Regional Officials In Russia Target Christians
04/04/2012 Russia (Forum 18) – New amendments in Kostroma Region ban and punish “propaganda of religious sects among minors”.
An official order in Arkhangelsk Region banned Jehovah’s Witnesses from renting municipally-owned property. A deputy Education Minister in Bashkortostan warned educational leaders – using FSB security service information – against “destructive religions”, such as Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Health Department of Kurgan Region warned health institutions that Baptist leaders intend to “use the technology of hidden influence on the psychic state of citizens to increase the number of parishioners through the involvement of specialist doctors in the area of psychology and psychiatry”. Although many of these official texts – seen by Forum 18 News Service – were subsequently revoked, religious communities say they reflect the attitudes of many local officials. “Such views are not just those of one official – many think like that,” the regional Baptist presbyter in Bashkortostan told Forum 18.
A series of local laws, instructions and court decisions across Russia aim to restrict the rights of religious communities the local authorities do not like, Forum 18 News Service has found. A new regional law has been adopted in Kostroma Region north-east of Moscow banning and punishing “propaganda of religious sects among minors”. Other official orders and letters banned rental of municipal property in the northern Arkhangelsk Region to Jehovah’s Witnesses or warned heads of educational institutions in the Republic of Bashkortostan in the Urals of the dangers of “destructive religions”, such as Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses. These were withdrawn only after the intervention of Vladimir Lukin, Russia’s Human Rights Ombudsperson.
Such official dislike – often couched in vague terminology – of religious communities that function perfectly legally comes as the Russian authorities are using anti-“extremism” laws to target specific religious communities. Individuals can face criminal prosecution, while prosecutors also attempt to ban through the courts publications of those communities.