KESTON NEWS SERVICE: SUMMARY
Issue 5, Articles 13-18
18 May 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.
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ORTHODOX EASTER GREETINGS IGNITE NEW TENSIONS IN
MONTENEGRO (18 May). Immediately described by the opposition as
�unprincipled� and his action as �a dangerous precedent that has further
worsened the political situation in Montenegro�, the president of Montenegro
issued Easter greetings to both the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) and the
Montenegrin Orthodox Church (MOC). Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios
promptly sent a letter to the president to clarify that the MOC was not
recognised as canonical by any Orthodox church and its alleged Metropolitan
was not recognised as a canonical bishop. Regardless, one family clan decided
to hand over 15 church buildings to the MOC - an action which the SOC has
forbidden. Meanwhile the MOC�s leader Metropolitan Mihajlo has defended
his church�s autocephaly and said that while they have only 11 priests now,
�about 30 priests are inquiring�.

ISLAMIC MILITANTS BEHIND RAID ON KOSOVAN PENTECOSTAL
CHURCH? (18 May). The Fellowship of the Lord�s People, an Assemblies of
God Church in the Kosovan capital Prishtina, was raided by self-proclaimed
Islamic militants in the early hours of 29 April. The robbers, who claimed to
represent the Kosovo branch of an organisation linked to Saudi Osama bin
Laden, threatened the occupants with guns and tied them up during a two-hour
raid and stole a considerable sum of money, a computer and other valuable
items of equipment. They daubed the door and the walls of the church building
with Islamic slogans. The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has
listed the incident as �robbery and vandalism� and has �no leads� that Islamic
militants were behind the raid. Meanwhile local newspapers and radio have
given it a lot of attention. Despite �many�anonymous phone calls to [the]
church that they are going to kill us all, and burn this church down�, the
Pentecostals pledges to continue the work.

CRIMEA�S KARIATES MUST PAY TO PRAY AT THEIR OWN SHRINE
(16 May). Although registered in 1991 - and allegedly in existence in the
Crimea since the 13th century - the government has not returned one of the
Karaite community�s shrines or buildings to its ownership. Their religious
centre, Tchufut Kale, is a museum in a conservation area so sometimes in order
to enter the temple, they must buy tickets. Meanwhile the Simferopol kenessa
will not be returned until another site and money are found for the occupants -
Ukraine�s Radio Committee. A member explained to Keston, �We recognise
the Pentateuch but not the Talmud. Though historically we used Hebrew, now
we speak Turkish and prayers - though written in Hebrew - are said in Turkish.
[Since 7th century AD] we honour Christ and Mohammed as prophets.�

UKRAINIAN AUTHORITIES EXPEL BESSARABIAN ORTHODOX
PRIEST (12 May). Fr Asargiu, a priest of the Bessarabian jurisdiction of the
Orthodox Church in Moldova, was arrested, held for three days and expelled
from Ukraine after visiting his native village in March to pray at the grave of
his mother. The chairman of the State Committee for Religious Affairs in Kiev
told Keston �There is no ban on priests of the Bessarabian jurisdiction serving
in Ukraine.� However his local representative in the area in which Fr Asargiu
was arrested said, �The Bessarabian Metropolitanate does not exist. The
Orthodox world does not recognise it as a canonical jurisdiction.� In 1996, Fr
Asargiu was invited to serve as parish priest by the local community. However,
Keston was told that in 1998 the local authorities and the Ukrainian Orthodox
Church (Moscow Patriarchate) forced the parish to accept transfer to the
jurisdiction of its Diocese of Odessa; Fr Asargiu was expelled by the local
police and banned from entering Ukraine for five years.

KESTON NEWS SERVICE FACTFILE. BIOGRAPHIES OF MEMBERS OF
THE DUMA COMMITTEE FOR SOCIAL AND RELIGIOUS
ORGANISATIONS (12 May). Following the elections in December 1999 to
the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, a new Committee
for Social and Religious Organisations was chosen. The Fact File includes
information on whether or not they were members of or worked for the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union, have any criminal record, maintain any
religious affiliation and have experience working with or in religious
organisations. For example, Yekaterina Lakhova has been a state adviser on
family issues and child health; Gadzhi Makhachev has been imprisoned twice
and this year knocked down a political opponent �with a single blow�.

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