By Paul Goble
The policy of the Putin regime toward religious minorities is “a continuation of Soviet religious policy,” albeit sometimes in a “lite” version, according to Aleksandr Soldatov, editor of the Credo portal, who adds that “unfortunately very few talk about the persecution of religious minorities” nowadays.
Soldatov’s comments came at a session of the Forum of Free Russia now meeting in Vilnius, a meeting of Russian opposition figures and experts who deserve high marks for taking up the issue of religious minorities even though the group has devoted relatively little attention to the situation of Russia’s ethnic minorities (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5C0B809C59C46).
Other participants in the panel gave evidence in support of Soldatov’s conclusions. Pavel Devushkin, a Lutheran pastor, denounced the Russian government’s persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses and almost all forms of missionary activity. The moderator Daniil Konstantinov said that Buddhists were being deprived of contact with the Dalai Lama.
And Ruslan Kambiyev, a human rights inspector for the North Caucasus, said that the situation of Russia’s Muslims has deteriorated because many equate Islam with terrorism. As a result, they are prepared to accept the mistreatment of Muslims in society and in prisons and to restrict their religious rights.
When the communists ruled Russia, human rights activists within the country and Western governments and experts paid a great deal of attention to the ways in which religious believers were treated. But with Putin portraying himself as a religious person, ever fewer are doing so.
The forum is to be praised for calling attention to this issue, but it is one that deserves far more attention because for all but those in the four traditional faiths who are prepared to go along with Kremlin policy and its restrictions on the life of faith, the situation of believers now is about as bad as it was under the communist regime.
That must be exposed and stopped.