European Interreligious Forum For Religious Freedom


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By Patriarchate Bartholomew :

Protocol. No. 441
By the Mercy of God Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
To the Plentitude of the Church: Grace and Peace from God
“Blessed is our God, who so deemed” and orders all things for all people, who has led us to “this day of the Resurrection” when “all has been filled with light, heaven and earth alike.”
This year marks the 1700th anniversary since the issue of the Edict of Milan about religious freedom. Therefore, we are communicating to the Church in all places and times in order to address a message of hope, love, peace and optimism from the most holy Apostolic and Patriarchal Ecumenical Throne in as much as the Church is the continual presence of God. “Whoever has seen the Son has seen the Father” (John 4:9), and whoever has seen the institution of the Church has seen the divine-human Lord and the Holy Spirit, who are with us.
The Church is precisely such an institution in freedom. “Such is Christianity: it grants freedom to those in slavery.” (St. John Chrysostom, Homily IX on 1 Corinthians 193).
As a result of the Edict of Milan, the persecutions against Church and religion, previously licit, ceased; and for the first time in human form, freedom of religious conscience was instituted in the world. However, the freedom that Christ granted us (see Gal. 5:1) is not mere “form” and “letter”. It is genuine freedom, which we are always seeking in order that all things may become “new.” Otherwise, how can we possibly expect a new heaven and a new earth?
Until the time of Constantine the Great, the history of the world, namely the period of “Old Israel” before Christ, and after the divinely incarnate presence of the “New Israel,” the free expression of conscious faith is replete with problems and persecutions to the point of martyrdom by blood for the sake of truth.
History recounts the persecution of individuals who shared a different perspective and faith about God from that proclaimed by the worldly authorities or the society, which they inhabited.
The Old Testament refers to the world leader, King Nebuchadnezzar and the creation of a large image of his person, which he demanded that all of his subjects should worship by bowing down before it.
“The three holy children” were cast into the fiery pit because they refused to worship the idle of Nebuchadnezzar. They refused to render the status of divinity to a secular ruler, which he claimed for himself. St. Solomone and the Seven Maccabean children were persecuted with martyrdom alongside their teacher Eleazar. The fiery pit publicly rejected the authority of Nebuchadnezzar and foreshadowed the mystery of our all-holy Theotokos, by rejuvenating and preserving the three children unharmed, just as the fire of divinity preserved the Virgin Theotokos.
The captive children, who refused to worship the irrational and arrogant human ruler claiming the features of God, cried out aloud in the pit: “let all God’s works praise the Lord.” In so doing, they prefigured the freedom brought by the Lord, “who became as one under the law so that he might win those under the law.” (see 1 Cor. 9:20)
In ancient Athens, the Philosopher Socrates was condemned to death on the charge that he accepted the gods worshipped by the city. Similarly, there are many individual persecutions recorded by the classical Greek authors about those who supported different beliefs, such as the example of the persecution of Anaxagoras of Clazomene, who claimed that the sun is a fiery rock, or Diagoras of Milos, who criticized the ancient idolatrous mysteries and discouraged citizens in these.
There is not doubt that physical or ideological persecutions through the centuries, which sometimes led and continued to lead to death by martyrdom, nevertheless did not abolish religious tolerance among people, as this was formally proclaimed in the Edict of Milan.
The Roman emperors had an absolutist mentality, rendering themselves leaders even of religion. Indeed, they reached the point of demanding recognition for their divine status, which required equivalent honor.
The rejection of Christians of such imperial demands provoked anger in as much as it questioned imperial authority. The result anthropocentric worldview was the well-known merciless persecutions, which filled many shrines with martyrs who “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.” (Rev. 7:14)
Ultimately, the persecutions against religion affirmed the words of St. John Chrysostom: “One who fights against God can never destroy good to the end; instead, such a person may perhaps not feel that he is doing something terrible at the outset of his daring act. However, if he persists in his madness he can never lay a warring hand on God, because he will never avoid the hand of the invincible God.” (To those Opposed to the Monastic Life 1, PG 47.319)
Emperors Constantine the Great in the East and Licinius in the West accepted the fact that, after three centuries of harsh persecution against the Christians, religious hatred and constant oppression resulted in no benefit for the empire. Therefore, they decided to allow Christians the freedom to practice their faith and worship of God. The content of the ever-relevant Edict of Milan in the 313 AD, which reflects the will of Constantine the Great, “who understood the craft of bitter warfare,” constituted the basis of the freedom of religious conscience that was recognized many centuries later.
The Edict of Milan contains advanced positions on religious freedom, expressed in thirteen sections. It institutes principles which are foreign for that period of the fourth century but which still remain principles and signposts, even if some claim that these principles can also be fully applied in a world that lies in evil and in justice, where darkness prevails instead of righteousness and light.
The Edict confesses and declares: respect for the thought and will of every person to care for the divine affairs as he wills; regard and respect for the divine and freedom of choice in religious matters to Christians and all people without discrimination; the return without delay to the community of Christians, the Church and the Synod of places of worship and other assets which were seized and taken from them; and all these things in order that “the divine care, which protects us and which we have already experienced in many situations, may remain securely with us forever.”
This Edict and the consequent reformations of Constantine the Great introduced to the world the concept of human rights. For the first time the above-mentioned values were established: respect of religious tolerance, freedom of expression of religious conscience – values of human life – and all such values, which comprise the basis of the relevant legislation that is valid today and the various contents of occasional declarations by international organizations and state bodies.
Constantine the Great, who received his vocation from above, embraced all people, citizens and faithful, believers and unbelievers, thereby becoming a servant of the peaceful welfare and the salvation of all humanity. From his time onward, the Church of Christ transfigures institutions and regenerates the world, precisely as the burning bush on Mt. Sinai that was not consumed, the Womb that contained the uncontainable, namely Life in order that we may have life. (see John 10:10)
If we carefully observe the history of the world since that time, especially today, after 1700 years from the declaration of the Edict of Milan by Constantine the Great, we sadly ascertain that the various regulations about religious freedom have unfortunately been violated on numerous occasions in the past, not only against Christians, but sometimes even by Christians themselves against their fellow Christians and against the adherence of other religions.
Regretfully, when Christians became the majority within society, there were some instances of overzealous tendencies. One of the more contemptible instances of such spiteful conduct among Christians was the great schism and division of the One Church, which ignored in later generations that “Christ is not divided” (1 Cor. 1:13) and that we humans are “earth and ashes.” (Sir. 10:9) We overlooked and continue to overlook the aguish of the division of the seamless garment of the Lord, the Church, both locally and in every parish as One, Catholic, and Apostolic. Thus, as another “furnace of evil” (Prov. 16:30), we no longer enjoy love, peace, and tolerance; nor do we ask ourselves and one another the crucial question: “shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just” (Gen. 18:25) for us as well?
Last century, the Orthodox Church in particular was persecuted relentlessly by the atheist regime and other states, which depended on this regime ideologically, especially in the countries of Eastern Europe. In some countries, Christians are still, to this day, treated with great disfavor, despite the fact that many international treaties have now been universally recognize the right to religious freedom.
The relevant reports on religious oppressions by the appropriate international organizations are replete with specific examples of religious oppression against Christian religious minorities in particular as well as individual Christians.
To this very day, unfortunately, we must emphasize that religious tolerance and freedom of worship are an achievement of civilization. There are vast regions of the world that are inhabited by people, who do not tolerate a different religious faith from theirs. Religious persecutions continue to exist, even if they do not assume the same form as persecutions of the early Christians. Various unfavorable discriminations against adherents of several religious faiths still persist and are sometimes intensely oppressive. In many cases, religious fanaticism and fundamentalism prevail, so that the Edict of Milan is still relevant in our times and addresses those people, who, despite the passing of 1700 years since its declaration, have yet to apply it completely.
As we observe the journey of humanity from this sacred Center of Orthodoxy, we can freely admit that, despite the rapid progress of science and human discoveries, unfortunately the world has as a whole has not yet reached the noble concept and perception of religious freedom and that we still need a collaborative effort to achieve this goal.
Nonetheless, contemporary religious persecutions against Christians once again reveal the power of faith and the grace of sanctity.
Fathers, Brothers, and Children in the Risen Lord,
The anniversary that we celebrate is a crucial sign. It signifies that, when man loses his unity with the Church, whose constitution lies in the Trinitarian unity, he also loses his freedom. For one loses oneself when one loses all others. Everything in the Church is illumined by the Trinitarian unity, particularly the Eucharistic sacrament, which comprises the very heart of the Church as a gift from the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. If man preserves the Trinitarian unity, man is preserved as person and communion. If we preserve and experience this unity, the divine – human unity, then we preserve the unconfused and undivided unity of the two natures in Christ, which are extended to us as a blessing in the unity of truth and life, institution and grace, law and freedom. Those things that appear antithetical in fact interpenetrate without change and without alteration in accordance with the model of the Theotokos, who brought the opposites into the same. At the same time, this interpenetration reveals the constant presence at all times and in all places of Christ, divine and human, who continues to journey in the field of history with another form. He journeys with every person who struggles searches and despairs not in order to grant “magical solutions” as some sensory narcotic but in order to open his eyes, grant new senses and lift him toward heaven, while bringing down to earth the Holy Spirit which enters our earthly knead as a Trinitarian leaven.
