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Kremlin/St. Petersburg/: Religions under attack

Antisectarian conference in St. Petersburg

 Sect-Warrior Alexander DVORKIN becomes "FECRIS" Vice President

Russia Religion News 

Alexander Dvorkin

The leading Russian sect scholar, professor, director of "Center of Religious Studies Research" and "Russian Association of Centers for the Study of Religions and Sects," and chairman of the Council for Conducting State Religious Studies Expert Analyses of the Ministry of Justice of RF, Alexander Dvorkin, was elected vice president of the "European Federation of Research Centers for Information about Sects" (FECRIS).

This was the result of the annual conference of the organization which was held 15-17 May in St. Petersburg. FECRIS itself was organized fifteen years ago and is the official consultant of the Council of Europe on matters of totalitarian sects. Members of the organization have gathered annually for their conferences. Previous ones have been held, for example, in Vienna, Barcelona, Brussels, and Hamburg. Now the honor of conducting FECRIS conferences has been handed for the first time to Russia. It is symbolic that the place for the forum was the Law Faculty of St. Petersburg State University, where Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev studied.

Sectarians and their supporters tried by all means possible to prevent the holding of the event, especially after they learned that Russian minister of Justice Alexander Konovalov would attend. Thus the "Slavic Legal Center," which already is well known for its activity in defense of nontraditional cults, and the tiny "Institute of Religion and Law," which occupies the center's premises and was just registered in March as a "private scientific research institution," began whipping up hysteria, declaring that the conference signifies an attack on "believers' rights" and the minister's presence there is virtually a crime against the constitutional structure.

Nevertheless, St. Petersburg authorities did not permit sectarians and their supporters to conduct a protest demonstration at the entrance to the university. Thus the event's participants were met by only one picketer (according to reports not fully sane) running occasionally past the entrance, hastily distributing leaflets, at times representing the Falun Gong totalitarian cult and at others Scientology.

The international academic conference titled "Totalitarian Sects and the Human Right to Secure Existence" had twenty lecturers and about 100 participants. The countries that had citizens attending the event included Russia, Belorussia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Greece, Cyprus, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Great Britain, France, Belgium, Sweden, and USA. Its importance was signaled by the fact that the presidium of the conference included the honorary president of the Association of Nongovernmental Organizations of the Council of Europe, Anneliza Oshger, and all attendees were greeted by the rector of the St. Petersburg State University, Nikolai Kropachev.

A heavy working schedule prevented Minister of Justice Alexander Konovalov from attending the opening of the conference and greetings in his name were delivered by the head of the Department for Affairs of Noncommercial Organizations of the Ministry of Justice of RF, Sergei Milushkin. There also was a report from Deputy Minister of Justice Alexei Velichko titled "Possibilities for coordination of European and Russian experience in resisting totalitarian sects."  Alexander Konovalov himself arrived on the second day of the even and held an hour-long meeting with the FECRIS leadership.

Besides Alexander Dvorkin and prominent bureaucrats, our country was represented at the conference by members of the Council for Conducting State Religious Expert Analysis of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation Alexander Kusmin, who delivered a report titled "The threat to Russian state security on the part of neo-Pentecostal totalitarian sects," and Evgeny Mukhtarov, who delivered a report titled "How totalitarian sects exploit nongovernmental organizations and public events for advertisement and persuasion." Simultaneous translations of the reports were made into four languages and illustrative materials were displaying on two gigantic screens.

All of the speakers were united on the main point: governments of various countries must devote great attention not only to the struggle against totalitarian sects but also to preventive measures against their development. For now France is leading on this matter, where a law on sects has been adopted, whose implementation is overseen by a special inter-ministerial commission. In addition, in Belgium totalitarian cults regularly receive "slaps on the wrists;" this was described by a representative of the country's Ministry of Justice, Christof Kaliman. However, even in Slovakia things are pretty good; a bureau for monitoring activity of sects operates immediately under the government of this country. Conference attendees viewed the film "The mission of Scientology," prepared by the "Mattias" company and also an impressive video showing what happens at meetings of the neo-Pentecostals of the Riga totalitarian sect "New Generation," whose leader, Alexei Lediaev, was denied entrance onto Russian territory.

