East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 7, No. 4, Fall 1999, Covering the Former Soviet Union and East Central Europe
News Notes

Russian Religion Law: Reregistration Pressure and Court Challenges
The majority of religious organizations in Russia will be unable to meet the requirement of the October 1997 law specifying reregistration before 31 December 1999.  According to Justice Department statistics of 1 September 1999, only 37 percent of religious centers had reregistered successfully on the federal level and a mere 20 percent on the local level.  In the Khabarovsk region, 62 out of 65 applicants for reregistration have been denied.  According to Nezavisimaia gazeta--religiia (27 October 1999), 355 cases of official denial of reregistration have been confirmed throughout the Russian Federation.  A federal justice department proposal to extend the deadline until 31 December 2000 has been approved by the Committee on Religious Organizations but must still be approved by the State Duma.

Meanwhile, two challenges to the 1997 Russian law on religion are pending before the Russian Federation Constitutional Court, both concerning  Article 27, Point 3, which limits rights of organizations that cannot prove 15 years of existence in Russia.  According to Keston Institute Director Lawrence Uzzell, "The Constitutional Court is under pressure from the Kremlin to strike down the notorious 15-year rule.  Even if that happens, however, we should remember that the law's most objectionable feature will remain intact:  its distinction between so-called 'religious organizations' and 'religious groups.'"

Sources:  Tatyana Titova, "Russian Constitutional Court to Hear Challenges to the 1997 Law on Religion," Keston News Service, 15 October 1999; Beverly Nickles, "Russia Proposes Extension of Registration Deadline," Compass Direct, 19 October 1999; E-mail from Lauren Homer, 8 November 1999.  E-mail from Lawrence Uzzell, 10 November 1999; Ekaterina Stupina, "Sviashchenniki poshli v gosdumu," Nezavisimaia gazeta--religiia, 27 October 1999.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) recently awarded $4.2 million to Holt International Children's Services (Eugene, OR) to assist children and families in Russia.  The funds, which will be administered over three years, will enable Holt and Charities Aid Foundation of Russia to support programs designed to prevent abandonment and institutionalization of children.  The program, "Assistance to Russian Orphans" (ARO), will target poor areas of Russia, as well as the regions of Novgorod and Samara.  The ARO program is designed to offer alternatives to institutions and to create sustainable, long-term child welfare services in Russia.  It is aimed specifically at serving abandoned children from birth to four years old, those at risk of abandonment, disabled children, and older children in Russian government facilities about to enter society.

Grigorii Komendant, 53, European vice-president of the Baptist World Alliance and president of the All-Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, was elected vice-president of the European Baptist Federation (EBF) at its council meeting, 23-26 September 1999, in Hamburg, Germany.  Following a two-year term, he will automatically become EBF president in Autumn 2001.  Rev. Komendant studied in the ECB correspondence school in Moscow, 1971-73, and at the Theological Seminary of German Baptists in Hamburg, 1973-75.  He served as president of the U.S.S.R. Evangelical Christian-Baptist Union, 1990-94, and was president of the Euro-Asiatic Federation of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, 1994-96.  The Ukrainian ECB currently reports 1,874 churches with 127,000 baptized members.
Source:  European Baptist Press Service, 30 September 1999.

Theodor Angelov, 60, of Bulgaria has assumed duties as the eighth general secretary of the European Baptist Federation.  Dr. Angelov holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and was employed in the Academy of Sciences in Sofia, Institute of Microbiology, 1970-88, and the Institute of Biotechnology, 1988-92.  He has published more than 60 articles in  the fields of chemistry and biochemistry.  Dr. Angelov served as pastor of the Sofia Baptist Church and president of the Baptist Union of Bulgaria, 1991-99.  He was EBF president, 1995-97.
Source:  European Baptist Press Service, 30 September 1999.

Dr. Sergei Sannikov, founding president of Odessa International Theological Seminary of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, accepted a position in Kyiv in June 1999 as Advisor for Theological Education to the President of the All-Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists.  The new head of the seminary, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in June 1999, is Vladimir Pavlovich Shemchishin, ECB senior presbyter of the Odessa Region.  To date, 518 students have received academic diplomas or certificates from the seminary.
Source:  European Baptist Press Service, 10 September 1999.

Missionaries in Smolensk Threatened
Michael and Mary Lou Bryan, missionaries with Calvary Chapel in Smolensk, Russia, began receiving threatening telephone calls and BB gun shots at their window on 18 October 1999, which continued for a week.  On 26 October firecrackers were thrown into their church meeting place and the Bryans received a note threatening harm to their four children unless a large sum of money was delivered to a nearby park.  No money has been paid.  Michael Bryan remains in Smolensk while his family temporarily is residing in Moscow.
Source:  RIPnet News, 25 October  and 3 November 1999.

Moscow Credit Card Fraud
PIN numbers of thousands of foreign credit cards in Moscow have been stolen, according to Agence France Presse, leaving credit card holders with money debited from accounts and credit cards as far away as Cyprus, Sweden, Israel, and the United States.  It appears the fraud is linked to Moscow ATM machines, although the link has not been confirmed.  Visa and Europay experts are investigating the problem.
Source:  "Moscow Money Machines Steal Credit Card Code Numbers," Agence France Presse, 2 November 1999; postings to the "Gathering" 20 October 1999 and 30 October 1999.

News Notes, East-West Church & Ministry Report 7 (Fall 1999), 12.

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© 1999 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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