No human institution, even if labeled ecclesiastical, can contain, tolerate, and satisfy the man, who breathe God within and desires what lies beyond, namely ongoing perfection in Christ. Nor is it possible for such a man to be satisfied with any promise or worldly perspective when he thirsts for the inconceivable and humanly inaccessible. All human existence cries “No!” to every secular institution, which supposedly claims that it leads to the mystery of life and salvation.
Every mechanical and seemingly “good” spiritual institution is “only” ready is frail, dissolved and non-existent. Therefore, the Lord, who knows all things and guides human hearts, came to shatter these “prisons” so he was persecuted and continues to be persecuted. However, in the end He was victorious in His Resurrection. He destroyed deceit. He overthrew the bankers’ tables and the merchants’ benches, namely those who had converted God’s temple into “a house of commerce.” (John 2:17) He liberated humanity from the “curse” of the law. (Gal. 3:13) Through His descent into hades, “chains were broken, gates were shattered, tombs were open, and the dead were brought to life.” (Aposticha, Great Vespers, Holy Friday)
Thus, all those who were “dead” from love, freedom, human rights, faith, hope, expectation, light, righteousness, truth, life, passed over into light: “and none was left dead and buried.” (Catechetical Homily of St. John Chrysostom)
And thus was constituted the holy Church, which through the ages, the martyrs, the ascetics and the righteous, despite persecutions and human temptations, is no “prison,” but freedom and, like death, powerful love. As the herald of this truth through the centuries, the Church is the continuation and consequence of the womb of another Mother, “wider than the heavens,” which gives birth to freedom. Thanks to the Church, all of us are children of the free woman (Gal. 4:31), children of freedom, which is acquired through obedience to the divine truth and love. If human institutions are afraid of human freedom, either dispelling, or disregarding, or even abolishing it, the institution of the Church, generates free persons in the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit constitutes the entire institution of the Church in as much as it “breathes where it wills but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) The indefinable nature of freedom is the rock of our faith.
The Wisdom of God, the Lady Theotokos our Pammakaristos and Conciliation, St. Demetrios Kanavis, St. George the Trophy-bearer of the Phanar, and all the saints of our Church are not keepers of the law but legislators according to St. Symeon the New Theologian. The institution of the Church is charismatic, and the charismata of the saints function as institutional signposts for the faithful of the Church.
One can truly and experientially say that charismatics do not exist but in fact become and are continually born for charisma is not granted as a static quality, but as a blessing, which is granted perpetually. Charismatics are those who are truly free because they are aware of the ultimate weakness of humanity and goodness of God. Such is the teaching that has trickled down to us from the Edict of Saint Constantine.
Those who see everyone else good and pure, regarding themselves as being “beneath all creation,” possess the grace of compunction and humility. They recognize the gifts of inner rest and illumination, they regard nothing as their own achievement, nor do they exploit any opportunity to expand their “authority” by “undermining” others, namely by limiting the freedom of others. The saints marvel at God’s ineffable love and spontaneously return this love directly to the Giver of al gifts. This is precisely what renders the saints worthy of continually receiving gifts that are new, greater, spotless, spiritual, a blessing for all creation, general achievements. In turn, they continue to reserve to have no high regard for themselves. Their highest regard is God.
As soon as they become aware that the world honors them, the saints are surprised, worry, and withdraw. They retire behind the curtain of feigned foolishness or ignorance, which in fact is true freedom. They are comfortable because they live, follow, and contribute to the flow of divine blood and grace within the body of the Church community.
Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Human rights and the freedom of religious conscience are gifts which were “once given to the saints” (Jude 1:3), but which are constantly acquired along the journey of life. They are acquired through the experience of communion in Christ within the harmonious cosmic liturgy. We have been talking for 1700 years about the freedom of human conscience. However, the Orthodox Church always – and particularly in the recent years of global changes within the last tragic century – foresees and discerns in its entirety the “prevalence in the world of peace, righteousness, freedom, fraternity and love among all peoples, and the elimination of all racial and other distinctions,” as would be decided by the coming Holy and Great Synod.
These sacred gifts are experienced through grace in the Divine Liturgy, where the creation of the world is revealed. It is humanly impossible to comprehend the magnitude of our freedom because we do not respect human beings as the image of God. And if we do not love our neighbor, we do not truly love God.
In this world, people naively imagine that “all things are fluid and nothing is permanent and it is not possible to cross the same river twice” (Heraclitus), namely that all things come and go and are forgotten, while human stones and graves cover them.
The Lord granted us the mystery of memory in freedom, when he proclaimed that “nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered” (Luke 12:2) and that all things culminate in the truth of freedom in Him and in the sense of doxological gratitude “for all that we know and do not know.”
Therefore, beyond external differences and distances, beyond worldly changes and exchanges, beyond the “rational” West and East, from the creation of the world we have seen God’s love, which dispels the falsehood of deceit like an irruption in silence, granting us the truth of life as a blessing of freedom and unity, as a journey of surprises leading to the endless journey toward Pascha, which is Jesus Christ Himself. “It was no messenger or angel but His presence that saved” (Is. 63:9) us in freedom and for freedom. He is with us after His ascension, “neither separated nor distant from us.” (Kontakion of the Feast of the Ascension) He stands beside us even when it appears that He abandoned us. Finally, He grants us the assurance that He is always present manifesting His glory in love and kenosis, depicted in icons as the king of glory in His resurrection, delivering Adam and Eve from hell, even while hanging peacefully on the wood of the Cross in ultimate humiliation.
“Great are you, O Lord, and wondrous are your works, and no word suffices to Hymn your wonders.” In any case, “every hymn is inadequate, hastening to describe the multitude of Christ’s great compassion.”
Our Modesty, together with our brothers in the Holy Spirit and concelebrants in the Lord, stand before the “empty tomb” with the myrrh-bearing women and behold that “the stone has been moved.” We witness in ecstasy and awe the Risen Lord, who trampled down death by death, liberating us from the bonds of flesh and consuming hades, while granting us life.
Thus, on the occasion of our commemoration of the granting to Christians of the right to freedom of faith and worship, from this sacred Center of Orthodoxy, which has served in captivity the true freedom of humanity in Christ and of the ecclesiastical body, we express our intense concern, anxiety and protest for the ongoing persecutions throughout the world. In particular, today we fervently pray for the Christian populations of the geographical regions of the Middle East, who experience frequent murders, kidnappings, persecutions and threats, which have culminated in the kidnapping of two brother Hierarchs, whose whereabouts are still unknown, namely the distinguished and most reverend Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo, well-known for his spirituality and significant ecclesiastical, social and educational ministry, as well as the Syrian Jacobite Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo.
We wholeheartedly share in the pain, sorrow and challenges faced by Christians in the Middle East and Egypt, and especially in the ancient and senior Patriarchate of Antioch. Beyond any political stance, we categorically condemn once again the use of all forms of violence, appealing to the rulers of this world to respect the fundamental human rights of life, honor, dignity and property, recognizing and praising the peaceful lifestyle of Christians as well as their constant effort to remain far from turmoil and trouble.
We express our concern as the Church of Constantinople that, 1700 years after the issue of the Edict of Milan, people continue to be persecuted for their faith, religion and conscientious choices.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate will never cease, through all the spiritual means and truth at its disposal, to support the efforts for peaceful dialogue among the various religions, the peaceful solution to every difference, and a prevailing atmosphere of toleration, reconciliation and cooperation among all people irrespective of religion and grace.
In condemning every form of violence as contrary to religion, we proclaim from the Ecumenical Patriarchate that truly great is “the mystery of our religion; God was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among gentiles, believed in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16), governs the world and the affairs of the world in accordance with His incomprehensible will and judgment, and will come again in glory as the righteous judge of the entire world.
To Him be glory, might, power, honor, worship, and the kingdom to the endless ages of ages. Amen.
In the year of the Lord 2013, May 19.
Your fervent supplicant to God,
+ Bartholomew of Constantinople
+ Athanasios of Chalcedon, co-supplicant
+ Apostolos of Derkoi, co-supplicant
+ Evangelos of Perghe, co-supplicant
+ Germanos of Theodoroupolis, co-supplicant
+ Irenaios of Myriophyton and Peristasis, co-supplicant
+ Chrysostomos of Myra, co-supplicant
+ Gennadios of Sassima, co-supplicant
+ Evangelos of New Jersey, co-supplicant
+ Kyrillos of Rhodes, co-supplicant
+ Damaskinos of Kydonia and Apokoronos, co-supplicant
+ Constantine of Singapore, co-supplicant
+ Arsenios of Austria, co-supplicant

