED�. American
Church of Christ missionary David Binkley founded a congregation in 1994 in
the Far Eastern port of Magadan, but was accused of smuggling by local
officials last year. He was eventually cleared of all charges, but a new religious
work visa issued in March for him to return to Magadan was suddenly revoked
by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow in May. He was later told by the
Russian embassy in Washington that entrance to Russia is denied
`permanently'. He has since been barred entry to Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
CASE FIVE: LOCAL OFFICIAL DENIES ENTRY TO CS LEWIS
LECTURE BY US MINISTER. In May access was barred by a city official to
the Palace of Culture in Rostov-on-Don, where a Protestant pastor from Texas,
a frequent visitor to Russia, was due to deliver the first in a series of lectures on
Christian writer C.S. Lewis. The local church organising the lectures had failed
to put its name on the posters advertising the event.
CASE SIX: GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR EXPELLED. According to the
Department for Internal Affairs in the Volgograd region, there was no reason
for Pastor Behrens to stay because his community had not yet achieved
reregistration. Further, his church would not be reregistered if he remained;
although he moved to Berlin, it has still not been reregistered. To Keston�s
knowledge there are no legal grounds for the Volgograd authorities to have
CASE SEVEN: US MISSIONARY EXPELLED AND THRICE DENIED A
VISA. The local newspapers wrote about Landreth ��the local department of
the FSB told us that practically all American religious organisations working
abroad are in some way or other connected with the US security services�. He
was also told by the local police that he was breaking the law by �having social
interaction outside church activities� (ie conducting any humanitarian work).
BAPTISTS CONTINUE TO FACE DIFFICULTIES IN KURSK (17 July).
The town�s mayor announced on the radio, �I tore these Baptist banners down�
and has refused to meet the Baptists for two years. The Orthodox archbishop
for the region told pastor Petkov that he met Petkov in obedience to the
Biblical command to �love your enemies�; the diocesan secretary told Keston
�Let the Baptists be unhappy, our state religion is Orthodoxy after all.�
MOSCOW CATHOICS TO CONTEST PRIVATISATION OF
CONFISCATED CATHOLIC CHURCH (10 July). For more than nine years
the Catholics have been appealing to the government and to the Moscow
authorities for the return of the Ss Peter and Paul Church in the city centre,
together with four buildings adjoining it that were also confiscated during the
Soviet era and more recently transfered to a private company. The company
owners won�t allow a priest to use one room to say Mass or to view the inside
of the buildings.
OFFICIALS CLAIM MISSIONARIES ARE AGENTS OF US PLOT TO
SEIZE RUSSIA�S FAR EAST (5 July). Both Russian government officials and
clergy of the Moscow Patriarchate are spreading the view that American
Protestant missionaries are in Russia as part of a US government plot to
transfer Chukotka, Magadan and other Far Eastern regions from RuSsian to
American sovereignty. Keston reports from the Far East.
DID FSB BLOCK PASSPORT OF EMBATTLED KOSTROMA PASTOR?
(5 July). The pastor of a Pentecostal church in the town of Kostroma near
Moscow has been blocked from receiving a new passport in time for him to
travel to a Christian conference in South Africa. His church was refused
reregistration in May and there is now a case to liquidate it pending. A number
of official agencies� had to check Danilov�s passport - and one failed to return
the documentation on time; Danilov believes it was the FSB (former KGB).
RUSSIA: BAPTISTS WARNED NOT TO DISTRIBUTE RELIGIOUS
LITERATURE (3 July). Police have threatened to arrest local Baptists if they
continue to hand out free religious literature. The police chief told Keston that
the Baptists had committed a crime, even by giving away the literature free of
charge, despite constitutional guarantees of freedom to disseminate religious
BELARUS, CROATIA, GEORGIA, HUNGARY, POLAND,
BELARUS: MINSK AUTHORITIES BAN CATHOLIC PROCESSION (14
July). Following the repeated ban on holding a procession to mark the feast of
Corpus Christi, the Catholics in the Belarusian capital Minsk have now given
up the attempt. The procession was revived in 1991 and held along the same
route for nine years without problems from the government. The official who
signed the ban declined to speak about it, the Committee for Religious Affairs
and the KGB denied having anything to do with it, but the parish priest
believes the reason was �political�.
CROATIA: AUTHORITIES DEMOLISH ORTHODOX BUILDING
ERECTED WITHOUT PERMIT. A building constructed for use as a church
has been demolished as part a wider campaign regarding buildings constructed
without a permit under the late President Tudjman�s government. Intended for
use by Serbian refugees during the 1992-95 war in Croatia, four people who
claim ownership of the land (three of whom are Croats) said they never gave
such permission and wanted their land returned.
