The Russian government after all checked out Religious NGOs
В категориях: Russian Christian News
Russia Christian News – English version May 2013
William Yoder, Ph.D.
Initially, religious organisations had been excluded from the new Russian legislation intended to restrict the activities of foreign-funded, non-governmental organisations (NGOs). But thousands of them – including Orthodox organisations and individual Protestant congregations – were visited by government officials during April and May. The Oslo-based religious freedom watchdog "Forum 18" spoke though only of a "mixed response to sweeping government checks". It added: "In some regions, Public Prosecutor employees are quite zealous. But the majority of them did their work quite formally, understanding that they just needed to submit reports saying they had checked." Protestant leaders described themselves as unconcerned. A Charismatic pastor claimed: "The inspections were conducted tactfully. As far as I know, no one had any problems."
Serious problems had occurred previously in November 2012. In the course of a surprise check, government forces including riot police in camouflage with unmuzzled dogs had surrounded and forcibly entered (in some instances) staff quarters at a Protestant rehab centre for drug addicts. They entered at six in the morning, badly frightening approx. 150 sleeping staff members and children. "New Life", one of Russia's largest church-run rehabilitation centres, is located in Leningrad Region near the border with Estonia and is run by the big Pentecostal and Charismatic "Associated Russian Union of Christians of Evangelical-Pentecostal Faith" (ROSKhVE).
During the ensuing uproar, Sergey Esipov, the Deputy Prosecutor for Leningrad Region, was fired. Yet the Investigator's Office refused to lodge criminal charges against the Prosecutor's Office due to "lack of evidence". In the court case that followed, the Baptist Anatoly Pchelintsev, head lawyer for Moscow's "Slavic Legal Centre", charged the government with illegal entry, illegal arrest and abuse of power. On 26 April, Kingiseppe municipal court judge Ludmila Zhukova ruled in the church's favour: The refusal to open a criminal case against the Prosecutor's Office was deemed unconstitutional. Settlements are pending.