On 17 May the General Assembly of FECRIS was held. Its participants noted that the organization has developed steadily under the leadership of Friedrich Griss of Austria. But it is becoming more difficult for the 77-year-old to bear the burden of day-to-day work. Thus the election of a new FECRIS president was conducted. He is Sir Thomas Geoffrey Sackville, a graduate of Oxford University and former first deputy minister of internal affairs of Great Britain; and Alexander Dvorkin assumed the post of vice-president of the organization.

"I consider this as great confidence shown not only toward me but also toward my Russian colleagues," Alexander Dvorkin told the Agency of National News on Wednesday. "Participation of a representative of Russia in the leadership of the organization, which is an official consultant of the Council of Europe, raises the status of our country and clearly demonstrates its intention to combat generally the violations of human rights in criminal communities, including their manifestations in the form of totalitarian sects." (tr. by PDS, posted 22 May 2009)


RUSSIAN MINISTER OF JUSTICE CONDUCTS CLOSED MEETING WITH REDICAL SECT SCHOLARS
Portal-credo.ru, 22 May 2009


Russian Minister of Justice Alexander Konovalov held a closed meeting in Petersburg with radical "sect scholars" and the leadership of the "European Federation of Research Centers for Information about Sects" (FECRIS). The meeting was held at the time of an "antisectarian" conference titled "Totalitarian sects and the human right to secure existence," which was held in St. Petersburg 15-16 May, the Slavic Legal Center reports, citing ANN.

As the "Agency of National News" (ANN) notes, a heavy work schedule prevented Minister of Justice Alexander Konovalov from arriving for the opening of the conference and greetings to the participants in his name were read by the head of the Department for Affairs on Noncommercial Orgnizations of the Ministry of Justice of RF, Sergei Milushkin. There also was heard a report by Deputy Minister of Justice Alexei Velichko, "Possibilities for coordination of European and Russian experience in combating totalitarian sects." Alexander Konovalov himself arrived for the second day of the event and held an hour-long meeting with the leadership of FECRIS. . . .

It had previously been reported that during the conference, which was picketed by advocates for the preservation of the secular state in Russia, radical Orthodox "sect scholars" and members of the council of the Ministry of Justice of RF stated that the Ministry of Justice will not permit the registration of religious organizations that have not collected adequate information about themselves with the aid of the council that comprises fighters against "sects," the Council for Conducting State Religious Expert Analysis of the Ministry of Justice of RF, headed by "sect scholar" Alexander Dvorkin.

Dvorkin, the primary organizer of the antisectarian conference "Totalitarian sects and the human right to secure existence," called for the development of a "precise legislative mechanism" for the struggle against "sects." (tr. by PDS, posted 22 May 2009)


AUDIENCE CONCERNED FOR HEALTH OF SPEAKERS.
Impressions of an eye-witness attending "antisectarian" conference in St. Petersburg

By Mikhail Bogdanov
Baznica.info, 20 May 2009

According to the announcement, the conference in St. Petersburg was supposed to be a a model of respect for individual civil rights, but in fact it turned out to be closed; not everyone who wished, and not even representatives of news media, were able to gain access inside.

In effect, the conference was conducted in the closed manner of sectarianism. All around the building of the Law Faculty of St. Petersburg State University were stationed agents of GIBDD, MVD, and FSB. It was impossible for an ordinary person to reach the building, to say nothing of attending the conference itself. Entry was permitted in strict accordance with a specific list and if a person who wished to attend the conference was not found on the list, he simply was shown the exit. They did not even permit entry to several TV stations.

All of our attempts to gain accreditation from TBN television for the antisectarian conference also were not crowned with success. One might conclude that such extraordinary measures of precaution were evoked by some unprecedented action of totalitarian sects in Petersburg and by fear that the angry sectarians would break into the hall with machine guns. This was a complete delusion. No such activity was observed in or near the northern capital. Everything was calm. And manifestations of violence have been connected in the past with phenomena of the neo-Nazi attitudes of a certain portion of the youth. And they were not dealing with that.

The first part of the conference was devoted to Scientology and Jehovah's Witnesses.

In the second part of the conference they tried to equate the evangelical churches with Scientology and Jehovah's Witnesses.

