09/10/2012, 00.00
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Authorities demolish Pentecostal Church, Moscow Patriarchate calls for respect for religious

by Nina Achmatova
The demolition took place on the night of September 6, on alleged court order. But the community had not been given prior notice. Fears that similar cases may affect other denominations.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Russian Orthodox Patriarchate has taken up the defense of the community of Pentecostals, after the controversial demolition of one of their churches in Moscow, at the behest of local authorities. The head of the Synodal Department for Relations between state and society, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, has asked the vice mayor of the capital to take a position on the incident, asking him to consider that "the feelings of the faithful for the building, where they prayed, which deserves proper respect and attention. "

The night of the 6th of September, as reported by Russian news agencies, a group of unidentified men, escorted by police and civilian volunteers, knocked down the Pentecostal Church of the Holy Trinity in Novokosino, eastern outskirts of Moscow with two bulldozers.

As the pastor of a church, Vasili Romanyuk, told Forum 18 it all happened without formal warnings: "Valuables were taken away and used in aggressive ways, while volunteers on site did not allow anyone near during the demolition and took the woman who was guarding the building to local police. "

Some time ago, the authorities had unilaterally terminated the lease for the land, the site of the parish. The community was trying to rectify the situation, but encountered numerous legal obstacles. A local official, Romanyuk says had verbally suggested the possibility of demolishing the church by mid-September, "but no one expected it would happen this way." Public officials, on condition of anonymity, told Forum 18 that the initiative took place on a court order, but it was not explained which. Mikhail Odintsov, spokesman for the Ombudsman for Human Rights in Russia, stated "it is a Soviet approach: arriving at night with bulldozers and demolishing everything. It is 'unacceptable'. The church of the Holy Trinity was built 25 years ago and was one of the oldest Pentecostal churches in Moscow. The Pentacostals are the largest Protestant community in the country with 400 thousand faithful, according to expert estimates.

A complaint was presented to the Ombudsman of Russia, Vladimir Lukin, and now clarification is expected. Members of the community have expressed concern about the recurrence of similar incidents with other religions. "It seems that the authorities can simply cancel a lease and deprive a community of their church", Forum 18 reports quoting some Protestants. The same Forum 18 notes that many communities in Russia feel vulnerable to arbitrary actions by the political and judicial authorities. In 2007, Glorification of the Pentecostal church in the Siberian town of Abakan and a mosque of Astrakhan were victims of demolitions without prior notice.


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