Moscow, Russia ... [ANN] A bomb thrown into the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Almaty, Kazakhstan during the night of November 16, caused limited damage to the windows and interior, according to Barbara Huff, administrative assistant for Development at the Russian regional office of the Adventist Church, based in Moscow.
The attack comes as the denomination holds gospel outreach programs in the city. The rented hall used for the meetings was closed by the halls custodians who refused to allow the church to continue with its program.
"A crowd of over one thousand people became very agitated," says Huff. "The deputy mayor talked to them and tried to calm them down. The crowd proposed a demonstration at the mayors office. But Adventist Church leader, Alexander Shvarts, told the mob, "We are preaching about moral things here, we do not want a demonstration. Please go home peacefully." He told them to return the following night when a new venue would be arranged."
A new hall has been rented and the meetings continue, despite ongoing opposition, reports Huff. However, the new law that restricts religious liberty is being used to prevent church activities in other areas.
For four months, Adventists have been preparing for outreach meetings in the town of Buzuluk, in the Urals. Permission for the meetings had already been obtained from the religious affairs office in the regional city of Orenburg.
Days before the meetings were to begin, the official in charge of religious affairs in Buzuluk refused to allow them to go ahead, citing the new law. His interpretation was that since no Adventist Church existed in Buzuluk, no meetings were permissible, regardless of the official permission already obtained from the regional office and the clear interpretation of the law at the national level.
Despite appeals from the Adventist Churchs local organization, the Ural Conference, the restrictive interpretation was maintained: that before church activities could be approved, the organization needed to be registered locally for 15 years. Such local "interpretations" of the new law were widely predicted and now occur regularly.
According to the Keston News Service, the Catholic Church reports that foreign priests and nuns working in Russia are only being issued with visas for three months, instead of the normal full year, and that they are now required to return to their home country before being able to apply for new visas. Restrictions on the activities of Pentecostals, the Salvation Army and other Protestant groups have also been reported. [Jonathan Gallagher]