The Road is Still Long
Initial meeting between Baptists and the administration for the Moscow region
M o s c
o w – The regional administration responsible for the territory is not informed on church developments in the city of Chekhov (Moskau region) and the ruling of the European Court for Human Rights
in Strasbourg. This became evident at an initial meeting in Moscow on 24 August between Baptists and the “Ministry for Territorial Development in Moscow Region”, to which the office for church
affairs belongs. The meeting had been initiated by Vitaly Vlasenko (Moscow), Director of
the Department for External Church Relations within the “Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists” (RUECB). In a conversation with the press afterwards he reported: “Our partners had
already done some research on us. But they knew nothing about the events in Chekhov which have been reported on widely throughout Europe.”
On 26 July, the EU Court for Human Riights had sentenced the Russian government to a payment of 6.000 euros. After the chapel in Chekhov was destroyed by fire in 2001, the congregation there had been forbidden to meet under the open skies. Further incidents in Latoshino and Balashikha were an additional reason for Baptists to request the meeting.
This ministry for the region surrounding Moscow is known among Baptists for its closeness to the Russian Orthodox Church. The
ministry`s representatives also stated in this meeting that 98% of their region’s residents are of Orthodox faith. In the later press conversation Vlasenko responded: “In view of the fact that
the region around Moscow is also home to hundreds of thousands of Muslims, Jews and – above all – atheists, this number can only be regarded as pure fiction.”
The second Baptist present at the meeting was the businessman Alexander Semchenko (Moscow), who represents Protestants in the political “Advisory Council for Cooperation with Religious Associations at the Seat of the President of the Russian Federation”. He remarked in the meeting that Baptists did not expect big changes immediately. Yet the RUECB would always be ready to develop relations with this local administration. He added in the meeting: “We want to help the people of Moscow region grow in their knowledge of God. We want to help them be good citizens, and we also want to teach our young people to be such.”
In his conversation with the press Pastor Vlasenko concluded: “The meeting did not fulfill all of our expectations. The road is still long. But we want to be patient and not lose the hope that we will someday still meet with Regioinal Governor Boris Gromov, for he is an important figure.” Primary government representative at the meeting was Sergei Komarov, Vice-Minister for Territorial Development in the Moscow region.
The RUECB, Russia’s largest Protestant free church, has roughly 75.000 adult believers active in 1.300 local churches and groups. Its President is Yuri Sipko (Moscow).
Dr. William Yoder
Department for External Church Relations, RUECB
Moscow, 26 August 2007
A press release of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists. May be published freely. Release #07-29, 455 words.