Police crackdown on church goers in Moldova
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)