GEORGIA: TBILISI JEWS TO TRY TO RECOVER SYNAGOGUE
THROUGH SUPREME COURT (11 July). Recently the district court in the
Georgian capital Tbilisi upheld an appeal presented by the management of a
theatre troupe that is refusing to move out of a building the Jewish community
claims is a former synagogue. The Jewish community has vowed to take its
long-running battle to recover the building to Georgia�s Supreme Court.
GEORGIA�S JEHOVAH�S WITNESSES TO CHALLENGE COURT
DECISION ON REVOKED REGISTRATION (7 July). They are to file an
appeal at the Supreme Court within the next few weeks against a ruling by a
court in the capital Tbilisi that the registration of two of the group�s entities
should be revoked. In the absence of a law on religion in Georgia, most
religious groups have no status as juridical persons. Orthodox, Jewish and
Lutheran representatives confirmed to Keston that they have not registered as
HUNGARY: DOES TAX DISCRIMINATION HERALD WIDER
DISCRIMINATION? Representatives of ten Hungarian minority religions
submitted a petition to the Constitutional Court arguing that a recently adopted
amendment to the law on value-added tax (VAT) violates the law on freedom
of religion. They link it to the government�s dissatisfaction with the 1990 law
on religion, which it regards as too liberal. According to one church leader, the
government is trying to achieve their aims by incorporating restrictions into
laws that need only majority support.
POLAND STEPS UP MEASURES AGAINST NEW RELIGIOUS
MOVEMENTS (5 July). Poland�s Interior Ministry plans to set up a special
department to monitor new religious movements amid growing public concern
over the activities of such groups in the country. However, a leading official
Keston that religious freedom would be unaffected and denied that the move
would add to pressure on religious groups outside the predominant Roman
Catholic Church; minority religious groups weren�t as confident.
TURKMENISTAN BARS REVIVIAL OF ARMENIAN CHURCH (17 July).
Resistance by the secular authorities and by the Moscow Patriarchate continues
to prevent the Armenian Apostolic Church from reviving any of its half-dozen
parishes in Turkmenistan which it maintained pre-1917.
TURKMEN SECRET AGENT TRIES TO ENTRAP KESTON VISITOR (14
July). At a meeting to discuss the Bahai faith, Keston realised his interlocutor
knew very little about the subject and was more interested in developing a
social relationship than in discussing religious freedom.
TURKMENISTAN CONTINUES HARSH MEASURES AGAINST
PROTESTANTS (14 July). Keston heard repeated accounts of police raids on
worship services, confiscation of Bibles and other religious literature,
commands to pastors from the secular authorities to stop holding religious
gatherings, and reprisals against believers at their places of work or study.
TURKMEN CRA OFFICIAL ADMITS PROTESTANTS NOT A THREAT
TO STATE (14 July). Contradicting numerous accounts Keston received both
from Protestants and from independent observers, an official of the Council of
Religious Affairs told Keston that authorities would not act to prevent
unregistered bodies from conducting worship services in private homes.
Baptists, Adventists and Pentecostals lost their registration under 1996
amendments to the republic�s law on religion.
TURKMEN CRA OFFICIAL ADMITS THAT GOVERNMENT CONTROLS
ALL CLERGY APPOINTMENTS (13 July) In a rare conversation with an
independent journalist, an official of Turkmenistan's Council for Religious
Affairs (CRA) admitted to Keston News Service that the council exercises
direct control over the hiring, promotion and sacking of both Sunni Muslim
and Russian Orthodox clergy - despite the fact that this role is nowhere listed
among the CRA's duties in the country's law on religion. To Keston's
knowledge, such detailed government management of the internal affairs of
religious confessions is unparalleled in any other former Soviet republic. As
the Sunni Muslims and the Russian Orthodox Church are the only religious
groups with official registration in Turkmenistan, this means that the
government controls the appointment of all the country's legally-permitted
TURKMENISTAN: BAPTIST PRISONER REPORTEDLY HOLDING FIRM.
SHAGELDY ATAKOV is reportedly holding firm in Turkmenistan; he has gained
the respect of fellow prisoners and has not faced another term in the camp punishment
cell as reportedly threatened.
AMERICAN MISSIONARY BANNED FROM RUSSIA, KAZAKHSTAN -
AND NOW UKRAINE (21 July). He was given two minutes to get back on the
plane to London and was refused permission to contact the US embassy in
Kiev. The Ukrainian vice-consul in New York stated that Binkley was not on a
black list - or he would not have received a visa; instead the vice-consul
surmised that the decision to refuse entry could only have been taken by the
Security Service of Ukraine (SBU, for successor to the KGB).
CRIMEA: OBSTRUCTIONS TO PASTORAL VISIT OF UKRAINIAN
PATRIARCH (21 July). Kiev Patriarch reports that his trip was successful and
he visited everywhere he had planned to visit; members of the Moscow
Patriarchate state that though it was not officially organised, protesters indeed
assembled along his routes and he was not received at any high levels.
Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.