A Ghostlike Existence for Dagestan’s Protestants
Church in Russia is prohibited from conducting social projects
By Jeremy Reynalds
06/15/2010 Russia (ANS) -- Dagestan's largest Pentecostal church is now prohibited from conducting social projects with even drug addicts and convicts.
Dagestan - a republic in Russia's troubled North Caucasus which borders Azerbaijan and Georgia - is highly ethnically diverse. Most of the population is of Muslim background, the majority of them Sunnis but with a Shia minority.
According to a story by Geraldine Fagan writing for Forum 18 News Service, a five-year-old agreement granting prison visits stopped without explanation in early 2010.
Pastor Artur Suleimanov of the church's parent Hosanna congregation said the ban occurred “even though prison governors were glad to receive our people.”
The authorities' positive attitude towards the church's anti-drugs work in the early 2000s has also changed abruptly, Forum 18 reported he said. “t's very strange, as in practice we are the only people working with drug addicts – sometimes you get the impression that the state anti-drugs agency is a very real drugs baron.”
Asked if there were any restriction on Protestant activity in the social services realm, Rasul Gadzhiyev, departmental head of Dagestan's Ministry for Nationality Policy, Information and External Affairs, maintained that the state authorities do not regulate it or issue special instructions.
“If the Protestants' activity is in line with the law, there are no problems at all,” he told Forum 18 in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala.
Forum 18 said that Suleimanov, an ethnic Avar, estimates that some 85 per cent of the approximately 3,000 Pentecostals in Dagestan belong to local ethnicities.