Moscow shuts Army down

Lack of certification brings suspension of programs

It’s been nearly 10 years since The Salvation Army returned to Russia in July 1991–73 years after their forced departure in 1918.

Now, in Moscow, the government’s denial of legal registration has once again resulted in an “illegal” status for the Army.

“Since Moscow’s registration expired there have been some unhappy consequences,” stated Colonel Kenneth Baillie, Russia/CIS Command officer commanding.

Programs have been suspended, facilities are no longer available, and those being assisted–many in significant ways–can no longer count on Army support.

After The Salvation Army’s registration expired on December 31, 2000, for example, one group of frail elderly was no longer able to get hot meals.

“A corps, attended by 60, had had its rental agreement revoked because of the lack of registration. Administrative of-fices were also rented, and the landlord insisted that the Army move out on 10 days’ notice.” With nowhere to go, the Salvationists involved are hoping he will change his mind.

“Perhaps the saddest result is the closure of a social program that fed 40 frail elderly persons in their apartments,” he said.

In this neighborhood, a corps cooperated with district governmental social services to provide hot meals three days a week to the elderly. Social services provided the Army with names and addresses and the Army bought meals and organized volunteers to deliver them. “The program ended abruptly as the social services official refused to work with The Salvation Army any longer.”

The Army had been registered in Moscow since 1992, but after the Russian parliament passed a new law on religion in 1997, all existing religious groups had to re-register. The Army’s application in Moscow was denied in the summer of 1999.

At the national level, an application is pending for national certification as a “Centralized Religious Organization” (CRO). In other cities, officials have readily granted registration. It is hoped that if the Army is granted status as a CRO, that Moscow will reconsider.

The situation has caused considerable attention in the media, with stories running in newspapers and magazines and on radio, television and websites in at least 20 countries. Salvationists in Moscow are trying to continue their ministries in spite of the difficulties.

The Army has 93 officers, 1,969 senior soldiers, 546 junior soldiers, and 856 adherents in Russia/CIS. Within its six regions, there are 40 corps, 21 outposts, and a significant number of social service programs.

Western officers Captains Adam Morales and Mark and Jennifer Fagerstrom serve at the command headquarters in Moscow. Morales is the finance officer, Mark Fagerstrom is the property officer, and Jennifer Fagerstrom serves as public relations officer.

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