KESTON NEWS SERVICE: SUMMARY
Issue 6, Articles 1-6
5 June 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.
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RUSSIAN REGIONAL SNAPSHOT: RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE IN
NIZHNI NOVGOROD (1 June). Although both a Baptist and a charismatic
minister complained of the Russian Orthodox Church�s undue influence in the
city, none of the religious groups Keston interviewed had anything but praise
for the city government. The Ministry of Justice told the charismatic pastor to
let them know if she was attacked or branded a �sect�. Meanwhile the city
authorities helped the Lutherans retain space rented from the army. It even
handed back land to the Catholic Church after the priest proved where the
Catholic Church had stood earlier in the 20th century. His relations with the
Orthodox are good as well: Metropolitan Nikolai ceremonially returned two
chalices which had been confiscated by the Soviets in the 1920s.

TAX POLICE RAID SIBERIAN CATHOLIC CENTRE (30 May). On 11 May
officers of the Russian tax police raided the Jesuit-run Centrum Spiritualitatis
Inigo in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, during which they held all the Jesuits
at the centre and their lay helpers in detention for four hours. The police
confiscated documents, 104 videos, a computer and video recorder, none of
which have been returned. According to the Centre�s lawyer, the tax police
have no right to enter the property of religious organisation; they have refused
to explain any reasons for the raid. Head of the Catholic Apostolic
Administration for West Siberia, bishop Joseph Werth, has written to President
Putin in Werth�s capacity as a member of the Inter-religious Council which
reports to the Russian President.

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES SEE BREAKTHROUGH FROM ARMENIA'S
COUNCIL OF EUROPE APPLICATION (31 May). As Armenia�s application
to join the Council of Europe is to be considered 26-30 June, the Jehovah�s
Witnesses seem set to be the main religious beneficiaries of the country�s likely
accession. Two conditions upon its accession are that all religious groups
should be able to achieve registration and that all conscientious objectors
should be freed. The Jehovah�s Witnesses are the only religious group not to
have received registration; all known imprisoned conscientious objectors are
also Jehovah�s Witnesses. Armenia would also be required to agree to adopt a
law on alternative military service within four years of its accession.

ARMENIAN JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES ON THE BRINK OF
REGISTRATION? (31 May). Armenia�s senior religious affairs official has
confirmed that detailed negotiations on registration are underway between a
team from the Jehovah�s Witnesses and government officials. It comes a little
over a month after the National Security Ministry orchestrated attempts in
various parts of Armenia to prevent the Jehovah�s Witnesses from celebrating
the Memorial of Jesus Christ�s death on 19 April. On 30 March, customs
confiscated 734 kg (1600 lbs) of their literature. In both instances, lack of
registration was the reason given.

�NO-ONE TOLD US OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY VIOLATIONS IN
AZERBAIJAN� SAYS COUNCIL OF EUROPE (29 May). Because religious
organisations made no complaints in a meeting with Council of Europe
representatives several years ago, no follow up on their situation was done.
Since then, during the Council�s trips to Baku, when representatives received
petitions about other human rights violations, it heard nothing from any
religious organisation. However, when Keston visited Baku earlier this year it
found well-documented delays in registration, raids on religious meetings,
detention of religious leaders, dismissal of religious activists from their jobs,
and refusal to return confiscated places of worship. While religious
organisations hope the situation will improve upon accession to membership,
state officials told Keston that it would not result in any changes in either the
legal framework of in ways it interacted with religious communities.

BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES' NEW DEPORTATION DEADLINE
IMMINENT (30 May). Fr Zbigniew Karolyak, the Catholic priest who has
fallen into disfavour with the Belarusian authorities, faces a new deadline of 1
June to leave Belarus. Sources close to Cardinal Swiatek have told Keston that
Fr Karolyak has received no order from the Cardinal to leave the parish, in
contrast to the head of the police in Brest who cited an order from the Cardinal
for the priest to do so. The police chief announced that Karolyak would be
turned out by force though no steps have yet been taken - possibly because of
active support from his parishioners.

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