Russia Church: Probe Missionaries

The Associated Press, May 28, 1999
By Anatoly Medetsky

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (AP) - The Russian Orthodox Church asked prosecutors in Russia's Far East on Wednesday to investigate the methods used by three religious groups to recruit converts.

The church accused the Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists and a splinter group of Hare Krishnas based in the Far Eastern region of Primorye of recruiting potential converts illegally.

The groups are ``aggressive churches that harvest souls in the region by using deception and totalitarian methods,'' the Orthodox Church said in a statement.

The church did not say what laws the groups had allegedly violated, but It was apparently trying to prosecute them under a controversial religion law passed in 1997. Under it, Russian courts may ban religious groups found guilty of inciting hatred or intolerant behavior.

The law also recognizes Russian Orthodox Christianity as the nation's leading faith and requires that most other religions pass a series of qualifying tests to operate in Russia.

The Jehovah's Witnesses are already on trial in Moscow, where Prosecutors say they have broken the law. Russian Pentecostalists and Baptists have Also been threatened under the law.

The Orthodox Church said the Jehovah's Witnesses in the Far East had broken Russian law by going door to door, approaching people on public transportation and compiling lists of all residents in neighborhoods where the group is active.

The Jehovah's Witness branch in Vladivostok, Primorye's capital, denied any wrongdoing.

``Let them investigate. We want to be known about, but we want people to know the truth,'' said Vyacheslav Yudin, the branch leader.

The Church said the Seventh-day Adventists had broken the law by posting leaflets that invite residents to lectures without saying that the lecturer is a Seventh-day Adventist missionary.

``Foreign missionaries in Primorye are resorting increasingly to unseemly methods to recruit new converts by concealing'' their religious affiliations,the church said.

The third group, a Hare Krishna group called the Institute of Knowledge of Identity, is not registered and illegally disseminates its printed matter in public places, the Orthodox Church said.

Neither the Adventists nor the Krishna group could be reached for comment Wednesday.

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