04/12/2019, 15.38
RUSSIA
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Persecution of non-orthodox groups continues as police interrupt Baptist service

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Evangelical Baptist community in Verkhnebakanskiy (Novorossiysk) is registered with the government, but does not have a place of worship of its own, so its members meet in private homes. According to police, all Baptist, Adventist, Pentecostal sects etc. are guilty of “breaking the spiritual unity of the Russian people "and should be banned.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Police interrupted a Baptist evangelical religious service in Verkhnebakanskiy, a village located within the boundaries of the City of Novorossiysk, enforcing the ‘Yarovaya law’, which bans religious activity in private homes. The incident in question took place last Sunday.

One of the participants, Yevgeny Kokory, the owner of the home where the prayer meeting was held, reported the incident on Facebook, posting an appeal to President Vladimir Putin, as "defender of the Constitution". Local Baptists were meeting for the Lenten liturgy of the Annunciation, celebrated in accordance with the Orthodox calendar.

As the service reached the moment of the breaking of the bread, police stormed the home without warning, accompanied by a City official and an agent of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s main security agency, along with Cossack militias.

The Baptist community is registered with the local authorities, but does not have a place of worship of its own; for this reason, its members usually meet in members’ homes.

At the time of the raid, 70 people were present at the gathering, including several children and seniors, who were the target of "vulgarities and screams”. Police also “threatened women and warned people not to tape the raid with video cameras or mobile phones."

The FSB official and a policeman took the altar, stopping the service and insulting those present in various ways.

Kokory's appeal ends with the request "to you, Vladimir Vladimirovich, to intervene to stop these abuses, especially in a heroic city like Novorossiysk (famous for its resistance to the Nazis), where freedom of conscience is violated in brutal way by the representatives of the State."

The following day, the clergyman went to see the local FSB chief, whom he met for an hour and a half, to discuss the history of the community, its current situation and Sunday's incident.

According to the pastor, "the security man, a very educated person, knowledgeable in history and religion, even recited the Orthodox Creed by heart . . . after which he told me that all sects – Baptists, Adventists, Pentecostals, etc. – are guilty of breaking the spiritual unity of the Russian people. Hence, they should be banned."

The pastor and his congregation are aware that such views are not the personal opinion of an official, but the state’s position.

With respect to Sunday, the local security services chief hinted that such "provocative" police actions are not random, and are meant to elicit a reaction from the members of the targeted community, in order to implement more radical measures to impose "religious" order at the local level.

For their part, the Baptists said: "we will continue to get together, because this is a command of the Saviour . . . It is difficult to frighten the believers. Our grandparents and great-grandparents went through worse in Soviet times."

The authorities of Novorossiysk have confirmed the ban on gathering to pray in homes, a measure that is increasingly being applied with extreme rigour throughout Russia against various Protestant communities.

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