Dear ladies and gentleman!
The American Russian Relief Center requests that you take notice of the condition of former non-registered Pentecostal Churches in Russia.
To be able to understand the situation of non-registered Pentecostals in Russia, it is important to know their recent past. Pentecostals in Russia began in the beginning of last century from an American Missionary by the name of Voronaev. This gave a good reason for the Soviet agencies to proclaim Pentecostals as American agents. Pentecostals were forbidden to register their churches in 1927 and this law was in force until the fall of SSSR. There is a good reason to affirm that Pentecostals in SSSR were prosecuted, since it is hard to find a family in Russia that has not been repressed in any way. For example my family: my grandfather was shot to death, my grandmother and her family was exiled. My father did not return from the camp, mother was sentenced three times, my wife was sentenced twice, and I was sentenced twice. If my family did not immigrate to the United States, I cannot imagine what would have happened to my family and me. This type of family biography is not rare in Pentecostal families. But this is not all; in 1970ies, Soviet agencies opened up a new program of spiritual prosecution. This meant that Pentecostal children were not allowed to attend schools. The plan was to make Christians absolutely ignorant, thus having them drawn away and isolate themselves from the community. Captain of KGB Klimenov, in 1977, in the city of Nahodka proclaimed “You were not allowed to learn in schools in seventies, and now you think that to learn is a sin – and this is our job”.
Besides, the community cultivated a notion that Pentecostals are a retarded, illiterate sect. A sect which brings human sacrifices, and which organizes religious sexual organizations. Each sectarian is an enemy to the population. This is the way several generations were brought up.
Because of their illiteracy, Pentecostals knew nothing about the legislative or executive agencies. They do not have journalists and they do not have access to any agency. They were only taught to preach and not defend themselves. This kind of attitude toward the Pentecostals was not only a prosecution but also even a sort of entertaining for the community. Now it is difficult to see who actually sanctions the prosecution. The common hatred –is Russia’s inheritance of the past, it is either the communist-nationalism, or the tolerance of Government agencies. Either way, this does not change the situation: Churches are being burned down; church properties are being robbed. Criminal files are against Christians, and children are being taken away from their parents. Here are some examples:
In the past few months, in the end of 2004 and in the beginning of 2005, what is known to our organization is as follows: • The church in the city Podalsk has been burned twice • The church in Buretia has been robbed and burned • The church in Oshkar Ola was burned • The church in Bratsk in Erkutskaya region was burned • The church in Novokuznetsk is being confiscated, a trial a being held weather the church should be confiscated (2005); the church was bought in 1997. Ilya Bontseev is the pastor of this church. • The church in Izhevsk was burned. The bottle with the solution that was used to burn that church was found. • The fact that churches are not allowed to register is nothing compared to the fact that churches are not allowed to be built. • The church in a town Nekrasivoe was robbed and burned in December of 2004 • Boris Sinebabnev is the Bishop of the 97 non-registered churches in the Voronezhskaya region. Two years ago they purchased a peace of land to build a church. On April 12, 2005, the land was confiscated and no money was returned to them. In the Lisky city on September 2004, eleven criminal cases were filed against Pentecostals for preaching the Gospel. Eleven people were beat up and falsely accused for attacking the policemen, but when the USA got involved in this matter, the process was quickly stopped. Authorities in the Lisky city refuse to allow Pentecostals to build churches. “Russia is driving us down to a point where we will have to start an underground church”- says Sinebabnev; thus forcing them to gather in the Congregation members’ houses in secret. But if they are discovered they would have to pay a fine. Sinebabnev says that there is anywhere between 800 to1, 000 non-registered churches across Russia. There is up to 50,000 members of Pentecostal Congregations through out the regions where he bishops. There are also many non-registered Pentecostal churches of which no one knows about that gather and preach Gospel in the Congregation members’ houses. • There are barely any churches in Russia. A church cannot be built because it will get burned as soon as it gets built.
The letter below is a testimony of a Christian Pentecostal group called “ Little Israel”, in Siberia.
When a group of Russian people which call themselves “Little Israel” moved to Yakutin, Ustmansk district in the year of 1996, they found a job at a government company as lumbermen in a forest. Police took all of their passports and documents away from them for registration, so the people of “Little Israel” did not even suspect that something was not right.
They were getting very little pay for their job for the first two years and none at all the third year. They were literally turned into slaves. They were fooled, “We fell into the hands of the Russian Mafia” -they said. The third year of their life in Ekutin was extremely difficult, because of nothing to eat and nothing warm to wear during winter. During summer they picked berries and mushrooms. When they went to the head of the company to ask if they could have their documents back, they were told that they should then scatter across Russia. Because of no help from the head of the company, they decided to go to a neighboring town called Voldan to the Administrative building and ask for their documents. The Sheriff there told them that in their situation, if they want to have all of their documents returned to them then police will close their church and take off the registration (even though their church has not been registered).
