Rome – A seminar, held on September 26th, 2017, in Italy’s House of Parliament, at the Sala del Refettorio, and organized in co-operation with MP Lacquaniti, has discussed the problems of religious freedom in Russia, a cause of serious concern in Europe.
A case in question was the recent banishing of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the meantime, Russian authorities have moved against other religious and spiritual movements, with the same accusations of “extremism” used to support the case against the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The notion of “extremism” enforced by Russian courts would allow the “liquidation” of many religions, and is supported by political, cultural, and religious factions in Russia that are hostile to the very notion of religious freedom. The latter also includes freedom of proselytization, something that is not recognized by the controversial Yarovaya laws of 2016, which greatly limits the missionary activities of all groups other than the Russian Orthodox Church and have been criticized by several international organizations.
The program started with greetings by MP Lacquaniti and other Members of the Italian Parliament, follone by the keynote speech by academic Massimo Introvigne (CESNUR, Torino, Italy) entitled as The Social Construction of “Extremism” in Russia: From Jehovah’s Witnesses to Scientology and Beyond.
Then there were several academic presentations, such as Religious Liberty in Russia: Some Legal Considerations by Cole Durham and James Toronto (Brigham Young University); The Role of FECRIS and Anti-Cult Organizations in Russia by Patricia Duval (Attorney, Paris); Religious Liberty in Russia as a European Problem by Germana Carobene (University of Naples).
The presentations were folloned by a roundtable discussion on Religious Liberty in Russia, presided by Raffaella Di Marzio (LIREC, Rome, Italy); with the participation of members of various religious communities and human rights activists, including Fabio Pianigiani (Narada Muni das, ISKCON).
Fabio Pianigiani (Narada Muni das, ISKCON) giving a presentation about ISKCON’s situation and its concerns in Russia.
Narada Muni das first gave a short history of ISKCON in Russia including the years of persecution during the Soviet era, when about 50 devotees were held in mental hospitals, or imprisoned, out of which two of them died in prison. Then ISKCON has grown, and now it has over 100 centers and approximately 15,000 practicing devotees throughout Russia.
Narada Muni pointed out that ISKCON members are very concerned about the new law, considering its wording to be too “vague” and “open for discriminatory interpretation”, which seem to be underlined by the fact that there have been several cases against Hare Krishna members since this law has been in use.
The representatives of the groups present at the conference have expressed their willingness to collaborate more actively and continuously, to be informed about, and if possible prevent cases of religious discrimination