It was stressed that, and I quote:  "neo-Pentecostal sects threaten the health of the nation and the security of Russia." It was frequently stated that in Russia the so-called "neo-Pentecostal sects" at any moment might make a revolution or overthrow the government. They cited as an example the activity of "neo-Pentecostals" of the Volga region, where, as speaker Alexander Kuzmin, the director of the Saratov division of the Center of Religious Studies Research, said active work with youth is being conducted. Young people are attracted to various programs and activities. And the youth sympathize completely with them.

There also were brought up the examples of the "orange revolution" in Ukraine in which the church of Sunday Adeladzha took an active part, and the mayor of Kiev does not conceal his adherence to the "neo-Pentecostals," and supposedly what happened in Ukraine could be repeated in Russia also.

In his speech Kuzmin maintained that "neo-Pentecostal sects" have good relations with the government and news media and they conduct active social, charitable activity and have their own means of mass communication. Statements by several speakers "slung mud" on such organizations as the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Helsinki Commission, well known rights defense organizations, and the governments of a number of countries.

According to eye witnesses, the external appearance of a number of speakers evoked serious questions about their sanity and, possibly, whether they have some kind of psychiatric disorders.

One also got the impression that the Russian "sect scholars"—from the St. Irenaeus of Lyons Center and RATsIRS—are being sponsored from abroad, directly by this nefarious FECRIS.

In addition, the personalities speaking at the conference looked like people who would not be able to succeed in any other sphere of activity.  (tr. by PDS, posted 22 May 2009)

Russian original posted on
Portal-credo.ru site, 22 May 2009.


Russia Religion News Current News Item

Justice council members threaten Pentecostals

MEMBER OF COUNCIL IN RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF JUSTICE ACCUSES EVANGELICAL CHURCHES OF "BEATINGS AND MURDERS OF CHILDREN"
Slavic Legal Center, 12 May 2009

Alexander Kuzmin, the head of the Saratov division of Dvorkin's antisectarian center and a member of the Council for Conducting State Religious Expert Analysis within the Ministry of Justice of RF, has accused the "Word of Life" evangelical churches of "beatings and murders of children under the pretext of exorcising Satan," the press service of the Slavic Legal Center reports.

The accusation of the "sect scholars" against protestant churches cannot only not be confirmed by facts but they are clear fabrications, and the dissemination of such accusations, much more by members of the council in the Ministry of Justice, is the incitement of inter-religious strife and debases the honor and dignity both of individual believers and of religious associations.

On 11 May Kuzmin distributed a document bearing the title "Sectarian invasion of Saratov:  the 'Experience the power of change' action. Appeal to the residents of Saratov and Saratov province." The author of this appeal warns:  "Beware, the 'Experience the power of change' is being conducted with the participation of dangerous sects notorious for their crimes against the individual, family, and our state!"

Alexander Kuzmin accuses both the particular protestant church and all the evangelical churches of the "Word of Life" movement in Russia. "One of the participants of the 'Experience the power of change' action is an organization with the quite harmonious sounding name 'the Word of Life church of Christians of Evangelical Faith of the city of Saratov.' Sometimes this organization calls itself the 'Diocese of churches of Christians of Evangelical Faith of Saratov province.'  It would seem as if everything is quite Christian, everything is fine, and there are no suspicions. However in reality 'Word of Life' is a terribly destructive sect. One quarter of the followers of this organization in Switzerland tried to end their lives by suicide. In Russia there have been in this sect incidents of beating and murder of children under the pretext of exorcism of Satan. Throughout the vast expanse of the former USSR this sect has distinguished itself by its financial machinations and scandals. . . ."

For some reason, Alexander Lediaev, pastor of the "New Generation" church in Riga, who has nothing to do with the "Word of Life" church, was named as one of the leaders of the movement. The Saratov "Word of Life" church arose in 1993 and now comprises about 1000 parishioners.