Rédigé par EIFRF le Wednesday, May 22nd 2013 | Comments (0)

Promulguée par le patriarche œcuménique Bartholomée le 19 mai 2013 :

Nouvelle encyclique pour les 1700 ans de l'édit de Milan
No de protocole 441
« Béni sois-tu, ô Christ notre Dieu qui l’as voulu ainsi », d’avoir tout dispensé à tous, et nous ayant conduit en ce « Jour de la Résurrection » où « de lumière, est rempli tout l’univers au ciel et sur terre. »
Cette année, c’est le 1700ème anniversaire de la promulgation de l’Édit de Milan sur la liberté de foi religieuse. Dans la communion avec l’Église en tout lieu et de tout temps, depuis ce très saint siège œcuménique apostolique et patriarcal, nous adressons un message d’espoir, d’amour, de paix et d’optimisme, puisque l’Église existe en tant que manifestation divine continue. « Celui qui a vu le Fils a vu le Père » , et celui qui a vu l’institution de l’Église a vu le Seigneur Dieu-homme, présent invisiblement parmi nous, et le Saint-Esprit.
L’Église est une telle institution dans la liberté : « Voilà le christianisme : il donne la liberté dans la servitude » 
Par l’édit de Milan, les persécutions décrétées contre l’Église et la religion cessent légalement. Pour la première fois, la liberté de conscience religieuse est instituée dans le monde. Cependant, la liberté dont Christ nous a gratifiée en nous libérant , n’est ni forme ni lettre. C’est une liberté réelle dont nous sommes toujours en quête, pour que tout devienne « nouveau ». D’ailleurs, n’espérons-nous pas un ciel nouveau et une terre nouvelle ?
Jusqu’à l’époque de Constantin le Grand, l’histoire du monde, « l’ancien Israël » d’avant Christ, mais aussi après la présence incarnée divino-humaine du « nouvel Israël », le fait pour quelqu’un d’exprimer librement sa foi consciente faisait l’objet de poursuites et de persécutions allant même jusqu’au martyre de sang pour la vérité.
L’histoire fait aussi état de persécutions menées contre des personnes ayant une conception de la Divinité et une foi différente de celle professée par le souverain ou la société dont elles étaient membres.
L’Ancien Testament cite le roi Nabuchodonosor, considéré alors maître de l’univers ; ayant fait faire une grande statue le représentant, il a commandé à tous ses sujets de l’adorer en se prosternant jusqu’à la terre.
Les « trois jeunes gens » furent jetés dans la fournaise pour avoir refusé de se prosterner devant l’idole de Nabuchodonosor. En fait, ils ont refusé au roi séculier la dignité d’égalité aux dieux qu’il s’était attribuée. C’est pour cette même raison que sainte Salomé et ses fils, les sept frères Macchabées, avec leur maître Eléazar, ont été persécutés et ont fini leur vie dans le martyre. 
L’autorité de Nabuchodonosor a été solennellement réfutée par la fournaise de feu ardent, qui préfigure le Mystère de notre toute-sainte Mère de Dieu ; transformé en vent de rosée rafraichissant, le feu a gardé indemnes les trois jeunes-gens, comme le Feu de la Divinité n’a pas touché la Vierge Mère de Dieu.
Refusant de se prosterner devant l’arrogant insensé qui s’était arrogé l’attribut de Dieu et chantant : « toutes les œuvres du Seigneur, bénissez le Seigneur » , les jeunes gens jetés dans la fournaise préfigurent la liberté apportée par le Seigneur qui, pour gagner « ceux qui sont assujettis à la loi » , s’est fait comme eux. 
À Athènes, le philosophe Socrate a été condamné à mort au motif qu’il n’acceptait pas les dieux que la cité adorait. Les anciens écrivains Grecs rapportent plusieurs cas de poursuites individuelles engagées contre des tenants de croyances différentes : par exemple, contre Anaxagore de Clazomènes accusé de soutenir que le soleil était de la roche en fusion ou contre Diagoras de Mélos accusé de tourner en ridicule les antiques mystères idolâtres et de dissuader les citoyens d’y participer.
Quoi qu’il en soit, les persécutions, réelles et idéologiques, menées au cours des siècles, bien qu’elles aient souvent conduit au martyre subi pour rendre témoignage, n’ont pas jamais été en mesure d’abolir la tolérance religieuse, officiellement proclamée par l’Édit de Milan.
Animés d’un esprit absolutiste, les empereurs romains se sont proclamés aussi chefs religieux. Ils sont même allés jusqu’à exiger que leur soit reconnus l’attribut divin et l’honneur correspondant.
Le refus des chrétiens de se plier à ces exigences de l’empereur provoquait sa colère, surtout à cause de la remise en question de son autorité. Les persécutions impitoyables menées en leur encontre sont le résultat d’une telle conception anthropocentrique provoquant des hécatombes entiers de martyrs qui « ont lavé leurs robes et les ont blanchies dans le sang de l’agneau ». 
En conclusion, l’aboutissement des persécutions qui ont sévi contre la religion est parfaitement illustré par l’adage de saint Jean Chrysostome : « On ne s’attaque pas à Dieu impunément. Si le châtiment se fait parfois attendre, c’est un délai que la Bonté souveraine accorde à l’homme téméraire […] S’il persiste dans son égarement […] il leur [aux autres hommes] apprendra par l’exemple de son inévitable punition à ne pas s’aventurer dans une lutte contre Dieu, aux mains invincibles de qui nul ne saurait échapper » .
Après trois siècles de persécutions féroces menées à l’encontre des chrétiens, les empereurs Constantin le Grand d’Orient et Licinius d’Occident ont reconnu que l’empire n’avait tiré aucun profit de l’intolérance religieuse et des persécutions incessantes. Ils ont donc décidé de permettre aux chrétiens de pratiquer librement la foi et rendre culte à Dieu. La volonté de Constantin le Grand, qui a « calculé l’habileté de cette guerre diabolique » , est illustrée dans l’édit de Milan de 313, toujours d’actualité, qui a servi de base à la reconnaissance universelle, plusieurs siècles après, de la liberté de la conscience religieuse.
L’édit de Milan comprend des positions sur la liberté religieuse, très en avance pour l’époque, exprimées en treize unités. Il institue des principes qui, tout en étant singuliers au IVe siècle, demeurent toujours des postulats et des points de repère, malgré l’allégation qu’ils seraient aussi pleinement appliqués dans ce monde « du mal » fait d’« injustice » et d’« obscurantisme », au-lieu de Justice et de Lumière.
Il confesse et proclame : le respect de la pensée et de la volonté de chacun de prendre soin des affaires divines à son gré ; la foi et le respect dû au divin, et l’octroi aux chrétiens et au monde entier de la liberté de choisir leur religion, sans en être inquiétés ; la restitution immédiate aux chrétiens, à l’Église et au Synode, de leurs lieux de culte et autres, confisqués et enlevés ; tout ceci, afin que « la providence divine qui nous entoure et dont nous avons fait l’expérience à plusieurs reprises, demeure chez nous pour toujours ».
Cet édit et les réformes de Constantin le Grand qui l’ont suivi ont introduit dans le monde la notion des droits de l’homme. Pour la première fois, les principes susmentionnés sont consacrés : le respect de la tolérance, la liberté d’exprimer la conscience religieuse – valeurs de la vie humaine – et tout ceci a constitué le fondement de la législation contemporaine en vigueur et des dispositions prévues dans les diverses déclarations d’organisations internationales et d’entités étatiques.
Ayant reçu l’appel non des hommes, mais de Dieu, Constantin le Grand a embrassé le monde entier, peuple et Église, croyants et irréligieux. Il s’est mis au service de la prospérité paisible et du salut de l’humanité. Depuis son époque, l’Église du Christ transforme les institutions et la vie, et elle régénère le monde, à l’instar du buisson ardent du Sinaï qui brûlait sans se consumer, la matrice qui « offrit une place au Dieu infini », la Vie, « pour que nous les hommes ayons la vie » .
