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Police crackdown on church goers in Moldova

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.tiraspoltimes.com/node/1565 Police crackdown on church goers in Moldova TransnistriaMoldova is the latest country to restrict religious freedom.
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 4, 2008
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      http://www.tiraspoltimes.com/node/1565

      Police crackdown on church goers in Moldova
      TransnistriaMoldova is the latest country to
      restrict religious freedom. Police throughout the
      Communist-ruled state have been checking the
      identity of church-goers during recent weeks.
      Scared priests say this is a campaign of
      intimidation, and at least one church is now
      considering relocating to Transdniestria instead.

      By Times staff, 04/Feb/2008

      CHISINAU (Tiraspol Times) - An intimidation
      campaign involving police check-ups on the
      identities of church-goers is underway in
      Moldova, as part of the Eastern European
      country's latest crackdown on religious freedom.

      The police checks target a series of churches
      which are considered illegal by Moldova's
      government due to a lack of proper, official
      registration in the country. However, as church
      leaders point out, it is the Moldovan government
      which refuses to register the congregations: They
      range from Orthodox groups, Protestant
      congregations and every single one of the Muslim communities in the country.

      " - Someone must have given an order not to
      register us," complained Talgat Masaev, who leads
      the Spiritual Organization of Muslims in Moldova.
      He said that Moldova rejected their latest
      registration application in December 2007, citing
      inadequacies in the group's statute. "The policy
      hasn't changed," Masaev lamented.

      Masaev's Muslim group has long complained of
      police check-ups on those leaving Friday prayers.
      "The fact that they check up at Friday prayers is
      difficult to understand," he said. "This and the
      denial of registration are strange, given that
      Moldova is supposed to be moving closer to Europe."

      Four times as many religions in Transdniestria

      The situation is only better in Transdniestria
      (Pridnestrovie) which for nearly 18 years has
      functioned as an independent state outside the
      sovereign control of Moldova's central
      government. In Transdniestria, despite being smaller in size than Moldova,
      four times as many religious faiths are registered than in all of Moldova.

      One Moldovan priests, who asked to remain
      anonymous for fear of persecution, says that he
      is planning to move his church to Tiraspol, the
      capital of the Transdniestrian Republic. "There,
      at least, we can get registered and then open our
      place of worship legally without any fear of police intrusion."

      The only Orthodox jurisdictions to have been able
      to gain state registration in Moldova by applying
      through normal state procedures are the Moscow
      Patriarchate and the Belokrinitsa Old Believers.

      The Bessarabian Metropolitanate only achieved
      registration in 2001 in the wake of a fine
      imposed on Moldova by the European Court of Human
      Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. A similar fine from
      the ECHR in February 2007 has still failed to
      overturn the denial of registration to the True
      Orthodox Church led by Bishop Antoni Rudei.

      Without registration, religious communities have
      no status in law, cannot operate bank accounts,
      cannot employ people officially, cannot invite
      foreign citizens, cannot receive funds legally,
      and cannot own, buy or sell any kind of property.

      No rule of law in Moldova

      A wide range of Orthodox, Protestant and Muslim
      communities are still denied registration in
      Moldova. They are all legally registered in
      Transdniestria, however, which is the only area
      of the region where they can function openly and
      without any form of government harassment.

      Bishop Filaret (Pancu), who leads the diocese in
      Moldova of the Kiev Patriarchate of the Ukrainian
      Orthodox Church, said that his Church tried to
      gain registration again in summer 2007.

      " - They give no argument as to why they won't
      register us – they just won't," the church leader
      told Norway's Forum 18 news on 17 January. "We
      won in all the courts, right up to the Supreme
      Court." However, the government does what it
      wants, while demonstrating to the rest of the
      world that Moldova is not a country which respects the rule of law.

      Fr Vasily Ikizli, who leads one of four parishes
      in Moldova of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad
      under the jurisdiction of Archbishop Agafangel
      (Pashkovsky) of Odessa, says his parish was
      denied registration in 2006. "They won't register
      any parishes until we have a national body
      registered, but they won't do that," he said from
      the village of Congaz in the southern Comrat
      District, in Gagauzia. He said that about 150
      people attend the liturgy each Sunday held in a
      private house and he wants to build a church, but
      cannot do so without legal registration.

      Deacon Andrei Deleu of the Bessarabian
      Metropolitanate confirms that his church has
      faced a number of problems with the government in
      recent weeks, "including the expulsion of
      Romanian priests and intrusive check-ups on our
      parishes." (With information from Forum 18)
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