Religious Freedom Around the World
Evangelicals Complain of Licensing Discrimination
Evangelicals in Romania say they have experienced discrimination in the granting of licenses to conduct public radio broadcasts. Christian broadcasters blame the Romanian Orthodox Church for pressuring the government to refuse to renew licenses for the six currently operating Protestant groups, including Baptists, Pentecostals and Plymouth Brethren.
Russian Law Targets Witnesses And Christian Scientists
Last year’s Russian law governing "the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations." has already begun to claim its victims. The Jehovah's Witnesses face prosecution which officially aims at "the liquidation of the Association of Jehovah's Witnesses of the City of Moscow" and the banning of its activity on the basis of the Russian Federation law. "We are deeply concerned that the prosecutor's unjust action against Jehovah's Witnesses may be the beginning of the religious persecution feared by many when the new law on religious associations was passed," declared V. M. Kalin, Coordinator of the Witnesses' Administrative Center in St. Petersburg.
Leaders of the Christian Science Church in Saint Petersburg, meanwhile, were informed that in the absence of proof that the congregation had existed for 15 years, it would be registered as a foreign religious organization without the rights of a legal personality.
Visa Rule Bans Catholic Priests
The Russian government is also adopting a new visa system which threatens to make it impossible for the Roman Catholic Church to maintain the supply of priests needed for normal parish life. Unlike foreign athletes or businessmen, foreign religious workers are not given the right to extend their stays in Russia or to apply for multiple-entry visas. Instead, they must apply for new visas every three months. Catholics expect to need to rely on foreign nationals as priests for at least another generation, until their newly reopened seminary in St. Petersburg can fill the void. Smaller and newer religious groups face similar problems, as they experience rapid growth in the post-communist era.
News from Belarussia
The trial of Petro Hushscha--the leader of the Belarusian National Church, a 4,000- strong body that broke away from the Belarusian Exarchate of the Orthodox Church and which maintains links with Lutherans of the Augsburg Confession--was due to begin last month. Defenders believe the charges against public indecency—are trumped it and see the trial as a test of religious freedom against the dominance of state-approved Orthodoxy.
In another Belarussian legal development, the Ministry of Justice has dropped its attempt to liquidate the youth arm of Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification movement. The suit alleged that the Collegiate Association for the Research of Principles (CARP) aimed at changing the constitutional order through violence and inciting religious and racial hatred. In its defense, the group produced more than 50 letters of gratitude from local officials for its work in AIDS education, drug abuse and charity work with orphanages.
Christians Report Suffering In India and Pakistan
Despite recent tensions between India and Pakistan over the question of nuclear testing, it appears the countries have at least one thing in common. Sources indicate that both countries fail to protect the rights of Christians and other religious minorities who suffering economic discrimination and face attacks from Muslim and Hindu fundamentalists.
At a conference in Washington DC last July, the Pakistani-American Christian Association detailed incidents of religious intolerance and government insensitivity toward Christian and other minorities in Pakistan.
The situation is no better in India. Johan Candelin, International Director of the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Fellowship, stated, "All the Protestant pastors and the representatives from the Roman Catholic Church had the same message: "The situation is getting worse every day."
"There is direct violence against religious communities, priests, pastors and nuns. There are attacks on evangelists and evangelistic work and there is pressure on Christian institutions, including schools, colleges, hospitals and churches.
German Parliament Inquiry Won’t Use the Term "Sect"
The German Parliamentary Commission on "So-called Sects and Pyschogroups" issued its final report last June and decided to swear off using the term that defined its mission.
"New religions and ideological groups and psychogroups are a response to the consequences of social changes. In turning to these communities people are looking for support and orientation in the form of alternative ways of living," the report said.
"But the work of the Commission has revealed that only certain of these groups are laden with conflict and that no generalized statements on the whole spectrum of [these] groups can be made."
As a consequence of this fact, the Commission has decided to no longer use the term "sect."