En examinant l’histoire du monde depuis la promulgation de cet édit de Constantin le Grand, surtout aujourd’hui, 1700 ans après, nous sommes consternés de constater que les dispositions prises par lui en faveur de la liberté religieuse, ont souvent été violées dans le passé, non seulement aux dépens des chrétiens, mais parfois par les chrétiens eux-mêmes les uns à l’encontre des autres et à l’encontre des adeptes d’autres religions.
Malheureusement, lorsque les chrétiens sont devenus majoritaires dans la société, il y a eu des cas d’excès de zèle entre eux. Une des attitudes les plus répréhensibles d’intolérance entre chrétiens furent le schisme et la division de l’Église Une, les générations postérieures ayant oublié que « le Christ n’est pas divisé »  et que nous les humains sommes « terre et cendre » . Nous avons ignoré et nous continuons de mépriser l’angoisse d’avoir déchiré la tunique sans couture du Seigneur, d’avoir divisé l’Église considérée de part et d’autre comme l’Église une, catholique et apostolique. « Ayant consommé le mal »  nous manquons d’amour, de paix, de tolérance. Nous évitons de poser les uns aux autres la question cruciale : « Le juge de toute la terre »  ne nous jugera-t-il pas nous aussi ? 
Au siècle passé, l’Église spécialement l’Église orthodoxe a été impitoyablement persécutée par le régime athée et les autres régimes dans l’obédience idéologique de celui-ci surtout dans les pays d’Europe de l’Est. De nos jours encore, les chrétiens sont traités avec hostilité dans certains pays, bien que le droit de liberté religieuse soit désormais internationalement reconnu par de nombreuses conventions internationales.
Les rapports sur l’oppression religieuse émanant des organisations internationales compétentes en la matière pullulent de cas précis d’oppression religieuse dont des chrétiens sont victimes, en tant que groupes minoritaires ou à titre individuel.
Aujourd’hui encore, il s’avère malheureusement nécessaire de souligner que la tolérance religieuse et la liberté du culte sont un acquis culturel. De vastes régions du globe sont habitées par des gens qui ne tolèrent pas une foi différente de la leur. Des persécutions religieuses sévissent encore, bien que sous une forme différente de celle des premières persécutions chrétiennes. Il y a encore des discriminations, parfois très répressives, au détriment des adeptes de certaines croyances religieuses. Dans de nombreux cas, le fanatisme et le fondamentalisme religieux règnent. L’édit de Milan est donc toujours d’actualité et s’adresse à ceux qui, 1700 ans après sa promulgation, ne l’ont pas appliqué dans son intégralité.
Suivant attentivement, depuis ce centre sacré de l’Orthodoxie le cheminement de l’humanité, nous confessons en toute liberté que malheureusement, malgré les progrès fulgurants de la science et des découvertes, le monde dans son ensemble n’est pas encore parvenu à une conception et acceptation majeure de la liberté religieuse et qu’un effort coordonné s’avère nécessaire pour atteindre cet objectif.
Les persécutions religieuses contemporaines à l’encontre des chrétiens révèlent à nouveau la puissance de la foi et la Grâce de la sainteté. 
Pères, Frères et Enfants dans le Seigneur ressuscité, 
L’anniversaire que nous sommes en train de célébrer constitue un signal crucial : En rompant son unité avec l’Église, qui se compose de l’unité («καθώς») trinitaire, il perd sa liberté. Car il perd son « moi » qui est tous les autres. Le tout dans l’Église manifeste le « καθώς » trinitaire, spécialement l’office eucharistique qui constitue le cœur de l’Église. C’est un charisme, un don du Père par le Fils avec la coopération du Saint-Esprit. Si le « καθώς » trinitaire est sauvegardé, l’homme est sauvé en tant que personne et en tant que société. Et si nous préservons et vivons le « καθώς », le divino-humain, alors l’union sans confusion ni division des deux natures en Christ est maintenue et s’étend comme une bénédiction dans l’unité entre vérité et vie, entre institution et Grâce, entre loi et liberté. Des choses opposées en apparence s’interpénètrent sans changement ni altération, selon le modèle de la Mère de Dieu qui a concilié les contraires. Dans cette interpénétration est perçue la présence continue du Dieu-homme partout dans le monde jusqu’à la fin des temps Qui continue d’arpenter sous une forme différente le champ de l’histoire. Il fait route ensemble avec l’homme en proie à l’angoisse, au questionnement et au désespoir, non pas pour lui fournir des « solutions magiques », comme des stupéfiants pour les sens, mais pour lui ouvrir les yeux, lui donner ses facultés perceptives, l’élever au ciel et faire descendre sur terre l’Esprit Saint qui, en tant que levain trinitaire, pénètre notre pâte terreuse.
Aucune institution humaine, ne fût-ce dite ecclésiastique, ne saurait circonscrire ni satisfaire l’homme qui porte en lui le souffle de Dieu, aspire à « aller plus loin », à son essor, aspire au Christ. Il est impossible à l’homme de se reposer sur une promesse ou une perspective temporelle, quelle qu’elle soit, car il a soif de l’inconcevable et de l’humainement impossible. L’existence humaine entière dit « non » à l’institution organisée sur le mode séculier, censée l’initier au mystère de la vie et du salut.
Pour l’homme, la « bonne » institution spirituelle opérant mécaniquement est « uniquement » celle qui est délabrée, dissoute et inexistante. C’est pourquoi, le Seigneur omniscient, qui scrute les cœurs et les reins, est venu et a détruit les « prisons ». Il fut persécuté, il l’est toujours. À la fin, il emporta la victoire par Sa Résurrection. Et il abolit la fraude. Il renversa les tables des changeurs et les sièges des marchands qui avaient transformé le Temple de Dieu en « maison de trafic » . Il libéra l’humanité de la « malédiction de la loi » . En descendant aux Enfers, « les verrous furent brisés, les portes arrachées ; alors s’ouvrirent les tombeaux et se levèrent les morts » . Grâce à l’amour, la liberté, les droits de l’homme, la foi, l’espérance, la lumière, la justice, la vérité, la Vie, tous les « morts, nous sommes sortis à la Lumière : « et il n’est plus de mort au tombeau » .
La sainte Église fut constituée qui, au cours des siècles, par les martyrs, les bienheureux, les justes, en dépit des persécutions et des tentations humaines, n’est pas une « prison », mais liberté et amour, aussi puissant que la mort. L’Église, héraut de sa vérité à travers les siècles, est la continuité et la conséquence de la matrice d’une autre Mère, « plus vaste que les cieux » qui donne naissance à l’homme libre. Grâce à elle, nous sommes tous enfants de la femme libre , enfants de la liberté conquise par l’obéissance à la Vérité de Dieu, à l’Amour.
Si les institutions humaines craignent la liberté humaine, la troquent, l’ignorent ou l’abolissent, l’Institution de l’Église fait naître des hommes libres dans l’Esprit. L’Esprit forge toute l’Institution de l’Église, Lui qui, comme le vent « souffle où il veut […] mais tu ne sais ni d’où il vient ni où il va. Ainsi en est-il de quiconque est né de l’Esprit » . Et l’indéfinissable de la liberté est la pierre de la foi.
La Sagesse de Dieu, notre Dame la Mère de Dieu, la toute-Bienheureuse et la Consolation, saint Démètre Kanavos, saint Georges le Victorieux du Diplophanar, tous les Saints de notre Église, ne sont pas des gardiens de la loi, mais des législateurs, selon saint Siméon le Jeune Théologien. L’Institution de l’Église est charismatique et les charismes des Saints opèrent comme institutions conductrices pour le plérôme de l’Église.
L’on peut vraiment et empiriquement affirmer qu’il n’y a pas de personnes charismatiques d’emblée, mais qu’elles le deviennent, émergent continuellement. Le charisme ne leur fut pas donné comme attribut statique, mais comme bénédiction dispensée en permanence. Ce sont ces personnes qui sont vraiment libres, conscientes de l’extrême faiblesse de l’homme et de la bonté de Dieu, dont les prescriptions de l’édit de saint Constantin sont le distillat.
