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Evangelicals, even Orthodox, harassed in Russia since 1997

MOSCOW (BP)–Passage of Russia’s new religion law in 1997 opened the door to widespread harassment and persecution of non-Orthodox Christian groups — and even an Orthodox dissident. Examples are plentiful:
In Khabarovsk, on the border with China in the Russian Far East, an independent Baptist missionary tried to fly to Moscow to seek legal advice about local officials’ threats to deport him. Government agents confiscated his passport and visa at the airport, then later denied they had them. The “missing” documents eventually turned up in his suitcase, a warning, he believes, that narcotics or some other contraband could easily be planted in his baggage.
— Near Moscow, police in Narofominsk broke up a Pentecostal worship service in a believer’s apartment and detained the pastor for 48 hours.
— An employee of Moscow’s Fifth Municipal Hospital — an institution with ties to the Russian Orthodox Church — interrupted a funeral service being held in the morgue, and the congregation was given two minutes to conclude the service.
— In Buzuluk, at the base of the Ural Mountains near the Kazakstan border, a deputy mayor banned an Adventist evangelistic campaign despite the fact the regional religious affairs official had approved the event weeks earlier.
— The Evangelical Lutheran Mission in Khakassia in southwestern Siberia has been subjected to multiple court cases in the past year in an effort to halt its activities. The region’s supreme court conducted a two-day trial in September, during which witnesses reportedly were subjected to extreme intimidation, before upholding a challenge to the group’s 1996 registration.
— A Catholic priest in Prokopevsk, in southern Siberia near the Mongolian border, was required to renew his visa every three months. When he was transferred to a newly registered congregation, the church was forced to reregister because it had invited a foreign citizen to come work with it.
— In Ivanovo, about 200 miles northeast of Moscow, a deacon in an Orthodox church was fired from his position for opposing the religion law, which was at that point still before Russia’s lawmakers. The deacon wrote a letter to a local newspaper protesting the Russian Orthodox patriarch’s order to collect signatures supporting the law from church members, none of whom had even read the proposed legislation.