Issue 10, Article 14, 9 October 2000

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

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complain that they have been beaten and barred from building a church in their
village; Greek Catholics told Keston that the homogeneity of the village was
broken by the arrival of Pentecostals and that people were angry of being
accused of �idol worship�.

Monday 9 October 2000

by Geraldine Fagan and Aleksandr Shchipkov, Keston News Service

`In Malovody village, Ternopil region, the local Greek Catholic community,
with the silent consent of local and regional state bodies, does not allow
Christians of the Evangelical Faith (Pentecostal), ministers and believers to
hold church services.' Thus claimed an anonymous report on recent violations
of religious freedom in Ukraine passed to Keston by Ukrainian member of
parliament VLADIMIR SHUSHKEVICH. It also stated that the Greek
Catholics of Malovody attacked Pentecostal ministers with sticks last March,
and that the village council has denied the congregation permission to build a
prayer house.

On 24 September Keston located both the village of Malovody (approximately
25 miles south-west of Ternopil city) and MIRON KOSTYETSKY, pastor of
the village's Pentecostal congregation of 23 believers. From October 1999, he
told Keston, Greek Catholic parishioners blocked the road to the village
whenever Pentecostals from the congregation's mother church in Ternopil city
tried to enter it to hold services at his house. Every time the police were
summoned, he said, `they did nothing, they just drove past'.

The situation came to a head last March, Kostyetsky recounted, when a group
of 20 Greek Catholic parishioners let the Ternopil Pentecostals into the village,
but later staged an ambush, beating both them and their car with sticks and
pelting them with rotten eggs and manure. At this point the regional public
prosecutor intervened in the conflict, said the pastor, and there had since been
no more pickets.

Kostyetsky told Keston that the Pentecostals' troubles were not over, however,
as they are still without permission to build. When his front room became too
small for the growing congregation, he said, the village council met on 16
August 1999 to consider his request to build on 100 square metres of land next
to his house. Permission was granted, stated Kostyetsky, but on the following
Sunday Greek Catholic parish priest Father IGOR FEDORISHIN found out
about the decision `and said that it must not be allowed'. At a second meeting
of the village council two days later, he said, Pentecostal PETRO LAIPA was
deselected from his post as council chairman and the decision to allocate the
land for the prayer house was overturned.

After the second meeting Father Igor warned the Pentecostals against trying to
build, claimed Kostyetsky, `but we countered that we'd build because in the
Ukrainian Constitution it says that every citizen has the right to freedom of
conscience and worship'.

The Ternopil region arbitration court ruled on 26 October 1999 that the
decision to overturn the allocation of land to the Pentecostals was correct.
Judge I. TURETSKY wrote that the original decision was made in
contravention of Ukrainian land law, because the 100 square metres next to
Kostyetsky's house constituted private land, which a village council does not
have the right to allocate. `Since the village council took an illegal decision,'
claims the judge, `it had the right to cancel it.'

Two other members of the Pentecostal congregation have recently been
discriminated against, claimed Kostyetsky: LESYA SOLTIS, a teacher of
Ukrainian language and literature, and IVAN MASLEI, a physics teacher.
Parents of the village school's 25 pupils refused to send their children to it in
protest that the teachers were Pentecostals, he said, and the pair were forced to
resign on 25 May. Arriving at the house for a service while Keston was
speaking with Kostyetsky, the two teachers confirmed that this was the case
and said that they were still unemployed.

Pastor Kostyetsky explained to Keston that he had founded the Pentecostal
congregation in the village just four years ago, before which he had been a
practising Greek Catholic: `I changed because I realised that if I continued to
go there I would not have eternal life, salvation.' Malovody is a village of
approximately 100 families where horses and carts outnumber cars by at least
two to one, and when Keston spoke to Father Igor about the situation he
explained that the appearance of the Pentecostal congregation had greatly upset
the homogeneity of the rural community.

Speaking to Keston on 24 September in the neighbouring village of Beneva,
Father Igor claimed that Malovody had previously been 100 per cent Greek
Catholic, since there are no Orthodox in the immediate area. The Pentecostals
had been able to flourish because they appeared at a time when there was only
one Greek Catholic priest for five villages, he said, and they had easily won
over the inhabitants: `Those of the Soviet generation have souls like a blank
exercise book - Pentecostals and Jehovah's Witnesses can write anything in it.'

Father Igor claimed not to know what had happened regarding the allocation of
land to the Pentecostals, but thought that Laipa had unduly influenced the
village council's initial decision. When the ambush took place last March he
was at a wedding in another area, he said; in his view the Ternopil Pentecostals
had provoked the conflict in order to make a video to support a claim to the
United States for asylum on grounds of religious persecution. The two school
teachers had been forced to resign because they had been preaching in lessons,
he said `when they were meant to be teaching Ukrainian and physics'.

According to Father Igor, the conflict had arisen not because of the
Pentecostals' beliefs, but because they had insulted the Greek Catholics:
`People were angry. They turned people against the church, priest, bells,
services, icons - they accused us of idol worship.' Unlike Catholics and
Orthodox, said Father Igor, who could not make fundamental alterations to
their liturgy, `Protestants deny the whole liturgy - they pose the threat.' (END)