Ceux qui considèrent les autres bons et purs et qui se considèrent « inférieurs à la création », possèdent la grâce de la contrition de l’humble de cœur et du méprisé. Ils acceptent les charismes du repos intérieur et de l’illumination. Ils ne considèrent rien comme un accomplissement ni comme une possibilité d’exploiter pour accroître leur « prestige » en « dévalorisant » les autres, c’est-à-dire en limitant la liberté de la personne. Les saints s’étonnent de l’amour ineffable de Dieu et le rendent spontanément et immédiatement à Celui qui leur en a fait don. C’est ce qui rend les saints dignes de recevoir continuellement de nouveaux charismes, plus grands, immaculés, spirituels, bénissant l’univers, de vrais accomplissements. Et ils continuent à n’avoir aucune haute opinion d’eux-mêmes. Ils ont une haute Opinion de Dieu.
Dès que la vénération du monde à leur égard devient connue, ils s’en étonnent, en sont indignés et agacés. Ils se refugient derrière le paravent soit d’une folie factice soit d’une ignorance supposée, c’est-à-dire d’une vraie liberté. Et ils vivent dans la quiétude, contribuant à la circulation du Sang et de la Grâce dans le corps de la communauté ecclésiale.
Frères dans le Seigneur,
Les droits de l’homme, la liberté de la conscience religieuse sont des charismes « donnés aux saints une fois pour toutes » , mais ils sont continuellement conquis dans le parcours humain. Ils le sont en vivant la communion en Christ dans la parfaite harmonie de l’univers. Depuis 1700 ans, nous parlons de la liberté de conscience de l’homme. De tout temps, mais surtout en ces derniers temps de changements cosmogoniques opérés au cours du tragique siècle dernier, notre Église orthodoxe prévoit, entrevoit et examine dans son ensemble « l’instauration dans le monde de la paix, de la justice, de la liberté, de la fraternité et de l’amour entre les peuples, et la suppression des discriminations raciales et autres », et se prononcera là-dessus au moment de réunir son saint et grand Concile.
Ces dons divins sont vécus par la grâce dans la divine liturgie, lors de laquelle la cosmogonie est révélée. Selon la mesure humaine, on a de la peine à comprendre l’ampleur de cette liberté de l’homme et de ses idées, car on ne respecte pas l’homme image de Dieu. Et si l’on n’aime pas le prochain en s’unifiant à lui, on n’aime pas vraiment Dieu.
Dans la vie sur terre, on croit naïvement au perpétuel écoulement des choses : « tout s’écoule, rien n’est stable et on ne peut pas se baigner deux fois dans le même fleuve » , c’est-à-dire que tout est passager, oublié, les affaires humaines sont couvertes de pierres et de la tombe.
Le Seigneur a fait don du mystère de la mémoire dans la liberté en proclamant : « Rien n’est voilé qui ne sera dévoilé » . Tout aboutit à la vérité de la liberté en Lui et au sentiment de gratitude et de louange à Dieu « pour tous les bienfaits connus et ignorés de nous ».
Au-delà des différences et des distances extérieures, donc au-delà des alternances et des avis temporels, au-delà du « raisonnement » Occident et Orient, dès l’origine du monde, Dieu manifeste son amour qui, comme une explosion dans le silence, dissipe le mensonge de la fraude, nous dispense la vérité de la vie, comme une bénédiction de liberté et d’unité, comme un chemin émaillé de surprises conduisant à la Marche sans fin et à la Pâque qui est le Dieu-homme lui-même. « Ce n’est pas un délégué ni un messager, c’est lui, en personne, qui nous sauva »  dans la liberté et pour nous faire accéder à la liberté. Il est avec nous dans l’Ascension « sans nous délaisser, mais restant toujours parmi nous » . Il défend et protège l’homme, même lorsqu’il semble l’abandonner. Et il dispense, enfin, la certitude d’être toujours présent, manifestant Sa gloire dans l’amour et le dépouillement, représenté dans l’iconographie comme Roi de gloire dans la Résurrection, délivrant de l’enfer Adam et Ève, l’humanité, mais aussi suspendu paisiblement sur le bois de la Croix, dans l’extrême humiliation.
« Tu es grand, Seigneur, tes œuvres sont admirables, et nulle parole ne suffira pour chanter tes merveilles »  ; d’ailleurs « toute hymne est impuissante lors qu’elle s’efforce d’égaler la multitude des miséricordes »  du Christ.
Notre humble personne, avec nos frères en l’Esprit saint et concélébrant dans le Seigneur, avec les femmes Myrophores, nous nous tenons devant le « sépulcre vide », nous voyons que « la pierre est roulée » et nous regardons tremblants et bouleversés le Seigneur Ressuscité, par sa mort ayant triomphé de la mort, et nous délivrant des entraves de la chair et de l’enfer engloutissant tout pour nous donner la vie. 
Prenant donc prétexte du souvenir de l’octroi aux chrétiens du droit à la liberté de foi et de culte, depuis ce centre sacré de l’Orthodoxie qui, tout en étant asservi selon la mesure humaine, a servi la vraie liberté en Christ de l’homme et du corps ecclésial, nous exprimons notre préoccupation, angoisse et protestation face aux persécutions qui sévissent encore partout sur terre, surtout récemment à l’encontre des populations chrétiennes du Moyen Orient. Celles-ci se manifestent par des assassinats, des enlèvements, des poursuites et des menaces contre eux, dont le comble est l’enlèvement de nos deux frères Hiérarques encore portés disparus : Son Éminence le métropolite Paul d’Alep et Alexandrette, connu pour sa spiritualité, ainsi que pour son importante œuvre ecclésiastique, sociale et éducative, et le métropolite de l’Église syriaque, Mar Johanna-Ibrahim d’Alep.
Nous partageons la douleur, l’affliction et les difficultés auxquelles les chrétiens sont confrontés au Moyen Orient et en Égypte, surtout l’ancien et vénérable Patriarcat d’Antioche. Sans prendre aucune position politique, nous condamnons sans hésitation une fois de plus toute forme de violence à leur encontre, faisant appel aux puissants de la terre de faire respecter les droits de l’homme les plus élémentaires à la vie, l’honneur, la dignité, la fortune, connaissant et louant leur comportement paisible et pacifique, leur effort constant de rester loin de toute agitation et de tout conflit.
Nous exprimons notre angoisse, comme Église de Constantinople, car, mille sept-cents ans après la promulgation de l’Édit de Milan, les humains sont persécutés pour leur foi, leur religion et leurs choix faits en toute conscience.
Le Patriarcat œcuménique, par tous les moyens spirituels à sa disposition et par la vérité, ne cessera jamais de soutenir les efforts de dialogue pacifique entre les diverses religions, la solution pacifique de tout différend et l’instauration d’un climat de tolérance, de réconciliation et de coopération entre les hommes de toute religion et de toute origine ethnique.
En condamnant, comme contraire à la religion, toute forme de violence, depuis le Patriarcat œcuménique, nous proclamons : « Assurément il est grand le mystère de la piété. Il a été manifesté dans la chair, justifié par l’Esprit, contemplé par les anges, proclamé chez les païens, cru dans le monde, exalté dans la gloire » . Il gouverne le monde et les affaires du monde, selon Sa volonté et Son jugement impénétrables et vient à nouveau dans la gloire comme Juge impartial pour juger le monde entier. 
À Lui la gloire, la puissance, la force, l’honneur, l’adoration et le règne dans les siècles des siècles infinis. Amen.
En l’an de grâce 2013, le 19 du mois de mai.
† Bartholomaios de Constantinople, implorant Dieu
† Athanase de Chalcédoine, y joignant ses prières
† Constantin de Derka, y joignant ses prières
† Évangélos de Pergè, y joignant ses prières
† Germain de Théodoroupolis, y joignant ses prières
† Irénée de Myriofyton et Péristasis, y joignant ses prières
† Chrysostome de Myra, y joignant ses prières
† Gennade de Sasimes, y joignant ses prières
† Évangélos de New-Jersey, y joignant ses prières
† Cyrille de Rhodes, y joignant ses prières
† Damascène de Kydonia et Apokorono, y joignant ses prières
† Constantin de Singapour, y joignant ses prières
† Arsène d’Autriche, y joignant ses prières

