Orthodox Church Seeks Defense from ‘Dangerous Competitors’
by Robert Docter –
The recent religion bill “On Freedom of Conscience and on Religious Associations” approved by the Russian Duma “represents a very disappointing development for us and other Christian churches who are here to do God’s work,” according to Lt. Colonel Carl Lydholm, General Secretary of the Russian Command.
A number of factors impact negatively on the Army’s ability to serve and minister to the Russian people, but it definitely does not mean that our work there will have to be discontinued.
While changes in our work will be required if the challenge before the Russian Supreme Court is denied, much of what the Army does in the Russian Federation remains legal. Lydholm wrote all officers in all countries within the CIS command and stated: “Many people with whom you work, and whom you will encounter, will not understand that The Salvation Army remains a ‘legal person’ in the Russian Federation, with legal rights according to the law. If you are challenged in your work for The Salvation Army, you must first establish why you are being challenged. If you are told that The Salvation Army is no longer a legal organization in the Russian Federation as a result of the coming into force of the law, you must explain that the operation of the Salvation Army in the Russian Federation is in accordance with the law. Try to understand on what grounds you are being challenged and report the matter to Command Headquarters.”
Lydholm listed for the officers those activities which were now permitted under the new law and those which were prohibited.
Permitted Activities: performance of divine service, both indoors and in the open air; establishment of food and used clothing distribution centers; provision of consultation services which provide assistance in preparation and submission of documents and applications and other activities linked to the consultation; setting up of canteens, cafes and second-hand shops; leasing of premises for services of worship and administrative purposes; receipt of donations from citizens or individuals; maintenance of international links and contacts; conduct of entrepreneurial activity; conclusion of labor relations with employees.
Prohibited Activities: operation of Sunday schools; establishment of alcohol and drug addiction correction centers; establishment of hostels or centers for homeless people, centers for the elderly and children’s institutions; maintenance of clubs or centers for children or adults; printing or publication of religious newspapers, magazines and books; work in prisons, schools, hospitals, (etc.).
Lydholm advised the officers of the Command that “we will be able to operate some of the programs adjusted to the new situation, and other aspects of our work, we believe, will be carried on in a negotiated understanding with the authorities supported by written confirmation.” He notes the providential transfer of the Training College to Finland in that the terms of the new law would have prohibited that activity.
Quoting Revelation 3:8 Lydholm wrote I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. “At this point in time, we will claim the promises of God, go through the doors he will open and not deny his name and calling.”