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Catholics on Russian list of security threats

A group of government officials and religion experts has drafted a report that identifies the Catholic Church and other "foreign confessions" as potential threats to national security and urges law enforcement agencies to closely monitor their activities.

A section of the draft report, titled Assessment of Threats to National Security Related to Religious Extremism, contains a list topped by the Catholic Church. Protestants are ranked No. 2 - although no faiths are specified - and the list is rounded out by what the draft calls pseudo-religious organisations, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists and Satanists.

The draft, a copy of which was obtained by The Moscow Times, says some "foreign confessions" have rapidly expanded over the past decade and crowded out traditional Russian faiths - namely, the Russian Orthodox Church, Judaism and Buddhism, the only faiths to escape criticism in the report, which also attacks radical Islam.

"A disrespectful attitude toward traditional Russian confessions helps lay the foundation for religious extremism," the report said. This paves the way for "religious hatred and antisocial actions on religious grounds, which in turn affects interstate relations," it said.

The draft calls for law enforcement agencies to strengthen control over religious organisations, suggesting that new departments be set up in the Interior and Justice ministries, the Federal Security Service and Prosecutor General's Office to fight religious extremism.

Catholic officials are dismayed by the draft. "How can a civilised society number a church with 2000 years of history behind and does its best for resolving conflicts and fights with such frightening phenomenon as terrorism. This is unheard of," Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the head of the Catholic Church in Russia, said last week.

The Moscow Times

13 Dec 2002