ENGLISH VERSION: Appeal to Senate of the United States from President of the Holy Synod of the Holy Orthodox Church in North America regarding the persecution of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church
I am writing to bring your attention to a shocking violation of basic human rights that has recently occurred in Russia.
On September 6, 2016, the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church (ROAC) in Suzdal were raided by Russian security forces. The Primate of this Church, Metropolitan Theodore (Gineyevsky) of Sudzal and Vladimir, and Bishop Irinarkh (Nonchin) of Tula and Bryansk were both detained and taken to the regional department of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. Computer equipment was also seized from the church headquarters. The two bishops were later released.
The Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church is an ecclesial body that fully adheres to the traditional doctrine and practices of the Orthodox Church, while remaining fully independent of the Moscow Patriarchate for reasons of faith and conscience. This independence from the state-controlled “official” Russian Church has made it the target of religious persecution for many years. The friendship between the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church and another independent jurisdiction, the Holy Orthodox Church in North America (HOCNA) has more recently led to ludicrous accusations that the former is engaging in “American espionage.”
This religious persecution is a direct result of Russia’s new so-called “Yarovaya Law” (federal law 374-FZ) that, in the name of anti-terrorism, “severely undermines freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, and the right to privacy,” as Tanya Lokshina of the watchdog group Human Rights Watch recently stated. Needless to say, the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church has absolutely nothing to do with terrorism or extremism of any kind. Its only crime is to remain independent of the Moscow Patriarchate and to maintain friendly ties with its coreligionists in North America.
I therefore urge you to assist us in making this crime known to the general public, the media, government agencies, and international human rights forums and organizations (especially those in which Russia participates) by issuing a statement condemning this violation of the freedom of worship; by reporting on this and similar incidents; and by doing everything in your power to bring this injustice to public knowledge, thereby exerting pressure on Russia to respect these basic freedoms and to put an end to the unjust persecution of those religious believers who do not, for the sake of conscience, align themselves with the state-sponsored Russian Church.
If such violations of human rights, which are already enshrined in Russia’s draconian legislation, are allowed to continue, then matters can only grow worse for all Russian citizens of good conscience.
We thank you for your help and consideration.
+ Metropolitan Gregory of Boston
September 7, 2016