Russia Jails Three Pentecostals Amid Crackdown Against Christian Activities

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Monday, 13 June 2005
By BosNewsLife News Center

MOSCOW/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)-- Three Pentecostals have been jailed and nine fined for "illegally" demonstrating against Moscow's refusal to allow them to acquire a building, amid fears of a new crackdown on religious groups in Russia, church sources said Monday, June 13.

The news agency of well informed human rights group Forum 18 said the Pentecostal Christrians were seeking new accomodation for their apparently rapidly growing one-thousand member Emmanuel Pentecostal Church.

Some Christians reportedly received prison sentences of up to five days, while Judge Aleksandra Kovalevskaya also handed down fines ranging from 18 to 35 dollars, a large sum for pensioners and average workers, because of their participation in the May 30 protest.

However "since the demonstration, Emmanuel Church appears to be making progress," said Forum 18 News Service (F18News) in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife News Center. "The vice-chairman of Moscow's Department for Building Policy, Development and Reconstruction, Aleksandr Kosovan, has reportedly ordered that a plot of land be found where Emmanuel can build a church centre, with all planning work paid for by the Moscow government."


The demonstration was also to protest about perceived discrimination against Protestants in Russia. Last week news emerged that Russia's parliament's religion committee has begun to consider four draft amendments that would would make it impossible for unregistered religious organisations to hold large-scale religious meetings, F18News said.

The changes to the existing religious law would "allow only centralised religious organisations to invite foreigners for religious work," which analysts expect to hamper Christian activities in the post Communist nation.

"If we invite a priest to Moscow as the centre of the diocese and he is to work in a completely different place, such as Kaliningrad, it will take a long time to explain to officials there why the invitation came from Moscow," Catholic Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz told F18News.


Aleksandr Verkhovsky, editor at Sova Centre in Moscow, complained of another "dangerous" amendment allowing all religious communities applying for registration to have their religious doctrines analysed. "This is undesirable by its very nature in a secular society – a state should not determine which Islam (Orthodoxy, Pentecostalism and so on) is right and which is not," he was qouted as saying.

But religious rights lawyer Anatoli Pchelintsev reportedly remains sceptical that these proposed amendments stand a chance of being adopted. Church analysts have linked the recent reluctance towards active churches to concern within more conservative Russian Orthodox Churches and authorities to lose control over rapidly growing alternative churches in Russia.

Quoted in the English-language Moscow Times newspaper on June 10, International Religious Freedom Watch president and Orthodox Christian Lawrence Uzzell said Protestant churches throughout Russia are "being denied rental of rooms for religious services because of opposition from local Orthodox clergy," F18News monitored. Mikhail Moiseyev, chief spokesman for Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksi II denied such practices, insisting that Emmanuel's problems were "by no means connected to the Orthodox Church", F18News reported. (With reports from Russia and BosNewsLife Research)