Thursday, August 11, 2022

Russian Security Council Proposal Opens the Way for Oppression of All but Traditional Faiths, Some Religious Leaders Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 18 – Experts at the Russian Security Council are calling for broad new investigations into the foreign ties of religious groups lest the latter be used by foreign governments against Russia, an appeal that some religious leaders say opens the way for a witch hunt against members of such groups.

            Moreover, they add, it divides Russians into two groups, those who are members of the four traditional faiths the Russian government recognizes as such plus those who are not members of any church and those who are members of denominations the government views as having foreign ties (

            The former will be fully protected, the advisors to the Russian Security Council say; but the latter will be subject to intense legal scrutiny because in the words of Roman Lunkin, a specialist on religion at the Moscow Institute of Europe, no one should be allowed to engage in attacks on the government under a claim of constitutionally-established religious liberty.

            According to Roman Silantyev, a specialist on Islam long rumored to be close to the FSB, this long-overdue step will help the government combat a situation in which some religious minorities are fighting against the regime not only with words but even with arms in their hands in Ukraine.

            Konstantin Bendas, bishop of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians, however, disagrees. He says that what the Council is urging sets the stage for a witch hunt among religious people in Russia and that the definition in law of terms like “traditional religion” and “religious extremism” will only make the current situation worse.

            “I won’t be surprised,” the bishop says, if this proposal is followed by one calling for the creation of some kind of special state organ with its own budget and broad authority” that the Russian leadership will then deploy against any religion it doesn’t like or threaten to, thus spreading fear through all who aren’t passive followers of whatever the Kremlin wants.

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