Police also arose a criminal file against the whole group of Russians for beating up a 12-year old boy. Vitaly Kozar, the pastor of the Christian group says that this in fact was a true incident, which happened two years ago in one family, but police should only deal with that one family alone and not the whole congregation. Unfortunately all were derived of their rights as parents and all children were taken away and divided among several orphanages. All parents were taken to prison. Vitaly Kozar was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment.
Boris Perchatkin talked with Shpakovskiy, who is the advocate of Kozar and tried to find out everything else that was happening to the Russian group. Shpakovskiy tried to pretend that he does not remember anything, but later said that Kozar did not even touch that 12-year old boy with his finger, had nothing to do with the beating up of the boy, and disapproved of the beating, so he is truly not guilty. And the real reason why he is in prison is because of his religious beliefs. Russian authorities are continuing to pursuit the Christian group, “Little Israel” in Siberia.
In the spring of 1999, the pastor of the congregation Vitaly Kozar was sentenced to imprisonment for ten years; deacon Alexander Vasilev was sentenced for five years of imprisonment.
During imprisonment both pastor and deacon got sick with tuberculosis.
Thirty-eight children were taken away from their parents and the rest of the congregation were banished to Taksimo, in the Muyskiy region of the Buryatia Republic. Children, as mentioned before were divided among several orphanages.
Any communication between children and parents is forbidden. Some children were given away to other families. The only parents who were able to keep their children were those who agreed to leave the congregation and to witness fraud against the pastor and the deacon.
At the current time in the congregation “Little Israel” there is only 23 members left:
1. Kozar Vitaly, born in 1930, father of the pastor. After three months of imprisonment was taken (under convoy) to the building for disabled. 2. Kozar Lidia, born in 1923, mother of the pastor. 3. Kozar Vitaly born in 1955, pastor, is currently imprisoned. 4. Kozar Natalya, born in 1954 was in prison for three months. 5. Nikitenok Vera, born in 1946. 6. Nikitenok Yelena, born in 1973. After being derived of her parenting right, her daughter Maria was taken away from her into an orphanage, where she died. 7. Galkov Nikolay, born in 1948 and his wife, 8. Galkov Tuyana (Svetlana), born in 1966. The couple was derived of their parenting rights. They have four children: Nikolay, Ivan, Liudmila and Irina, who were all taken away from them to orphanages. After the tragedy, in Aldan, the couple had a baby girl, Nadya, who currently lives with them. 9. Alexandrova Klavdia, born in 1958, was derived of her parenting rights. Her daughter Katya lives with grandmother. 10. Vasilev Alexander, born in 1962, the deacon of the congregation. Has already been in prison for five years. 11. Vasilev Svetlana, born in 1970, wife of deacon. The couple was derived their rights as parents, and their two children were taken away from them. Children are currently in an orphanage. 12. Shaldurova-Zhalsanova Segeg, born in 1962 was derived of her parenting rights. Her six children were taken away from her and put in an orphanage. Three of her children: Zhargal, Sayana and Victor are still in an orphanage. 13. Zhalsanova Rita, born in 1982 was in an orphanage. When she became of age, she came back to the congregation. 14. Zhalsanova Marina, born in 1980 came back to congregation. 15. Zholsanov Bato, was in an orphanage until 18-years old and then was taken to the army. 16. Zholsanov Bagir, born in 2000. 17. (Could not understand the name in the writing) was derived her parenting rights. Her children Kostya and Alia live with grandmother. 18. Child, Pavel, five years old. 19. Davidova Olga, born in 1972. 20. Davidova-Kolomina Tatyana, born in 1976. Was derived of her parenting right. Her son Ilya lives with grandmother. Daughter Kseniya-current place of living-unknown. 21. Ruslan, five years old. 22. Dulova Maria, born in 1976. 23. Simus Uriy, born in 1980.
Nine children of the members of the congregation are currently in an orphanage in Aldan, Bato is in army. Five children live with other families.
Some information about the members of “Little Israel” and about Pastor Vitaly Kozar may be found out from the advocate Shpakovskiy. He assures that all of the process materials are falsificated. The congregation underwent persecution because of the religious beliefs. Before everything that has occurred in Aldan, the congregation consisted of 75 members. But after police began taking children away, many people left the congregation.
Known are the address and the telephone number of the prison where Vitaly Kozar is at the current time. The telephone number is 411-5-40-59, and the address is: Russia,
Alexander Vasilev can be reached on Sundays, from seven in the morning, Moscow time. His telephone number is: 40-02-04.
The telephone number of the advocate, Shpakovskiy in Aldan is 411-45-34-324.