Moscow (AsiaNews) – Minorities continue to suffer from discrimination and have limits put on their right to religious freedom in Russia. Like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelical Pentecostals are now having a rough time because of the rising influence of the Russian Orthodox Church on the country.
The complaint comes from the Slavic Centre for Justice and Law (SCJL). In an interview, lawyer Inna Zabrebina told the SCJL that the administration of Sholokhov (Rostov Province) refused to grant Christ the Saviour Pentecostal Church a permit to build a house of worship in the Cossack village of Veshenskaia. The decision was taken after a group of local Orthodox Christians led by Archpriest Vladimir Poliakov objected to the construction arguing, “we do not need more churches.”
For lawyer Zabrebina, local authorities acted unlawfully. “No doubt, representatives of the local government should pay attention to the opinion of residents of the district and heed it.” However,” a “refusal must be legislatively based.” In this case, “It is not clear why the administration of the district heeded these 20 Orthodox citizens, while in the Cossack village of Veshenskaia there are around 10,000 residents.”
“There have never been any complaints against the ‘Christ the Saviour’ Pentecostal Church of Christians of the Evangelical faith,” Ms Zabrebina said. “The land has been prepared in the required form, the parcel of land is the legal property of the KhVE Church, and it was purchased for the construction of a house of worship.”
In this case,” the lawyer added, “the decision to refuse the Church permission to construct a house of worship was made in favour of another religious organisation” on the basis of an “appeal signed, inter alia, by an Orthodox priest,” using “a confrontational tone, offensive to the Protestant Pentecostal Church which allegedly ‘corrupts people morally’."
This, she insisted, violates the constitution of the Russian Federation, which “guarantees the equality of rights without respect to religious affiliation.”
On such issues, Russian officials often violate the law or even ignore it, the lawyer said, not realising that they are breaking the law.