Rédigé par EIFRF le Wednesday, May 22nd 2013 | Comments (0)

Books and publications

Sergey Ivanenko is a well-known Russian religious expert and doctor of philosophical sciences. He has studied religion professionally for more than 35 years. He compiled the first index in the country on religious organizations of the Russian Federation and has written 16 books and more than 140 articles on problems of religious studies. His work stands out as accurate, clear, and understandable.
Here are some extracts from his new book "Ordinary Anti Cultism"

Ordinary Anti-cultism book
Full book available here:

One of the Primary Targets of Anti-cultists—Pentecostals

The Evangelical Christian religion (Pentecostals) is one of the main movements in modern Protestantism. The New Testament states that at the time of Pentecost, the holy spirit descended upon the apostles, “and they all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues.” (Acts 2:4) Pentecostals practice “speaking in tongues” during prayer services. This is their foremost distinction from other movements of Protestantism.

Pentecostals are divided into different denominations. Considering that from a religious scholarly point of view there are no major distinctions between Pentecostals and “neo-Pentecostals,” then anti-cultists are waging war against one of the largest and fastest growing movements of modern Protestantism.

Bishop Sergey Ryakhovskiy is one of the leaders of Russian Pentecostals and chairman of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians (approximately 1,000 unregistered religious groups and more than 1,350 communities registered by the Federal Registration Agency, which makes up around 6 percent of all the registered religious organizations in the Russian Federation). He is the object of constant, malicious, and personal criticism from A. Dvorkin and other anti-cultists.

Sergey Ryakhovskiy is a member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, the co-chairman of the Advisory Board of Protestant Church Leaders in Russia, and a member of the Council on Interaction With Religious Associations. He has state and departmental awards, including “The Order for Merit to the Fatherland” of second degree, the medal, “In Commemoration of the 850th Anniversary of Moscow,” and the medal, “In Commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation.”[1]

Like the majority of Christian Pentecostals, and, for that matter, Russian Protestants in general, Bishop Sergey Ryakhovskiy is patriotic and takes a balanced and conservative position on moral issues, supporting traditional family values. Hysterical and even manic attacks on Sergey Ryakhovskiy by the St. Irenaeus of Lyon Center for Religious Studies are due to the personal hatred of anti-cultists and aggressive rejection of Pentecostals.

An achievement of the anti-cultists in their fight with Pentecostals was the decision to dissolve one of the largest communities of over 1,000 members––the local religious organization the Church of Evangelical Christians (Pentecostals) “Blagodat” of the city of Khabarovsk—and ban its activity in the Khabarovsk Territory, rendered by the Khabarovsk Territorial Court on 27 April 2011 regarding the claim of the Prosecutor for the Khabarovsk Territory. The most significant statement in the decision was the assertion that the characteristics of the religious practice of Pentecostals, including “speaking in tongues,” harm the health of citizens. If this decision entered into legal force, it could be used against all Christian Pentecostals.

The “Blagodat” Church appealed the decision of the Khabarovsk Territorial Court to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, which declared it as unlawful on 5 July 2011 and sent the case to the Khabarovsk Territorial Court for retrial.

The retrial took place from 15–19 December 2011 in the Khabarovsk Territorial Court. The court denied the prosecutor’s claim. However, the prosecutor’s office appealed this decision. Moreover, the Khabarovsk Territorial Prosecutor’s Office continues to investigate the criminal case against the “Blagodat” Church as an organization that harms the mental health of citizens.

According to the Guild of Experts on Religion and Law (president, Roman Lunkin; chairperson; Inna Zagrebina), the main attacks against Pentecostals are taking place in the Far East.[2]

Unfortunately, violations of the rights of Christian Pentecostals have occurred in Moscow, as well as in other regions.[3] Thus, on 6 September 2012 a building of the Church of the Holy Trinity, located on Nikolaya Starostina Street, in Novokosino, Moscow, was ransacked and destroyed. The church belonged to the community of the Russian Church of Evangelical Christians (Pentecostals).
For many years believers have tried to legalize the right to a church building in the East Prefecture of the City of Moscow. However, their efforts were not successful. On 17 May 2012 a judicial decision was rendered to remove temporary structures belonging to the community. The believers’ requests to allocate a land plot for the construction of a new church building were not considered by the prefecture.

Almost immediately after midnight on 6 September, persons who identified themselves as the police broke into the church, cut all lines of communication and, having seized the cell phone of the girl on duty at the church, detained her at the police station for several hours. During this time all valuables were stolen from the Church of the Holy Trinity, including religious books and chalices for the Eucharist. Objects sacred to the believers and religious books were desecrated. All supporting buildings on the territory of the Church of the Holy Trinity were barbarically ransacked. Safes were opened. An automobile was broken into and a generator, an audio control console, musical instruments, and other valuables were stolen.

Upon arriving, Pastor V. N. Romankov could not enter the premises of the church. The minister was insulted by unknown persons at the site of the ransacked church building. Church members were subjected to physical violence from people identifying themselves as the “people’s guard.” Police officers present at the time ignored the believers’ requests for protection from insults and violence.
Such an event is an act of vandalism and barbarism. What happened was a flagrant insult to the religious feelings of the believers.

The history of Pentecostals in the U.S.S.R. shows that this religious movement of Protestantism cannot be broken even by the harshest persecution. In 1929, the activity of the Evangelical Christian religion (Pentecostals) was banned in the Soviet Union. From 1929 to 1941, Pentecostals received 20–25 year sentences in labor camps, and at times were sentenced to be shot.

