East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 5, No. 4, Fall 1997, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe

News Notes

The Ukrainian government's Committee for Religious Affairs approved the registration of Donetsk Christian University (DCU) in April 1997.  In 1996 Ukrainian legislation disallowed the possibility of religious institutions not formally affiliated with a church.  DCU subsequently secured formal affiliation with both the Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists and Ukraine's Autonomous Evangelical Christians-Baptists.  Also, in December 1997, the Moscow-based Russian- American Christian University (RACU) received its formal license.  This step beyond registration is a significant accomplishment, especially in light of the fact that RACU is the first Evangelical Christian liberal arts institution in Russia to secure formal license status.  Sources: E-mail from Ray Prigodich, 28 April 1997; e-mail from John Bernbaum, 10 December 1997.


In November 1997 the Evangelical Lutheran Church hosted a conference in Omsk, Russia, addressing aid to refugees.  Participants included representatives of Evangelical Lutheran, Russian Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christian-Baptist churches from Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Ekaterinburg, and Moscow.  Source: Yuri Kolesnikov, "Refugee Aid Conference in Omsk," Radiotserkov, 19 November 1997.

Russia's Committee for Rescuing Youth From False Religions consists of relatives and former members of religious groups the Committee deems destructive.  The sects it considers most dangerous are: the Unification Church (Moonies), Scientology, Jehovah's Witnesses, Church of Christ [Boston Movement], Hare Krishna, Aum Shinrikyo, Mormons, Church of the Final Covenant (Vissarion), Mother of God Center, "The Family" (also known as Children of God), the Union of Independent Christian Missionary Society, the White Brotherhood, followers of Witness Lee, and the Spiritual Center of Satora.
Source: Argumenty i fakty, 4 December 1997.


Jerzy Buzek, sworn in as prime minister of Poland on 31 October 1997, is the first Lutheran in the post in the country's history.  (Marshall Jozef Pilsudski, Poland's interwar leader, turned Protestant in order to remarry.)  Poland, with a population of 39 million, has 92,000 Lutherans. Buzek heads a coalition of pro-Solidarity parties replacing  the Democratic Left Alliance, a left coalition including communists, which led the country for four years.  The Catholic news agency, KAI, reports, "Paradoxically, one political event has had more effect than all previous work by Protestant circles by showing Polish society isn't a denominational monolith and making known the role of Protestants in our national heritage."
Source: Jonathan Luxmore, "Poland's Protestant Premier Pledges to Abide by Catholic Teaching," Ecumenical News International Bulletin 22 (12 November 1997), 20.


Boris Arapovich, founding director of the Swedish-based Institute for Bible Translation (IBT), has resigned in order to return to his homeland to devote full-time efforts to relief work in Croatia and Bosnia. He remains a member of the IBT board.
Source: Christianity Today 41 (17 November 1997), 76.


The East-West Church & Ministry Report has a correction and an addition to a previous report on violence against Romanian Baptists: 5 (Spring 1997), 7.  Ten, rather than nine, Evangelicals were beaten in the village of Ruginoasa in Moldova in northeast Romania in March 1997.  Word has been received that in the month following the incident, 14 people from Ruginoasa underwent conversion experiences and applied for membership in the Baptist church:  four members of two different families, two women, three young men, and a young married gypsy man.  The 14 applied for membership in the Baptist church in nearby Pascani since there is not yet a legally registered Baptist church in Ruginoasa.
Source: E-mail from Mircea Mitrofan, Iasi, Romania, to Malcolm Walker, Keston Institute librarian, copied to Mark Elliott, 27 July 1997.


Authorities banned the showing of the Campus Crusade Jesus film in several Serbian towns in the summer of 1997, following press allegations that the film promoted Satanism.  Evangelical pastor Simo Ralevic, who sought to show the film, faces continued opposition from the Orthodox church, Serbian officials, and the press, which have attempted to link him to a number of suicides and suicide attempts, based on Evangelical literature alleged to have been found in the rooms of victims.  Simo Ralevic and his brother, Cedo, are pastors in the Evangelical Baptist Church of Yugoslavia.
Source: Willy Fautre, "Serbian Pastor, Jesus Film Accused of Promoting Satanism," Compass Direct, 21 November 1997.


Armed gunmen abducted four Christian relief workers in the north Caucasus in two separate incidents in September-October 1997.  On 20 September 10 to 15 masked assailants abducted Dimitri Penkovsky and Dimitri Petrov, in Ingushetia, two kilometers from this autonomous Russian republic's border with Chechnya.  Penkovsky, 47, and his wife, Galina, live in Vladikavkaz and have one son.  Petrov, 33, and his wife, Lena, live in Moscow and have one daughter.  These two Russian citizens are employed by International Orthodox Christian Charities, which has received funding from Action of Churches Together, a Christian humanitarian network sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation. Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II has written appeals for help to Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov.

On 23 October two armed gunmen abducted two Hungarian aid workers, Gabor Dynaijsky and Istvan Olah, in Grozny, capital of Chechnya, in the offices of Action of Churches Together.  Dynaijsky, 44, is unmarried.  Olah, 47, has a wife and five children in Hungary.  The two relief workers serve in the north Caucasus under the auspices of Hungarian Interchurch Aid, in cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church and Action of Churches Together.  Moscow correspondent Andrei Zolotov reports, "Since the armed conflict in Chechnya ended last year, the republic has been hit by a wave of abductions which are believed a major source of income--in the form of ransoms--not only for local warlords, but also for high-ranking Chechen government officials.  Journalists and international aid workers have been prime targets."  Christophe André, a French aid worker with Médecins Sans Frontières held hostage in Chechnya for three months, reportedly escaped his captors in October 1997.

Sources: Andrei Zolotov, "Two More Church Aid Workers Abducted in Chechnya," Ecumenical News International Bulletin 21 (29 October 1997), 14-15; Leonid Kishkovsky, The Orthodox Church 33 (November 1997), 2.

News Notes, East-West Church & Ministry Report, 5 (Fall 1997), 3,14.

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© 1997 Institute for East-West Christian Studies
ISSN 1069-5664

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