On 5 May there also was circulated a statement of the Saratov division of the Center of Religious Studies Research regarding the "Experience the power of change" actions to representatives of the state, news media, advertising agencies, and commercial and public structures. We recall that other members of the Expert Council in the Ministry of Justice of RF, who back the Yaroslavl Antisectarian Center, have spoken out against the "Experience the power of change" social action of Christian protestant churches of Yaroslavl. The creators and activists of the Yaroslavl Antisectarian Center include members of the Council for Conduct of State Religious Expert Analysis of the Ministry of Justice, Evgeny Mukhtarov (its director) and Andrei Vasilchenko.  (tr. by PDS, posted 13 May 2009)

SARATOV DIVISION OF DVORKIN'S ANTISECTARIAN CENTER COMES OUT AGAINST SOCIAL ACTION OF PROTESTANT CHURCHES
Slavic Legal Center, 12 May 2009

The Saratov division of Dvorkin's antisectarian center issued a statement against the "Experience the power of change" social action of protestant churches of Saratov province. On 5 May the statement of the Saratov division of the Center for Religious Studies Research regarding the "Experience the power of change" actions was distributed to representatives of government, news media, advertising agencies, and commercial and public structures, the press service of the Slavic Legal Center reports.

The Saratov center is a subdivision of Dvorkin's antisectarian center which is headed by Alexander Kuzmin, who along with Dvorkin is a member of the Council for Conduct of State Religious Expert Analysis of the Ministry of Justice of RF.

The statement noted that "this 'media-project' is being conducted by the 'Power of change' center for social aid with the support of the 'community of 15 Christian churches of the city of Saratov and Saratov province.' In reality the autonomous noncommercial organization 'Power of change Center of Social Aid' is only a façade for conducting religious agitation activity."

In Kuzmin's opinion, "the organizers present this project as supposedly 'Christian' and 'social,' while actually in all regions of our country this action has become notorious for its methods of action. Confessional anonymity concealing the true evangelistic essence of this action in advertisements, signs, and brochures are more the rule than the rare exception for the organizers of this project. . . .  In addition the 'Experience the power of change' action often evokes social tension. In Ufa, Petrozavodsk, Novosibirsk, Arkhangelsk, and Riazan the population of these cities have responded extremely negatively to this action and there have been instances of deliberate destruction of the 'Power of change' signs, journalists have refused to publish its materials, and residents conducted demonstrations and pickets against the sectarians." At the same time Kuzmin does not mention that it has been the antisectarian statements like the one from his center that have served as propaganda of hatred and hostility with regard to evangelical churches, the organizers of these social actions. . . .

A statement of the Yaroslavl antisectarian center against the "Experience the power of change" social action appeared on 27 April on the official site of the antisectarian para-Orthodox organization Russian Association of Centers for Study of Religions and Sects, whose president is "professor" and chairman of the Expert Council of the Ministry of Justice Alexander Dvorkin. The statement of the Yaroslavl antisectarian center notes:  "The action itself usually lasts exactly a month and may be accompanied, alongside the distribution of books, by religious 'festival' and 'concerts,' free showing of 'religious' films with subsequent sermons, press conferences, and round tables of a propagandistic character for representatives of the news media. At the same time practically everywhere there have been violations of the requirement of the federal law 'On freedom of conscience and religious association,' which forbids religious organizations from conducting their activity without announcing the denomination and confessional affiliation. But this is what they are doing, hiding behind the screen of the supposedly 'secular' organization of 'the Power of change.'"

Despite the fact that the "Experience the power of change" action presents itself not as a secular but as a joint Christian action uniting evangelical protestant churches, the authors of the statement accuse the organizers of violation of law and subject them to insults. The statement stresses that the action is conducted "by members of sects who are especially trained in persuasion activity;" "we see the well known sectarian approach when under the pretense of participating in a secular holiday there will be organized some kind of grand and vociferous religious propaganda show."

The authors of the statement appeal to the news media and representatives of the government for them to counteract the activity of the Christian churches whom members of the council in the Ministry of Justice accuse of the most diverse crimes, setting the public against officially registered communities. Thus, at the end the appeal notes:  "One wishes very much to hope for understanding on the part of workers of news media and advertising agencies as well as state and municipal officials. Remember that your cooperation with the organizers of these events will result in an expansion of the sphere of influence of religious sects, and that means broken destinies, dissolved families, and apartments 'dedicated to God.'"

The statement maintains that organizers of "Experience the power of change" have deceived the leadership of the Voronezh diocese of RPTsMP, which supported the action. Words of support of the action on the part of Metropolitan of Voronezh and Borisoglebsk Sergius and information concerning it may be found on the official web site of "Experience the power of change," http://www.silaperemen.ru/. 
(tr. by PDS, posted 13 May 2009

Note from the editor:  The above articles have been published on the Blog: Russian Religious News


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