Russian churches unable to register

MCU/December 27, 2000
By Aleksandr Mostoslavskiy

The time for registration of religious organizations in Russia expires on 31 December [2000]. Just half of them have coped with this task so far. Religious organizations that do not belong to big congregations like Russian Orthodox Church or Union of Moslem Communities have almost no chance of being registered. The confessions viewed as non-traditional for Russia are also facing difficulties.

[Archbishop Tadeush Kondrusevich, captioned as head of Catholics of the European part of Russia] We are facing expecially big problems with registration of monastic orders. They have not been resolved so far. Theoretically the orders can be registered, but in fact the current legislation makes it almost impossible.

[Correspondent] The problems emerged immediately after the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations was passed in 1997. One of its proclaimed goals is to protect Russia from destructive and totalitarian sects and religious teachings. It has divided all confessions into traditional and non-traditional. Only those that have existed in Russia for no less than 15 years can be granted registration.

If this law is strictly complied with, any religious organization which has not been registered and did not stop its activity must be disbanded by court. The deadline was fixed at 31 December 1999, but the Russian Justice Ministry was unready to implement the law due to lack of relating experience and understaffing. Even the Russian Orthodox Church found itself among non-registered organizations together with various sects because it did not have enough time to register every parish. Because of this situation the deadline was postponed for one year. Anyway, no more than half of religious organizations have managed to register so far.

[Gleb Yakunin, captioned as secretary of Bishops' Council of the Orthodox Church of Revival] We are a new Orthodox organization. We have absolutely no chance of being registered as a newly created organization.

[Correspondent] Both international human rights organizations and high-ranking Russian officials are worried about this situation.

Russian Human Rights Commissioner Oleg Mironov has insistently recommended the president to extend the time for registration of religious organizations for the next three years and to revise the law which does not correspond to internationally accepted norms.

[Mironov, speaking to camera in his office] The law must provide for equality of all religious organizations. The [Russian] constitution says so.

By talking about some "doubtful sects" we are insulting the feelings of their followers. The law should not provide for such classification.

[Correspondent] Many people believe that [President] Vladimir Putin will extend the registration time as it was done a year ago. This would help to avoid unnecessary tension in society.

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