In 1945, Pentecostals were offered registration as part of the National Council of Evangelical Christian-Baptists; they were not allowed to create their own religious center. They could receive registration on the condition that they renounced their evangelical, missionary, and charitable activities, as well as “speaking in tongues.” Therefore, the majority of Pentecostal communities refused registration and continued their activity underground.

The end of the 1950’s and the beginning of the 1960’s marked the start of systematic persecution of Pentecostals in the U.S.S.R. A. I. Solzhenitsyn gives a detailed account of this in his book Arkhipelag GULAG [The GULAG Archipelago]. During that period many leaders of the communities and ordinary church members received long prison sentences. The mass media attempted in every way to discredit the activity of Pentecostals, attributing to them monstrous crimes.

Starting from 1968, some Pentecostal communities received approval for state registration, however most Pentecostal churches remained without registration until the start of the 1990’s.
In the U.S.S.R., the activity of unregistered religious communities was banned and prosecuted as a crime. Ordinary members of unregistered communities were constantly persecuted, usually by the imposition of fines, for their participation in prayer meetings. There were several instances where private homes used by Pentecostals for joint prayer were confiscated or even demolished.

During court proceedings, various criminal charges were leveled against directors of unregistered communities of Pentecostals, including charges under Article 190 or Article 70 of the Criminal Code, that is, slander against the Soviet system and anti-Soviet propaganda. The directors of the Pentecostals were accused of harming the believers’ health with fanatical rituals.

Soviet propaganda used two main methods to discredit Pentecostals. They were accused of extreme fanaticism, even of human sacrifice. The story also spread that religion was just a cover for their true mercenary motives—they “served the interests of world imperialism” for dollars.

After the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic Law on Freedom of Religion dated 25 October 1990 entered into force, unregistered communities of Pentecostals began to legalize their activity.

The Decree by the President of the Russian Federation on Measures to Exonerate Religious Ministers and Believers Victimized by Groundless Repression dated 14 March 1996 No. 378 condemned the “many years of terror unleashed by the Bolshevist Soviet Party regime against religious ministers and believers of all denominations.” All previously convicted Pentecostals were exonerated.

Anti-cultist myths used against Pentecostals in recent years essentially replicate the stereotypes of Soviet anti-religious propaganda and promote divisions in society on the basis of religion.

The strengthening of the influence of Protestantism, includingthat of Pentecostals, is a normal processin modern Russia. Russian Protestants are an integral part of the developing middle class. They are the ones most active and effective in social work: they help drug addicts and alcoholics return to a normal life, aid children in difficult situations—including adopting orphans. Protestants obey the law, pay taxes, engage in business, and follow Christian moral principles. They are conscientious workers. They do not drink or smoke.

A noteworthy event was the election on 18 March 2012 of a Protestant mayor in the city of Tolyatti. The majority of voters (in the second round—about 57 percent) cast their ballot for Sergey Igorevich Andreyev, who did not hide his affiliation with Protestantism, despite the “anti-sect” campaign launched by his opponents.

It is high time for decisive measures to be taken to normalize relations between the State and Protestants, including organizing regular meetings of the leaders of the country with the Advisory Committee of the Leaders of the Protestant Church in Russia.

Jehovah’s Witnesses—A Priority in the “Fight Against Extremism”

Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the later movements in Protestantism, appearing in the United States in 1870. They first appeared in Russia at the end of the 19th century; in Finland they received official recognition in 1913, which at the time was part of the Russian Empire.

Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced severe repression in the U.S.S.R. Leaders in the communities and active preachers were sentenced to long prison terms. Believers and members of their families were deported to Siberia.

For example, in 1949 all Jehovah’s Witnesses who were discovered by the authorities in Moldova and who refused to renounce their faith were deported to Siberia and the Far East. In 1951, all Jehovah’s Witnesses known to the authorities in Western Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia who maintained integrity to their beliefs were deported to Siberia (over 8,500 persons).
In 1965, Jehovah’s Witnesses were released from exile in Siberia; however their religious communities in the U.S.S.R. were not permitted to register. Repression of the believers continued until the beginning of 1991.

Jehovah’s Witnesses received official recognition in Russia on 27 March 1991. In accordance with the Federal Law on Exoneration of Victims of Political Repression dated 18 October 1991 No 1761-1 and the Decree by the President of the Russian Federation on Measures to Exonerate Religious Ministers and Believers Victimized by Groundless Repression dated 14 March 1996 No. 378, all Jehovah’s Witnesses persecuted under the Soviet regime were exonerated and declared victims of political repression.

Accusations of extremism were brought against Jehovah’s Witnesses and their religious literature starting in 2009. In the last few years, on their official website “Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia” ( ), there is a steady stream of news releases and documents regarding new criminal and civil cases, court proceedings, searches, and detainments of believers. Certain publications have been declared extremist materials.

A person unfamiliar with the preaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses may wonder if they are a dangerous terrorist organization, posing no less a threat than al-Qaeda.

As a religious studies expert, having defended in 2002 my doctoral dissertation on the evolution and activity of the religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and having continued to acquaint myself with their publications, I can affirm that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not take up arms and that they reject violence. There is no extremism in their teachings, but there is the firm conviction that their religion is the only true one.

Obviously, if you declare extremist religious publications in which a religious organization claims their religion is the true one and other religions have strayed from the truth, then almost all religious literature, including the holy writings of world religions, would be declared extremist.

There is something else that is obvious. If neither Hitler nor Stalin could destroy the religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, then even more so modern Russian anti-cultists cannot. The history of Jehovah’s Witnesses irrefutably proves that they cannot be intimidated by false accusations of extremism, fines, or criminal cases.

I believe that the centralized religious organization that numbers around 200,000 members in Russia merits more objective and benevolent treatment by the state. I recommend that persons responsible for decisions in the field of politics relating to religious associations personally visit the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia located in Saint Petersburg. See the exhibit dedicated to the history of the organization. Speak with the workers there, and you will see they are not extremists but law-abiding persons convinced that their religion is the true religion. Meet with the administration of Jehovah’s Witnesses and try to reach an agreement on how to avoid conflicts and settle differences.

There is something else that is obvious. If neither Hitler nor Stalin could destroy the religious organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, then even more so modern Russian anti-cultists cannot. The history of Jehovah’s Witnesses irrefutably proves that they cannot be intimidated by false accusations of extremism, fines, or criminal cases.

I believe that the centralized religious organization that numbers around 200,000 members in Russia merits more objective and benevolent treatment by the state. I recommend that persons responsible for decisions in the field of politics relating to religious associations personally visit the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia located in Saint Petersburg. See the exhibit dedicated to the history of the organization. Speak with the workers there, and you will see they are not extremists but law-abiding persons convinced that their religion is the true religion. Meet with the administration of Jehovah’s Witnesses and try to reach an agreement on how to avoid conflicts and settle differences.
Is There Any Extremism in The Church of Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard's Works?

The Church of Scientology is one of the few religious organizations, that don't deny the verity of other religions. The idea of God as of the urge of Man towards existence in the form of infinity enables Scientology to overcome contradictions between different conceptions of Superior Reality, characteristic of religious thought.

In Scientology they suppose, that, along with his spiritual growth, every man comes to his own, growing more profound, comprehension of God, and also to his communication with Supreme Being. Moreover, a Scientology Church member may be at the same time a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hebrew or may have other religious convictions. If we take the statistics all over the world, then among Scientologists, according to their own data, besides 24% of Scientology Church members, having no other religious convictions besides dedication to Scientology, 26% are Catholics, 27% are Protestants, 5% are Hebrews, 1% are the followers of Buddhism or Hinduism.

Scientologists declare proudly, that this religion, having emerged in 1954, is the most fast-growing religious organization in the world. That's why the lack of claims on the verity of their religion alone doesn't save the Church of Scientology from extremism charges. The true reason of aggressive attacks of anti-cultists, aimed at the Church of Scientology, is the dynamic growth in number of followers of Scientology all over the World, including Russia as well.

According to A. Dvorkin's convictions, any materials by L. Ron Hubbard are extremist and dangerous; if one achieves the prohibition of Hubbard's works, then the activity of the Church of Scientology will become impossible without them.

Anti-cultists are not daunted by the fact, that, in accordance with the reckoning available, over ten thousand of published works, describing the doctrine and technology of Scientology, including dozens of books, thousands of articles and over 3 thousand of recorded lectures, belong to L. Ron Hubbard. That's why it's not so easy to declare them extremist. Besides, Hubbard is known as a fiction writer. Can even literary works by Hubbard, including his fiction novels, really be extremist too, according to anti-cultists' conviction?

Of late years in Russia constantly, but with various results, the trials are going about admission of one or another of Hubbard's works as extremist materials.

So, in Surgut (Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area) on March 26, 2010 the city court made a decision to declare 29 works by Ron Hubbard ''extremist''. On October 12, 2010 the court of Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area rescinded the decision of Surgut city court of March 26, 2010, sent the case for retrial to the same first instance court with differently constituted bench. On December 9, 2010 Surgut city court rejected the claim of the public prosecutor's office for declaration of 29 works by Ron Hubbard ''extremist''. Scientologists pushed the removing of those 29 texts out of the Federal list of extremist matters.

In Novy Urengoy (Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Area of Tyumen Region), in 2011 the court has non-suited the claim of the public prosecutor's office for declaration of Hubbard's biography the extremist matter.

On August 24, 2011 the court of Naberezhnye Chelny (Republic of Tatarstan) declared 13 works, 3 thousand pages of printed text in size, and 63 hours of recorded lectures extremist matters. No one of Scientologists has been informed about the trial, and from the court record it became known, that the proceeding, in the course of which the matters were considered by the prosecutor and the judge, took only twenty-five minutes. Probably, such efficiency is worthy entering in The Guinness Book of Records – the yearbook of world records, including the most funny and extravagant achievements.
On March 19, 2012 the Supreme Court of Republic of Tatarstan reversed the judgment of the city court of Naberezhnye Chelny, according to which 13 works by Ron Hubbard were declared extremist.
Just adjudications, delivered in the number of regions, are remarkable: they indicate, that the triumph of legality and common sense in the processes for declaration of pious literature extremist matters is possible.

Otherwise, passing of unfair judgments is also going on. For example, on June 29, 2011 the city court of Schelkovo (Moscow Region), in accordance with the claim of city prosecutor, declared 9 books and 9 audio-lectures by Ron Hubbard extremist matters. On March 20, 2012 Moscow regional court left without revision this decision of the city court of Shchelkovo. In connection with this judgment at law the books and audio-lectures by Ron Hubbard will be included in the Federal list of extremist matters and their dissemination on the territory of Russian Federation will be prohibited.
The city prosecutor of Schelkovo stated, that Hubbard's doctrine absolutely doesn't correspond to the mentality and lifestyle of Russian citizens, and the study programs, publications, audio and video editions on Scientology ''undermine traditional spiritual basics of life on the territory of Russian Federation''.

From the religious expert's point of view, the doctrine, which absolutely doesn't correspond to the mentality and lifestyle of Russian citizens, has no chance to acquire any followers on the territory of Russia. All the more, it can't constitute any real danger for ''traditional spiritual basics''.

So, what did the city court of Schelkovo find in the works by Hubbard, that is extremist? In accordance with the conclusions of the complex psycholinguistic research, on which the court decision was based, the books and booklets by Hubbard “are aimed at the formation of isolated social group, which is the Church of Scientology, the members of which are being trained in perfect functioning. This literature contains appeals to execution of extremist activity, the information in these materials is aimed at the destruction of social groups, different from the Church of Scientology''.

One may agree that the members of the Church of Scientology are being trained in perfect functioning. In fact, the most serious consideration is given by Scientologists to the staff training. The other statements are false.

Neither the Church of Scientology nor the community of Scientologists has indications of “isolated social group”. The Church of Scientology is open for visitors; people of miscellaneous social, professional and ethnic belonging may be and become its members. A man “from the street” may come to the Church of Scientology and take part in a divine service, in “Life Improvement Courses” and other programs.

The Church of Scientology is interested in the most widespread dissemination of its ideas, Scientologists least of all resemble “isolated group”. They appreciate communication very much and try to take advantage of any chance to get into communication with miscellaneous people, with social, professional and other groups.

As of the expert's statement, as if Hubbard's works are aimed at the destruction of social groups, different from the Church of Scientology, it runs counter to the real contents of Hubbard's works and the doctrine of Scientology. The essence of Scientology is in the doctrine, that it has the tools (practical methods), capable to ensure spiritual growth of personality, to consolidate social groups, to make their activity really effective, and also to resolve global problems, facing Mankind.

How thoroughly the expert's conclusions are backed with arguments and facts?

According to the assessment of the prominent lawyer Galina Krylova, “public prosecutor's office ordered and got the research of the four books (about 3500 pages) to the sector of psycholinguistics of the Institute of linguistics of Russian Academy of Science. In this resolution on 14 pages in a large type the “research” occupied only 3 pages; the rest – quotations from the law, the citation and other formalities. Then, since the prosecutor claimed to declare “extremist” nine books and nine audio-lectures (about 6000 pages and 10 hours of listening), he addressed the same expert again. The new resolution of the chief of the sector, Professor E.F. Tarasov literally duplicated the previous one, except for the extension of the list if objects. And it fitted into 14 pages as well. Small rain lays great dust... And now imagine the research of over 6000 pages, written on 3 pages. Try just to quote one extract out of each title (9 books and 9 audio-lectures) to reason the conclusions by E.F. Tarasov, that every book and lecture he examined “instigates hatred and hostility,... humiliates the self-respect of personality or group according to their sex, race, nationality, language, birth, relation to religion, and also their belonging to a social group”... Of course, there were no such things in this resolution. But, if the expert draws conclusions like that, he must answer intelligibly such elementary questions. Keep in mind, I do not touch upon the methods and so forth. In any way, the compliance of expert must be somewhat limited'' (

A. Dvorkin welcomed the decisions of the city court of Schelkovo and of Moscow regional court, but expressed regret for the fact, that they can't interfere considerably the Scientologists' activity. He expressed firm conviction that Scientologists “will appeal against Moscow regional court decision and will sue to all instances up to European Court of Human Rights”. The Church of Scientology “will litigate till the end, – there is no alternative here. But, in spite of the further plans of the sect, the court decision is valid in law all over the territory of Russian Federation till it is repealed... One must be ready for the considerably serious extra-national pressure, which, in connection to this case, Russia will suffer,” – said the leading Russian sect-expert.

As Winston Churchill (1874—1965) would say about a man of such kind, “he comes into the truth at times, but then, as a rule, jumps up and cheerfully keeps going”. In this case, one may agree with A.Dvorkin, that court proceedings will continue and, finally, the decision about the declaration Hubbard's works extremist matters will be repealed. It is also right, that Scientologists won't be idle, but will keep on acting vigorously. Scientologists have already made complaints to the Supreme Court of Russian Federation and European Court of Human Rights against the decision of the city court of Schelkovo.

[1] In 2011 the Russian Council of Muftis awarded Sergey Ryakhovskiy with the medal, “For Spiritual Unification.”
[2] “The campaign to discredit Evangelical Christians is gaining momentum. It is not too late to stop the campaign.” (statement made on 21 July 2012 by the Guild of Experts on Religion and Law),
[3] On 20 September 2012 in the village of Kulotino of Okulobskiy District of the Novgorod Region, based on a court decision in the administrative case, the bailiff service demolished the Pentecostal church, “Word of Life.” The administration of the Okulobskiy Municipal District acted as the exactor in the case.

Rédigé par EIFRF le Friday, May 17th 2013 | Comments (0)

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